How to exceed customer expectations and why you should do it

Exceeding customer expectations

Going that bit further when things go wrong

Not so long ago, I had a problem with my Tesco grocery collection which created a lot of inconvenience and caused me to complain to the local store. Being a best-selling author and consumer journalist I know how to complain and do so for others and myself on a regular basis. Usually this results in financial redress for being out of pocket. Those I complain for are not surprised by this.

However, on this occasion, the manager came round with all the goodies in the picture below. I was overwhelmed. It was such a lovely surprise. These kind of gestures are always well received. It’s the surprise and thought taken that is appreciated, which surpasses any financial redress.





A Tesco spokesperson said: “Our aim is to always provide the best possible service and experience to our customers and when we can, we will go above and beyond.”

The benefits from exceeding a customer’s expectation when they complain.

This resulted in my feeling much more positive about the experience. I’m not even sure I remember the details of the issue now, but I do remember how I felt receiving the gifts. That’s what you want to do, make your customers feel positive thoughts about your company and regain trust.

The January 2019 UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKSI) state of customer satisfaction in the UK showed that:

“The relatively low average score for complaint handling underlines its perennial importance for customer satisfaction. Only complaints that receive excellent satisfaction scores (a 9 or 10 out of 10) are likely to boost overall customer satisfaction. Most customer problems that become complaints, even those handled better than average, are likely to impair customer satisfaction. This suggests that one of the most significant actions organisations can undertake to improve satisfaction is to understand the root cause of problems for customers and prevent them from occurring.”

This shows that how you handle complaints is vitally important for your business. Unless the customer service they always receive has been excellent you have to work to ensure that you retain your customers’ business.

An example of exceeding expectations for already loyal customers

Our family have holidayed in a lovely hotel in Majorca, part of the Fergus chain, a few times. Last year they gave us a free surprise upgrade on arrival. This makes for many, many Brownie points in my view. It was the 2nd or 3rd best room in the whole place! It was big and the balcony huge so we could spend lots of time on our own on the balcony soaking up the rays! That was inbetween partaking of the great food and drink! It is my 11 year old son’s favourite place and he’s been lucky enough to go to lots of places!
Earlier this year I wrote to the Managing Director, Bernat Vicens, and asked for a discount on that same room. I expected someone from his office to offer a standard figure discount and crossed my fingers that it would be a good one! Nope. Bernat himself corresponded with me. I was offered the best MASSIVE suite in the hotel for the price of what we usually paid for the normal room! The Presidential Suite. In the picture it is the top one with a balcony.

Balconies of hotel

It was for the May half term and we booked in March. Therefore there would have been plenty of time for someone else to have snapped up this room. In fact, when we stayed the hotel was full. The MD clearly valued our custom.
He wasn’t to know of course that I would share it as one of my best experiences of exceeding customer expectations ever, but most people would certainly share such stories. It was, in fact, one of my most engaged with posts on LinkedIn.

Bernat responded to my thanks and praise with “thanks for your kind words! our pleasure to make you feel at home” The thread was full of partners and others praising this service.

We had the most fantastic time and really didn’t want to leave! This was pure fantastic and genuine wonderful customer service and was the best offer I have ever received from a company.

Most of the time you don’t know who your customers are or what they do for a living. But if you treat all your customers like this you retain loyalty and could gain other benefits too. Such as customers giving you the best free advertising!

Making customers feel valued

The two examples above made me feel highly valued! Both were worth far more than any financial redress or discount and these extra thoughts and actions went a long way with me. The Tesco story was some time ago but I have never forgotten it.

I have since complained to Tesco many times about other issues (See Case study: Tesco and a consumer champion) and received financial redress for the faulty groceries or whatever but can’t remember them. I will always remember the above example though. Despite being The Complaining Cow, it is the exceeding expectation stories that I prefer to share to spread the word and inspire other companies!

As for the holiday, there is one negative. The family and I are down in the dumps now. It’s September, it’s cold and we want to be in Majorca! More specifically we want to be in our apartment at the Fergus Style Cala Blanca Suites! (My 11 year old has already said he is going to work hard at school and buy it!) It is outside of our price range for a holiday to ever do it again but if you make your loyal customers feel like we did, you know you couldn’t possibly have done more for them or your business.

Exceeding customers expectations

And see that wristband in the video? That was from the hotel in Majorca, he kept it on for weeks, it was purple!

The future for your company

How do you exceed your customers’ expectations?

If you are interested in working with Helen see Services for a variety of innovative solutions to your business needs. You can contact her with your own ideas too, of course!

If you are interested in working with Helen see Services for a variety of innovative customer-focussed solutions to your business needs. You can contact her with your own ideas too of course! Services.


