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Understanding and Managing Customer Expectations

Discover effective strategies for understanding and managing customer expectations to enhance satisfaction and loyalty.

Team Omind

Team Omind

June 13, 2024

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During any customer journey with a business, it’s imperative that businesses learn to set customer expectations well before the journey even starts. Customer expectations can range from none at all to extremely detailed and specific, and there are high chances that your product may not align with the customer’s requirements. If one really thinks about it, customer expectations are the unseen forces that shape a business's trajectory. Therefore, managing them is one of the most important goals for a business to achieve. 

Let us take a look at how this can be done, and what pitfalls to avoid when managing customer expectations. 

Customer Expectations and Their Impact

Customer expectations are essentially the beliefs and assumptions customers hold about a company's products, services, and interactions. These expectations act as a benchmark against which customers evaluate their experiences. Meeting or exceeding these expectations fosters satisfaction and loyalty, leading to positive word-of-mouth and a strong brand reputation. Conversely, unmet expectations can lead to dissatisfaction, churn, and damage a company's standing. As technology advances and market trends evolve, customer expectations do as well, in parallel. 

Customer expectations can provide a valuable opportunity for market differentiation. By keenly understanding and exceeding what customers anticipate, businesses create a unique and positive brand experience. This fosters customer loyalty and attracts new patrons seeking experiences that align with their evolving needs. A strong brand reputation built on consistently exceeding expectations becomes a powerful marketing tool, drawing customers away from competitors. 

The Types of Customer Expectations

customer expectations

It may not sound true, but even expectations can be grouped into a few categories. Here’s a few lines on each of the common categories you’ll be working with. 

Explicit Expectations

These are the most straightforward expectations, representing customers' clearly stated wishes or needs. They might involve specific product features, service guarantees, or desired outcomes. For instance, a customer might explicitly expect a product to be delivered within two days or a service call to resolve their issue within the first visit.

Implicit Expectations

These expectations lie beneath the surface, representing what customers assume about their experience based on past interactions or industry standards. They might encompass aspects like product quality, helpful customer service interactions, or a hassle-free return policy. For example, a customer dining at a restaurant might implicitly expect clean silverware, attentive wait staff, and a pleasant atmosphere.

Interpersonal Expectations

These expectations focus on how customers desire to be treated during interactions with a company's representatives. They encompass elements like respect, courtesy, professionalism, and a willingness to listen and address concerns. For instance, a customer calling customer service might expect to speak with a knowledgeable representative who treats them with respect and works diligently to resolve their issue.

Digital Expectations

In today's digital age, customers have specific expectations for online interactions. These expectations involve factors like website ease of use, clear navigation, secure transactions, and efficient online support channels. For instance, a customer might expect a company website to load quickly, offer a search function for easy product discovery, and provide a secure checkout process.

Dynamic Performance Expectations

Dynamic performance expectations refer to the customer's belief that a product or service will improve and adapt over time. This could involve features continually being added or upgraded, a willingness to address user feedback, or seamlessly integrating with new technologies. For example, customers of a fitness tracker might expect new workout programs to be regularly uploaded, or those using a ride-sharing app might anticipate features like real-time traffic updates or integration with new payment methods.

The Art of Expectation Management

expectation management 

This section is a good segue into how you can actually keep up with customer expectations. 

Bridging the Gap: Unearthing Unmet Needs

The first step is to identify any gaps between what customers expect and what your brand currently delivers. Analyzing brand positioning, which defines your company's core values and target audience, allows you to understand the experience you're aiming to create. Additionally, buyer persona development, which involves creating detailed profiles of your ideal customers, helps you peer into their specific needs and desires. By comparing these insights with customer feedback, you can pinpoint areas where expectations might be falling short.

The Voice of the Customer

Customer feedback is a treasure trove of information. Actively collecting feedback through surveys, reviews, and social media interactions allows you to identify areas for improvement and ensure your offerings align with evolving customer needs. By actively listening to customer concerns and suggestions, and then demonstrably implementing changes based on that feedback, you demonstrate a commitment to ongoing improvement, fostering trust and loyalty.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

The business world is a dynamic one, and customer needs are constantly evolving. Staying ahead of the competition requires anticipating these shifts. By closely monitoring industry trends and competitor strategies, you can identify potential areas where customer expectations might change. This proactive approach allows you to adapt your offerings and service standards before customer dissatisfaction arises.

Building Trust Through Transparency and Flexibility

Transparency and flexibility are cornerstones of building trust with your customers. Be upfront about product limitations, potential delays, or changes in service offerings. Equally important is demonstrating a willingness to adapt. This might involve offering flexible return policies, accommodating special requests where possible, or being open to feedback and suggestions for improvement. By fostering an environment of open communication and demonstrating a commitment to finding solutions, you build trust and create customer advocates.

Streamlining the Journey

The customer journey should be a smooth and enjoyable experience. Focus on simplifying processes, offering clear and concise product information, and providing multiple touchpoints for customer support. This could involve implementing user-friendly website navigation, offering self-service options for common inquiries, or ensuring a seamless checkout process. We’ve written in detail about customer journey maps before; use them to see how you can make the entire journey a breeze. By prioritizing customer ease-of-use, you not only meet expectations but also create a positive brand association that fosters customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Building, Not Burning Bridges

managing cx 

Even the most meticulous businesses can make mistakes. How you handle those mistakes, however, can make all the difference in fostering long-term customer relationships. Here's how admitting and rectifying errors can turn a negative experience into a positive one. 

  • Owning Up: The Power of a Sincere Apology: When a mistake occurs, acknowledge it promptly and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused. Don't try to shift blame or downplay the issue. A genuine apology shows customers you respect their time and value their business.

  • Transparency is Key: Explaining the Issue: Briefly explain what went wrong, without going into unnecessary detail. This demonstrates transparency and helps rebuild trust.

  • Taking Action: The Road to Resolution: The most crucial step is taking swift action to rectify the mistake. This might involve offering a solution, such as a refund, replacement, or discount. Be sure the solution is fair and addresses the customer's specific concern.

  • Learning from the Experience: A Commitment to Improvement: Use the experience as a learning opportunity. Analyze what went wrong and implement changes to prevent similar issues from recurring. This demonstrates a commitment to ongoing improvement and shows customers you value their feedback.

It’s also imperative that you follow-up on feedback given to you, and make sure that the customer does not have to go through the same thing twice, or that other customers don’t even have to go through it once. 

Technology: Your Unlikely Ally For Customer Expectations

Technology can be a powerful tool for deciphering the ever-evolving realm of customer expectations. Social listening platforms can uncover trending topics and customer sentiment on online forums. Omnichannel marketing software can centralize feedback data, allowing you to identify patterns and pinpoint areas of improvement. Advanced analytics can even analyze customer journeys and predict potential pain points before they arise. By harnessing these technological resources, businesses can gain a deeper understanding of customer expectations and proactively work to meet and exceed them.

The Customer: The Cornerstone of Business Growth

By understanding, managing, and exceeding these expectations, businesses unlock a gateway to sustainable growth. Satisfied customers become loyal brand advocates, driving repeat business and positive word-of-mouth. This translates to financial stability, a strong brand reputation, and a competitive edge in today's dynamic marketplace. Failing to prioritize customer expectations, on the other hand, can lead to customer churn, hinder revenue streams, and ultimately jeopardize a company's future.

‍Omind is a CX and BX platform that leverages the best of industry knowledge, AI, ML, and more proprietary prowess to help you engage in the best way possible. If you’d like to learn more about how you can augment your experience with us, schedule a demo at this link today.

Customer Experience

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

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