What Are Customer Expectations, and How Do You Address the Experience Expectation Gaps?
I recently booked a flight ticket from Chennai to London. The route given to me was Chennai to Mumbai and Mumbai to London.
I received a mail from the domestic carrier stating that the flight timings of the Chennai to Mumbai leg have changed. This meant that my London connecting flight would have left Mumbai when I reached Mumbai.
So, I asked the airline to change the domestic flight timing. The domestic carrier accepted it, and after a couple of hours, they called me to inform me that the ticket’s owner was the international flight carrier. So they cannot provide me with an alternate flight schedule.
I was told to change it through the travel agent who booked my tickets.
So I called up the travel agent to reschedule my domestic ticket. They promised they’d come back with an alternate schedule. They took a day to come up with an option.
The proposed option did not suit my needs. So, I suggested an alternate option by email. It took another day for them to return to me with my proposed choice.
I had to agree to the revised schedule so they could issue the new ticket. I gave my acceptance as an email.
The next day, I received an email from them that it would take 24-48 hours for them to issue the new ticket.
This continued for another three days. Then, I called customer care and spoke to them about my challenges in getting the tickets done.
They promised to come back to me within 3 hours. In an hour, they shared the new ticket with me.
What Do You Think of This Experience?
It took me six days to get the tickets for the alternate schedule for no fault of mine, despite the best efforts of the agents at the travel portal that booked my tickets.
This is how the airlines function around the world. You are literally at their mercy when it comes to your travel plans.
What Is My Expectation Here?
I am fine with the fact that flights get rescheduled. However, I am not fine with the fact that it takes six days to get the ticket for a minor reschedule.
So, experience plays a vital role in the expectation here.
Let us go ahead and define the customer expectations.
What is Customer Expectations?
Customer expectations are any set of behaviors or actions that individuals anticipate when interacting with a company. Traditionally the expectations have always been quality service and fair pricing. Besides these, today’s customers expect exceptional experiences – such as proactive service, personalized interactions, and connected experiences across digital channels.
Salesforce research surveyed 15600 consumers and business buyers globally to understand better changing customer expectations. They came up with a report titled “State of the Connected Customer.”
The findings include the following:
- 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations
- 76% of customers expect consistent interactions across departments, yet 54% say it generally feels like sales, service, and marketing teams don’t share the information
- 52% of customers expect offers always to be personalized
- Only 27% of consumers completely understand how companies use their personal information, and 86% want more transparency
- 61% of consumers feel like they’ve lost control over how their personal information is used
- 62% of consumers say their experiences with one industry influence their expectations of others
- 91% say they’re more likely to make a repeat purchase after a positive experience, and 71% have made a purchase decision based on experience quality
The findings clearly indicate that customers prefer experiences over and above basics like quality and price.
The Customer Expectation – Experience Gap!
The expectation–experience gap is real and directly impacts customer satisfaction, loyalty, and overall business success.
Let us look at some industry statistics:
- A study by Bain & Company revealed that while 80% of companies believe they provide a superior customer experience, only 8% of customers agree
- PwC research found that 32% of customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience
- Temkin Group study showed that customers with a positive emotional experience with a company are six times more likely to repurchase and 12 times more likely to recommend the company.
- A study by Esteban Kolsky found that 13% of unsatisfied customers will share their experience with 15 or more people, and most dissatisfied customers will never return, resulting in potential revenue loss.
- According to a Salesforce survey, 73% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.
- Glance research states that 78% of customers would be loyal to a brand that consistently delivers on its promises, while 67% would actively promote it.
It becomes critical to bridge the experience-expectation gap. By constantly aligning customer expectations with the actual experience, businesses can build strong customer relationships, foster loyalty, and drive sustainable growth.
How Do You Bridge the Customer Expectation Gap?
Closing the customer experience expectation gap requires proactive efforts and a customer-centric approach.
Here are a few ways to bridge the gap:
1. Understand Customer Expectations
Invest time in understanding your target audience’s needs and expectations through market research, surveys, and customer feedback.
2. Set Clear and Realistic Expectations
To manage customer expectations from the beginning, communicate clear and accurate information about your products, services, pricing, and policies.
3. Align Your Offerings with the Customer Journey
Make it easy for customers to purchase from you by offering convenient options like online ordering, mobile apps, or subscription services.
Ensure that your products or services meet or exceed customer expectations in terms of quality, reliability, and functionality. Provide customers with the ability to customize products or services to better suit their specific needs, processes, and preferences.
Aim to respond promptly to customer inquiries, complaints, or feedback to show that you value their time and concerns.
Maintain transparency in your business practices, such as pricing, policies, and any potential limitations or risks associated with your products or services.
4. Offer Personalized and Consistent Experiences
Tailor your interactions with your customers by offering personalized recommendations. Use customer relationship management (CRM) systems to track and store relevant customer information.
Ensure you integrate all your customer touchpoints and systems to provide consistent experiences across in-person interactions, website experience, packaging, and customer support. Ensure that your brand promise aligns with the actual experience.
5. Train Your Customer-Facing Resources
Deliver exceptional customer service by actively listening, empathizing, and resolving issues promptly and efficiently.
Besides, train them to ensure they understand the importance of meeting customer expectations and have the tools to do so effectively.
6. Incorporate Feedback Loops
Encourage customer feedback at various touchpoints and actively listen to their concerns, suggestions, and complaints. Regularly analyze feedback to identify areas of improvement.
Take prompt action on customer feedback to address pain points and improve customer experience. Implement changes based on customer insights to show that their feedback is valued and keep them informed.
7. Foster a Customer-Centric Culture
Develop a company culture that prioritizes customer satisfaction. Align your employees’ goals and incentives with delivering exceptional customer experiences.
8. Leverage Technology
Utilize technology to streamline processes, personalize interactions, and improve the overall customer experience. Consider implementing omnichannel customer experience platforms (CXPs) to enhance consistent customer experiences across the customer journey.
9. Monitor and Measure Performance
Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to track and measure your performance in meeting customer expectations.
Today’s customers are more informed, discerning, and demanding than ever before. They have higher expectations for the quality of products or services they receive, the level of customer service they experience, and the overall value they derive from their interactions with the brand.
Customer expectations play a pivotal role in shaping the success and longevity of a business.
Remember, addressing customer expectations and closing the customer experience expectation gap is an ongoing process and requires continuous effort.
It necessitates a deep understanding of customer preferences, proactive engagement, personalized interactions, and adapting and improving based on customer feedback.