Often Support Representatives are asked to go ‘above & beyond”, but what does that really mean?  This was asked in the #leadership channel on the Support Driven Slack channel this past month and this article will summarize some of the key things to encourage to ensure your customers are delighted at every interaction.

The main reason why going above & beyond is something everyone wants to achieve is that there is a perception that customer loyalty increases.  Unfortunately, this has been proved to be wrong. As discussed in ‘The Effortless Experience‘, loyalty has a plateau.  This Zendesk article has an excellent visualization of the plateau:

The company perception is that there is a strong positive correlation between exceeding customer expectations and growing loyalty. But the reality looks quite different. After you get past the point of ‘meets customer expectation,’ loyalty growth slows and customers are not more loyal even if you are putting in more work.”  

This means that our focus needs to be on ensuring we are meeting, or ideally, exceeding our customers’ expectations, but also not making that the sole focus. What are some low-cost, high-benefit ways to do this? There were three ideas shared via articles, which I think every Customer facing team should add to their training:  Customer Advocacy, Positive Positioning, and Anchoring.

Customer Advocacy is showing that you own their issue. All too often in support, we want to ‘prove’ we are not at fault. Blaming a defect on another software package, a third party library, another person in the company, or our delivery partner are all examples where we have not advocated for the customer.  If a delivery is late, it doesn’t matter to the customer that we don’t own the delivery partner, we chose to use that service, they are part of the customer journey and we need to take responsibility for when things go wrong. Customers do not typically care who is at fault, they care what their vendor is going to do to resolve this issue.  Going above and beyond may be as simple as saying: “I do see the shipping has been delayed. This is unacceptable to our business and we will refund you the shipping costs.”

Positive Positioning (also known as Alternative positioning) are ways that help the customer feel like you are on their side.  This is the art of saying what you are able to do without saying you cannot do the specific thing requested by the customer. For example, if a shirt is out of stock and the customer wants that specific shirt, instead of saying: “No, we do not sell that shirt anymore.”  You can re-phrase that as: “In our new line, we’ve replaced this shirt with this one that has the same design.” In this example above and beyond is solving the real problem of the customer wanting a specific shirt, not validating that the customer rightfully noticed their shirt was unavailable.

Anchoring is the concept of explaining a pretty bad solution just before a slightly better solution making that solution seem more desirable. This tool can be used when all options are not ideal for the customer experience.  Going above and beyond in this sense is presenting the idea as a lesser of two evils and using empathy to remain a customer advocate.  

Going above and beyond is not the elaborate stories where a hotel finds a stuffed giraffe and makes a picture book to ensure the child knows it is safe. While stories like these are great human stories of empathy and compassion, this is not what will drive the most loyalty for your customers.  If you give your customers a consistent, positive experience, where at each stage you are advocating for their success and owning the concern from start to finish, you will see an increase in loyalty, less churn and more repeat customers.