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Don’t Set Customer Expectations You Can’t Meet

By: Susan Solovic


“Recently, I started incorporating the internet in my small business by starting a website. There’s a page where customers or potential-customers can leave questions or comments. There’s been an overwhelming amount of questions that I often neglect to answer. Do you think I should take the page down if I’m not responding to every question or comment? I really don’t like to keep my customers hanging, but I really don’t have the time to answer each and every little question or comment they post. Any advice?”   (Seattle, WA)

THE Small Business Expert Answer: Your situation is a “good news–bad news” scenario. The good news is you have traffic to your web site. The bad news is you have created a monster so to speak.
One of the keys to building a successful Internet presence is to give visitors a reason to come back regularly. You’ve done that by creating an area where they can interact with you. However, you are violating a Cardinal Rule of marketing by not responding in a timely fashion.
What’s the rule?
When you built the question and answer section of your web site, you set the expectation you would respond in a timely fashion. That’s true even if you didn’t explicitly say how long the response time would be. Interactivity is one of the benefits of the web, and most people assume their questions will be answered in a timely fashion—usually not more than 24 to 48 hours. Your failure to meet that expectation is tarnishing your brand and may be costing you business opportunities. I doubt that was your intention.
Stop and think about the message you are sending when you don’t respond to questions. “This is a business that isn’t interested in helping me.” “If this company can’t answer one question, it must not be responsive to customer needs.” “Maybe this company is out of business.”
The question and answer page was a great idea, but if you aren’t going to commit to managing it appropriately, then my recommendation is to take the page down. What was intended to help you build business may have already cost you opportunities as frustrated customers decide to go elsewhere.
In addition to taking the page down, I encourage you to respond to any unanswered questions as soon as possible and include an apology for your delay. Going forward, never directly or indirectly set an expectation for your business that you aren’t absolutely certain you can meet 99.9 percent of the time. It’s always better to exceed the customer’s expectations than to under-deliver.
This article was originally published by Susan Solovic
Published: November 12, 2013

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Susan Solovic

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com and USA Today bestselling author, and attorney. She was the CEO and co-founder of SBTV.com—small business television—a company she grew from its infancy to a million dollar plus entity. She appears regularly as a featured expert on Fox Business, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC and can be seen currently as a small business expert on the AT&T Networking Exchange website. Susan is a member of the Board of Trustees of Columbia College and the Advisory Boards for the John Cook School of Entrepreneurship at Saint Louis University as well as the Fishman School of Entrepreneurship at Columbia College. 

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