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Ryanair descends to new lows in customer service ratings

Which? survey reveals league table for customer service

The consumer organisation Which? has today released the results of its latest survey of customer service performance. It asked nearly 4,000 members of the public to rate how the companies make them feel, how helpful and knowledgeable their staff were, and how well they handled complaints.

Ryanair branded “arrogant” “sneaky and “greedy”

Ryanair has been rated the worst firm for customer service out of 100 popular brands operating in the UK.

I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone. Ryanair is not known for great customer service.  According to the Which? report, passengers felt undervalued by unhelpful staff and miserable complaints handling. Ryanair came bottom of the table, only managing a paltry customer service score of 45 per cent overall, with the lowest rating of one star in all three categories:

  • Making you feel valued as a customer
  • Attitude/helpfulness of staff
  • Efficiency with solving complaints or problems

Which? said “Presented with a choice of 50 words to describe the airline, most of the airline’s passengers opted for ‘greedy’, ‘sneaky’ and ‘arrogant’, with one going as far as to say “Ryanair seem to make things deliberately difficult in order to make more money out of their customers”.

People take a calculated risk when booking with Ryanair. Every year Ryanair has strikes, every year there are reports of Ryanair trying to fob people off and not pay them compensation due. At some point it has to come to an end for Ryanair. Michael O’Leary, the CEO since 1994, has always been quite open about not caring about his own customers. It seems to be a model that has worked for him and his company. Cheap flights with little investment in training, retaining staff or customer service and complaint handling.

But is it worthwhile for Ryanair to continue this customer-hostile behaviour? There has to be a limit to what people can take, causing an increase in the numbers of passengers who say theu will never fly Ryanair again. When asked about how well the airline handles complaints, half (50%) of respondents gave it the lowest possible rating.

In September 2018 I wrote about Ryanair misleading customers on their consumer rights and again in December Landing in court with Ryanair (what you need to know about airlines and ADR too!).

easyJet, another budget airline, came in at 79th place, not hugely better but it was the highest ranking airline, demonstrating that Ryanair could definitely improve. One can only wonder if the airlines with the cheapest flights invested more in customer service, instead of constantly trying to fob people off and treat them badly, how well they could do. This is of course theoretical, because Ryanair has no intention of improving anytime soon. Numerous media outlets tried to get a statement from them regarding this survey but failed.


It comes as even less of a surprise that three large telecoms providers are right down there at the bottom of the rankings. Having complained to Virgin Media many times and using the Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme three times, winning each time, I can vouch for just how dreadful their service is. It is the sector about which I receive the most complaints, that’s for sure. And let’s not forget the energy companies performing badly too, whether it’s the Big Six or the smaller newcomers to the market.

lap top on woman's knees phone in one hand


If you are having problems with your telecom provider see All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers or for energy,


Electricity pylon Everything you need to know to complain about energy problems

All you need to know to make a complaint about energy



The big brand retailers and supermarkets came out well, considering the current difficulties in the High Street. The findings appear to suggest that some stores and supermarkets are getting better at customer service.

In the banking sector, the online bank First Direct took the top slot. A score of 89% is very high! Customers were hugely positive about the bank’s quality of service. Other banks would do well to look at First Direct which has won awards for customer service for a number of years.

Lakeland (87%) was the highest-rated retailer, standing out for the attitude of its staff, where it scored the full five-stars. Customers chose the word ‘helpful’ when given a list of words to describe the brand.

Sports Direct, unsurprisingly, was rated as the worst retailer for customer service with a 58% rating. Customers told Which? that the sporting apparel shop did not make them feel valued. The negative reputation Sports Direct has for treating both its staff and its customers is borne out by the survey.

Customer service dissatisfaction

The findings are in keeping with those from the Customer Service Institute. Last month it published a report Customer service goes down, complaints are going up showing that Customer service is getting worse. The ICS Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) has shown a decline for the fourth consecutive year. And by a significant amount too. 14.3% of consumers said that they experienced a problem with customer service. This represents a rise of 1.5% since last year’s figures.  in a report published last month.

Harry Rose, Editor of Which? Magazine, commented: “The best way to send a clear message to businesses about the importance of customer service is to spend your hard-earned cash with brands that make it a top priority – and don’t hesitate to complain if you feel you’ve been treated poorly.”

Customer service is becoming more important to savvy consumers and those in all the sectors would do well to heed the messages that consumers are sending. Not investing in customer service and complaint handling and fobbing customers off does not help sales. It contributes to a costly high turnover of staff, poor company reputation and a lack of loyalty.

Businesses getting it right see an increase in customer loyalty and better sales as a result. It’s not rocket science!

BBC Breakfast 23/08/19 discussing the Which? report

BBC Breakfast 23/08/19 Helen Dewdney discusses the Which? customer service survey