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Expectation is the root of all disappointment. How many times have you gotten your hopes up for a great experience and been let down in the end? Whether it’s Friday night plans you’ve been looking forward to all week, an over-hyped movie you were once dying to see or a package delivery that was less than what you’d hoped, being let down is never fun.

When expectations are high, pressure grows as a result and so does the likelihood of facing disappointment. But, the alternative is true as well. When expectations are low, disappointment can be more easily kept at bay. Even small improvements on what you assumed would be a negative experience leave you feeling better than you did before.

Defying norms can create referrals

The same is true for business. When people have repeatedly had poor experiences with competitors in your industry, they may have already given up on high expectations. When the time comes for them to find another partner, chances are they are coming to you out of necessity in a situation where your expertise is valuable to them.

If you exceed their expectations during the engagement, your business can build a positive reputation for itself through the power of a referral. The good news is that due to past experiences, they will be easier to please with small acts of attentiveness and great customer service.

Think about it.

When you call your cable company to ask a question about your bill, you probably don’t dial the number expecting to speak to someone who cares and is eager to help you solve a problem. At coffee shops, we can all pretty much guarantee that the spelling of our name will be butchered on our cups. And of course, we all go to the DMV with baggage after being emotionally scarred by the long lines and poor attitudes of everyone there.

A helpful person on the other end of the phone, a barista who asks how to correctly spell your name and a DMV line that is moving quickly enough for you to get back to work in a timely fashion – these fairly simple adjustments could go a long way to creating a connection with a customer and turn them into promoters of your brand.

Who’s excelling at defying cultural norms?

Chick-fil-A exceeds expectations for a fast food restaurant by training their employees to use basic manners and practice attentiveness. WOW 1 Day Painting gets the job done in just one day so you’re not inconvenienced for an extended period of time and excels in customer service thanks to their owner’s background in finance. Lowe’s made an AI-powered app to give customers turn-by-turn directions to the product they searched for so that employees can spend less time showing products and more time answering helping customers in other ways.

There are plenty of ways to go the extra mile for customers — you just need to know the right place to start.

Where to start?

Regardless of the type of business you’re running, addressing stereotypes within your industry and setting a standard of genuine customer service will go a long way.

Patience, attentiveness, clear communication and knowledge of what you’re selling are the top four skills that will leave a customer feeling positively about your business. When faced with adversity in the workplace, patience is key. When a customer needs help, attentiveness makes all the difference. Clear communication and knowledge of the product or service are both critical to building a relationship with your constituents.

It’s important to take these skills one step further and think through the norms of your industry. What simple things can you do to set yourself apart from the competition and create a memorable experience? And no, we’re not talking about tap dancing chimney sweeps or singing maids. There are plenty of simple, accessible and thoughtful ways to market your business by intentionally training and empowering employees to put their best foot forward when interacting with customers.

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