5 Simple Ways to Use Integrated Marketing to Manage Customer Expectations

speed-limitThe nurse at the hospital told me, “I got a speeding ticket on the way to work today, but it wasn’t my fault.”

“Really? What happened?” I wanted, maybe even needed to hear this answer. My tendency towards speed has landed me in hot water before. Could it be that the flashing blue lights weren’t my fault?

“I was driving along and a car came up behind me that was moving fast. The driver was tailgating me and gesturing ugly signs. I couldn’t get over because there was a line of cars in the right hand lane, so I sped up to pass them. If it hadn’t been for that guy behind me, I wouldn’t have been speeding. I tried to explain it to the officer, but he didn’t understand.”

I didn’t understand either. My flashing blue lights always come on a sunny day with an open road and the pure joy of driving a powerful car. It’s no one fault but mine. (Sigh.)

Sometimes companies allow others to influence their behavior too.

I’ve often been in meetings where the focus is on what the competition is doing instead of what the customer wants. The management team doesn’t see that their customers have chosen them because of the differences not the similarities.

Your customers are the same. They choose your company because you provide something that the competition doesn’t. Maybe it is convenience. Or selection. Or customer care. Or… You know what makes you different. This is (or should be) something that your competition can’t easily copy. It’s what makes your company unique.

But, in a world where everybody seems to expect instant access and resolution to every issue, how can you expect to survive if you don’t deliver it? It’s simple, you deliver on the promises that you make. Let your competition duke it out with others for the fastest online responses, quickest delivery dates, and free everything while you focus on improving your relationships with your customers.

Because in the end, all that matters is your customers’ perceptions.

If you respond to them faster than they expect, then you win. Even if the time frame is longer than your competition. Here are five ways you can use marketing tools to manage expectations:

  1. Tell your customers how long it takes to for them to receive their order before they place it. Include the information on your website on shopping and FAQ’s pages, in promotional emails, and in your direct mail pieces.
  2. Use social media to get and keep people engaged and informed. Receive a huge shipment of a bestselling item that was recently backordered? Snap a picture to share with your community. Twelve inches of snow keeping team away from the office? Let your followers know.
  3. Use email to keep people up to date on the happenings before they start to wonder. The best service is the one that minimizes effort for your customers. If you notify them as soon as you have a confirmed issue, it’ll improve their loyalty and reduce your costs.
  4. Establish service levels based on available resources and prioritized customer needs. Post the details for everyone to see. Being available 24/7 on every channel isn’t mandatory. Honoring the schedule you create is. Customers expect you to do what you say when you say. Deliver as promised and they’ll be happy.
  5. Treat your social media channels the same as any other. The Internet may be on 24/7, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be there. You need to be present when you say you’ll be there. Post the times that you’ll be present on every platform and be there when you say you will. If you are popping in and out, say so. Your customers are probably doing the same.

Your different channels will have different schedules and expectations. Communicate with your customers and run your numbers to find the best balance between service levels and resource allocation. Revisit on a regular basis to insure that you’re on track. Be consistent with your messages when you cross channels. And, always deliver. Delivering on your promises builds trust. The more your customers trust, the less likely they’ll leave.

Even if the other guy is faster.

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