Stephen Hawking once said, “One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist. Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.”

Most of us know, in theory at least) that perfection is impossible, but strive for it just the same. For many, it feels like customers expect perfection from every delivery, every social media post must be perfectly curated, and our relationships at home need to be picture-perfect too.

Perfect is impossible to deliver 100% of the time. However, that doesn’t mean you should permit yourself to over-promise and under-deliver on your commitments.


How do you manage perfectionism in a customer service business?

No matter what you provide in your business, customers will have expectations about product or service delivery.

Managing those expectations is crucial for customer service whilst also being an important reminder for those who are hyper-critical of themselves.

Managing expectations is all about communication. How can you set the standard for your customers?

For instance, imagine you have an online candle business selling gorgeous scented, handmade candles. In this business model, there are several opportunities to communicate with your customers about what they should expect, including:

  • Shipping times. Customers get frustrated when expectations about delivery time frames aren’t met.
  • Postage costs. Upfront information about your pricing helps customers check out easily.
  • Imperfections and unique features. When products are handmade/unique, it makes sense to point this out as part of the product information to reduce returns and complaints.
  • Breakage and damage. What is the policy regarding damaged candles?
  • Change of mind. What is the policy if a customer changes their mind?
  • Communication channels. How should customers communicate with you? Sometimes frustration comes from the customer feeling like they can’t find an avenue to report their issue.

Expectations and communication will vary between businesses. Setting them means that the result is closer to ‘perfect’ when a delivery arrives within the advised shipping time frame, instead of allowing customers to hope the package might come the next day, for example.

It is much easier to set these expectations formally when you have a client contract, terms of service and refund policies. They are designed to support both yourself and your clients. Check out the template contracts and policies I draft for small businesses here.


Are you continually getting the same questions or complaints from your customers?

If you find yourself answering the same question repeatedly for your customers, this is a brilliant opportunity to improve (not perfect) your communication or systems.

How can you communicate the answer to this question so it’s answered before anyone needs to ask?

What process might need a tweak to make the customer service experience more seamless for yourself or your customers?

Negative reviews, for example, are often the result of a mismatch between what a customer expected and what the business delivered. An understanding response, coupled with reflection (and possible action) about why this issue occurred, can improve the experience for next time.

The goal isn’t to never receive another question or to have a perfect system. It’s to continuously improve and grow, expand your FAQs, rewrite the product descriptions, choose a different postage service or get better at your craft.


Are you feeling stuck because things are never perfect?

I love this quote as a helpful reminder to act towards continuous improvement rather than perfect work:

“Done is better than perfect.” Sheryl Sandberg

It’s not an excuse to slack off and do mediocre work. It’s about grace and courage in acting and making progress.

We can all get stuck in making things’ perfect’. I encourage you to focus instead on improvement and well-communicated expectations. It won’t be perfect, but it will be far less stressful.

If you need help with setting expectations for your customers, I’d love to hear from you. You can book a complimentary chat with me to get guidance on appropriate next steps and best practices for your small business.