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Published August 8th 2018

Listen to Customers to Avoid Over-Delivering and Under-Promising

The delicate balance between setting expectations too highly and playing it too safe is much easier to find when you listen to your customers. Guest blogger Jake Rheude explains why.

There are plenty of business practices that come from well-meaning entrepreneurs hoping to delight customers, yet they just end up costing money or making little positive impact.

We tend to believe that over-delivering on quality or shipping will improve how much customers like us and order from us. Unfortunately, the under-promising that makes this over-performing possible may scare away potential customers instead of yielding greater sales. Listening to your customers is the best way to understand this balancing act and see if your current efforts are revenue builders or busters.

Here are a few things to consider when you want to apply the under-promise and over-deliver mantra to your e-commerce store.

What’s wrong with over-delivering?

Exceeding expectations is good. It can improve your relationship with your customers and generate interest and excitement around your products. Over-delivering can also be a terrific way to get positive reviews that you can leverage for greater sales.

However, over-delivering can also stop sales before they happen if you are setting the bar too low in order to over-deliver later. The biggest problem with over-delivering for every customer is that it likely means you’re under-promising in the first place.

Red Stag Fulfillment is a fulfillment company, so we like to think in terms of delivering orders to customers. Over-delivering can mean that you’re getting packages to people in two or three days when you say it takes five or six on your website. It can act as a great surprise for many of your customers because they’re getting your products earlier.

However when people see it could take almost a week to get a product but your competitors advertise a shorter window, they could go elsewhere. Why wouldn’t they if the price is similar? The disparity between their want and your initial promise just might send them to Amazon instead of your cart.

Other elements of over-delivering can be hidden in spaces where your customers aren’t using your offering. If you’re paying for 24/7 live support but 90% of your service requests happen during standard business hours, you could be over-delivering and wasting money.

Can over-delivering be worth it?

Customers have a lot of expectations, creating a variety of opportunities for you to amaze or underwhelm. Take a moment to consider all of the touch points you have with customers and look through these to find opportunities and necessities to maintain or improve the relationship.

Pretend you’re the customer and click through every step from discovery to purchase, including all of the side-steps you make when you’re shopping for yourself — in fashion, for example, this means finding a size chart or digging through comments to see how others say a product fits.

Your specific list will have different points, but here are a few to pay attention to when it comes to over-delivering:

Opportunity How to Over-Deliver Right
How your store communicates during and after a purchase Give information before people ask. This includes showing available coupons or sales as well as messages via text or email when an order ships and should arrive.
When delivery dates and taxes are first displayed E-commerce stores can lose business if they hide these details until the last minute because customers see a price hike. This might vary depending on your industry. Why not try testing the abandonment rates of people who see these details upfront and those who see them later? You can also test which shipping speeds are more likely to tempt customers – they've got to be realistic and fit with your costs but also meet customer expectations.
When you want more information and how easy it is to find it Add details to your product pages in a way that people view it as they need to. If you feel like it’s too much to display it all at first glance, try placing it below a question and require people to click on the question to see the details.
Return policies Do your best to make it reasonable and easy to understand. The fewer the hoops, the happier customers will be, even if they never use it.

One thread running between these items is that they’re focused on the customer experience. It’s about the relationship, not your specific products or store. And you don’t necessarily have to do all of these things – it’s about finding what is available to your business and doing those few things very well. Focus on the touchpoints you can best control and manage.

It’s important to test out everything you can to optimize each touch point. For example, adjusting the price of the product to include “free shipping” may result in more sales than having people pay less for the product as well as a delivery fee, despite the total being the same. You don’t know until you try!

Jump to social to learn what customers think and feel

If you’re considering where to start with your internal review for over and under performing, begin with your customers. They want to help you improve your business because it makes it better for them and the products they want.

Social media has made it easy for customers to be vocal about the change they want, and when companies listen to them they’re often rewarded.

Social media is a top place to go and learn about what your customers want from you and other retailers. Comments and questions here are a smart way to analyze the gaps in your offering and determine the satisfaction level of current customers.

When it comes to dealing with negativity, the more important the issue is and the lower satisfaction they have, the sooner you need to get to work on it.

You should pay close attention to what aspects of your service people are enjoying as well as disliking and, still importantly, remaining silent on. Social data can help you improve each touch point, even if you’re using data referring to competitors to help out with your own research.

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