We all know that no matter how competitive the marketplace, the long-term route to sustainable business success is through customer experience (CX) delivery. Because it’s ultimately the quality and consistency of a brand’s CX that makes it more attractive to consumers than one of its rivals.
Understanding customer expectations and what shapes them is the critical first step on this path to getting your CX right.
By definition, an expectation is a justified hope or belief that something will happen – and happen in a certain way – based on past experiences and the evidence immediately at hand. And so as customers, these expectations relate to the types of service and choice of communication channels; the level of attention; or the quality of interactions they anticipate experiencing when engaging with your brand.
In short, it’s how a customer believes they are going to feel at each point along and beyond the path to purchase as expectations are just as much about how you support customers when they have questions, problems and issues as they are about the initial delivery of a product or service that when judged alongside the purchase process reflects value for money.
So, what are the biggest factors that influence customer expectations and what steps can you take to ensure your brand delivers?
1. Previous customer experiences with your brand
It might sound obvious, but the way in which you’ve treated a customer in the past is going to have a huge impact on that customer’s expectations in the future. And if customers are coming back and coming back over a period of time, then the CX you’re offering is on the money.
Likewise, if churn rate seems high, there’s a good chance it’s the support around the product or service that is causing disappointment.
Either way, this is a positive in as much as you are in complete control of the quality of the customer experience you deliver. You can invest in optimization or improvement when attrition rates increase, and you can watch KPIs and metrics like a hawk when things are going well to make sure that standards don’t slip.
2. Previous experiences with other brands
Unfortunately, one factor over which you have no direct or immediate control, is the quality of CX being delivered elsewhere. Yes, you can benchmark certain metrics against those of your direct competitors, and if your NPS scores are above the industry average, you’re doing well. But increasingly, from a service level perspective, the best CX a customer has experienced with any brand, in any marketplace is consciously or subconsciously raising their expectations when it comes to interacting with all organizations.
As such, don’t be scared to innovate or to look beyond your own market for ideas or approaches for doing things better or for being different, in a positive way.
3. Social media and online reviews
Word of mouth is still crucial to business success, but that word of mouth is now being spread online and beyond immediate circles of friends and peer groups. Online reviews, influencers and experience sharing have completely changed how consumers discover brands, how they compare one company with another and ultimately, how they make initial choices. Indeed, our own data shows how much influence social media has over consumer brand choices and how sharing positive and negative CX stories is quickly becoming mainstream behavior, across generations.
4. Generational and geographical differences
The wider the potential audience for a product or service, the bigger and more diverse the list of expectations your customers will have. Yes, some expectations are universal – value for money, dealing with friendly and knowledgeable staff, a level of service that recognizes time is a valuable commodity. But of course, beyond these fundamental basics, things are going to change. Younger consumers are more likely to expect a brand to be able to engage directly via social media, for instance.
Having clear personas, based on first-party data will help you to understand how best to acknowledge some of these expectations and develop ways of meeting them.
5. Marketing and communication
Analog and digital communications, short-term promotions and long-term marketing strategies are all factors influencing customer expectations. Even if in today’s information-overloaded world, much of the messaging is received or absorbed unconsciously. Likewise, because all businesses within the same marketplace are using the same channels for promotional campaigns, often at the same time, those competing messages can also blur into one unified voice. This can start to influence perceptions around an entire product category even if two brands have very different market propositions or addressable audiences.
Don’t forget that communication extends to direct conversations and engagements with customers. Having a clear tone of voice and an inclusive vocabulary will help your organization to connect and align with existing and potential customers and their experiences will help you influence and control future expectations.
Likewise, as social sharing becomes part of mainstream online behavior, using direct conversations with customers as an opportunity to ask them to relate their experiences to their friends and followers is also ultimately going to get your brand’s voice heard above those of its competitors and be heard for the right reasons.
Exceed customer expectations
Customer expectations are ever evolving. You need to be able to adapt and offer them an experience that meets their expectations and needs. Find out how Foundever can help you make a difference with every conversation.