If you're aspiring to satisfy your customers, then you're aspiring to mediocrity.
Entrepreneurs often think they must do whatever they can to satisfy their customers. But satisfied customers defect all the time, and if you want to derive competitive advantage from the product or service experience you offer, it's not enough to satisfy people--you need to impress them.
That's what success in business really comes down to: Delivering experiences that people don't just enjoy in the moment, but remember well into the future--thereby cultivating the repurchase and referral behavior that's the lifeblood of any organization. The companies that do this well are all relying on the same proven techniques--which are grounded in cognitive science. Because cultivating loyalty is as much about shaping people's memories as it is about shaping their experiences.
Recap commitments at the end of an interaction.
The last thing that happens in an interaction has a disproportionate influence on people's overall impression and memory of the experience (a consequence of the "recency bias," as it's known in psychology jargon). To help end on a high note, conclude calls, meetings, e-mails, and any other type of interaction with a recap of what specifically you're committing to do to help the person you're serving. This will instill confidence in your customer, showing them that you've got everything under control.
Set clear, time-based expectations.
When making commitments--be it to call someone, deliver a proposal, or provide requested information--don't promise to get back to people "soon" or "shortly," because those terms mean different things to different people. In most business contexts, ambiguity is the enemy. Uncertainty deprives people of what's known in psychology circles as "perceived control," and, as a result, it makes the experience feels less pleasant. (This is why waiting in line for a known length of time feels shorter, and less annoying, than an unknown wait time). Avoid ambiguity by proactively communicating a specific time or date when you'll be in touch, and then honor that commitment.
Take ownership with five simple words
"I can help you with that." If you confidently utter those words to a customer or an employee who comes to you for assistance, it immediately changes the tenor of the interaction. To the person on the receiving end, it's a signal of ownership and advocacy--an indication that someone is taking personal accountability for addressing their needs. That makes customers feel heard, understood, and cared for--emotional cues which help cement the memory of the encounter in their heads. Of course, the words must be followed by actions, so be sure to not just signal ownership, but to actually take ownership.
Surprise people with your responsiveness
Imagine submitting a purchase inquiry through a "Contact Us" form on a business's website--and then hearing back from a company rep within minutes. Exceptional responsiveness is a rarity in today's world, and when we encounter something novel and unexpected, our brain is biochemically primed to forge long-term memories about that experience. People often like to create the illusion that they're busier than they are, so they sit on that e-mail, text, or voicemail for a while, making their customer or colleague wait. Don't fall into that trap. A rapid response alone, even if it's just acknowledging receipt of an inquiry, can make a striking impression.
Greet customers within 10 feet or 10 seconds
If you work in a retail environment, be sure someone is greeting customers within 10 feet or 10 seconds of entering the store. That simple act of making eye contact and acknowledging the customer with a prompt and courteous greeting (even if just to say, "I'll be with you in about five minutes") sends an important signal: We care about you and your patronage. The greeting helps to immediately personalize the experience, making customers feel more welcome and appreciated. They'll remember that the next time they consider visiting your store.
The key takeaway
Leave it to your competitors to satisfy customers. Make it your goal to impress them--to deliver an experience so exceptional, so enchanting, so memorable, that people can't wait to do business with you again--and to tell others about you.