How to Exceed Your Customers’ Expectations

Of course you want to MEET your customers’ expectations, but why leave it at that? Ho Hum.

A vital key to turning your customers into zealots for your business is to exceed, not meet, their expectations.

If you’ve been in business long enough, you’ve definitely messed up. It’s inevitable. Maybe you or your  employee forgot an order, screwed up a reservation, didn’t finish a job on time, or accidentally overcharged? There are two common responses:

  1. You notice but the customer does not (you think) so you brush it under the rug hoping it went unnoticed.
  2. The customer notices and brings to your attention. (THANK THEM! This takes guts and highlights something that needs correcting, painful as it may be. . . )

Admitting to a mistake can be a very difficult thing to do. Sometimes our pride gets in the way. We may be embarrassed or even angry about making the mistake.

The one thing NOT to do when a customer brings a mistake to your attention is to make excuses. Oft times this is a knee jerk response but it definitely will not make your customer a zealot for your business. People can spot bull a mile away. “I got busy”, “I didn’t have enough time”, “I’m going to blame my coworker and throw him under the bus . . .” Excuses do not solve problems.

My Epiphany Moment

My epiphany moment happened years ago at a Chamber meeting. I held an office of some sort in the Chamber and had tasked myself with researching some information for the group. As we were going around the room, my turn came up. I was thinking up all sorts of reasons and excuses explaining why I hadn’t done my task. (They were super valid reasons! I had an 18 room boutique hotel to run after all.) I recall beginning my excuse making verbiage in my head and then I stopped dead in my tracks. I paused, took a breath, and said to the people I was leading that I had simply forgot to follow through. It was the honest to goodness truth.

Talk about pregnant pause! It was a little bit eerie actually. Then I said I would write it down in my schedule to have it completed by the end of the week.

After the moment of silence on of the “best” excuse makers I’ve met said “Wow. Thanks for being honest.”

The mood and productivity of the meeting changed dramatically! (yes, for the better).

Don’t make excuses. Solve the problem.

If your customer happens to bring the error to light, outwardly you may be cringing, dismissive, or even defensive.

If a customer brings an error to you it’s a BIG DEAL to the customer.

It might not seem like it to you, but it’s bugging them. It’s bugging them enough that they said something to you about it. People are SO much more likely to complain to anyone other than the person who can actually solve the problem. (Think about the last time you whined about your spouse or coworker to a friend. We’re all guilty.)

This is an excellent opportunity for growth. Maybe there’s a process you need to refine? Could be that it’s just a random error. No matter the reason, take a look and fix it. This is where it gets FUN!

Turn your customers into zealots for your business by exceeding their expectations.

Real Life Experience – My Worst Nightmare

We overbooked a room. Two reservations for the same room. The same night. We found the mistake at 4:00 Friday night. Check in begins at 3:00 and we have a full house. I would have nightmares about this very thing and now it was happening! Couple #1 just checked into the double booked room. Problem solving moved into high gear!

What could a hotel do for you to MEET your expectation with fixing this error?

What could a hotel do for you to EXCEED your expectation when fixing this error?

Think about and answer those two questions before continuing to read please.

Did you think and answer?

Don’t continue reading until you do. You can compare your answer to what we did. Let me know in the comments what you thought to do.

  1. I tried to get a hold of the couple that had not yet checked in. They were booked for two nights, possibly they hadn’t left their home yet. . . ?? no luck. They had left home already.
  2. I called other unique boutique hotels to see if they had a room open that was comparable or better than the one this couple booked at our place. Found one! Booked the room for them.
  3. Had the other hotel put a complimentary wine and snack box in their room (we paid for the room and the snacks).

If you were guest #2 checking in for the weekend, had just driven two hours to get to the destination, and found out you didn’t have a room, what would you expect the hotel to do? I’m guessing you’d be pretty mad.

They arrived and I addressed the problem head on. I explained the mistake, followed with a profuse apology and the solution of the other hotel room. They still had their second night at our hotel and it would be comped for them.

I could see the disappointment in their faces when I started talking then saw a tentative, “ok we’re taken care of” look follow. No, they weren’t zealots yet, that’s for sure. We had more work to do!

The couple returned to our place Saturday night and there were treats in their comped room along with a two night gift certificate that they could use for themselves or give away as a gift to someone.

Our Solution

  • Booked the guests at another hotel Friday night with treats – our cost.
  • Complimentary stay at our place Saturday night, with dinner.
  • Gave them a two night gift certificate in an upgraded room that they could use or give as a gift.

Did we “lose money” that weekend? The room we booked for them Friday night cost more than our room. We completely comped their stay Saturday night, not just  giving a % discount, then we gave them a two night gift certificate to return or give as a gift.

Did we loose money? No way. In the long run we gained.

We hope we made zealots out of them!

Practice Time!

This is a fun exercise to do with your staff at a meeting. It took my staff some coaxing to get into it. They seemed reluctant to “give away” our product. After role playing with some other scenarios that were not from our hotel, they started to loosen up and get into it. They turned the corner and started thinking service.

  • They started understanding that it would be ok to make mistakes.
  • They started to feel comfortable with the idea of “giving things away” if needed when I was not on site.
  • They began to know how to turn the customer experience into a win.
  • They felt empowered.
  • They felt ownership.
  • They felt proud.

Do some role play and elicit answers from staff. What would they expect if they were the customer? Download this handy guide to help you get started.

Watching your staff come up with solutions meet expectations is fun.

Watching them push the barrier and brainstorm solutions to exceed expectations is empowering!


With enough of this type of practice training you can rest confidently when you leave that your customers will receive the BEST service.

That peace of mind will let you unplug from your business with confidence.

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