Customer expectations continue to evolve as new technologies, trends and needs appear. Because of this, it’s more challenging for businesses to keep up with customer expectations. Brands often play catch-up, only to find out that they’re not really providing what their customers need and expect from them.
Managing Customer Expectations and Brand Experience
You’re giving it all you’ve got in ensuring quality products are delivered. You’re consistent in sending emails and generating new content to keep customers’ enthusiasm up. You have staff who are busy maintaining your online presence. Yet reports from all these aspects show unsatisfactory and unprofitable results. It seems customers are not biting your efforts.
Fig. 1. Gap of customer experience vs. customer expectations
Opportunity gaps appear when a brand fails to deliver according to customer expectations. Oftentimes, this happens when you become fixated on aspects you believe to be beneficial to customers but forget to consult if they think of it the same way you do. To align customer experience and expectations, you have to understand what they need, what you offer and how you can make the two ends meet to provide the best service possible from your brand.
The following steps will help you identify where the divergence occurs.
1. Understand the customer journey.
A customer journey encompasses at least each and every moment a person gets in touch with your brand. It can’t be defined by the mere instance a transaction occurs. It’s something more that includes even the instances outside the touchpoints.
In reality, customers interact with your brand more than just the second they make a purchase. Starting from the moment they come in contact with your brand and become potential customers, up to the point where you’re giving post-sales service, you have to map all that happens between these points and examine the value of each one to your customer.
Which communication platform do they use most often? Which part of your offers do they like the most, and why? What makes them decide to choose your brand again? By identifying and analyzing the customer journey, you’ll be able to map out a number of things regarding consumer preferences.
2. Measure your performance.
Now that you’ve analyzed your brand’s own customer journey process, it’s time to measure your actual performance.
It’s possible to perform really well in certain areas of your business and meet customer service expectations but also do poorly in some respects. You’ll never know your brand’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of satisfying customer expectations if you don’t analyze your processes, employees and programs. This is why your business needs an outstanding customer experience.
Typically, you’ll look into response time, churn rate, customer acquisition cost, lead conversion rate and similar metrics that define how you interact with customers. But with the advent of communication technologies and other digital innovations, more factors have come into play affecting these figures.
A holistic approach makes much more sense in identifying an accurate picture of your performance. Objective and subjective data should be aggregated to get a comprehensive report of your brand’s position in terms of satisfying customer needs.
3. Find the gaps and fix them.
After finishing the first 2 steps, you now have the data on what your brand is doing and what customers experience in every step of the journey. Your job is to find the gaps between the way customers experience your brand and how they expect it to be. During this process, you might also be able to spot areas of opportunity that you can capitalize on to strengthen your relationship with customers.
All these steps can be made much easier with the help of a professional mystery shopping agency like SeeLevel HX. Our team of experts and mystery shoppers can assess both your internal processes and your customers’ needs without any bias on either end. We’ll also provide you with a comprehensive report that can help you identify areas of opportunity to align your brand experience with customer expectations.
Tips on How to Exceed Customer Expectations
According to Sir Richard Branson, the business magnate behind the Virgin Group, to achieve customer expectations, a business should exceed them in unexpected ways.
Brands need to do more than just meet customer needs in order to stay in business. They need to learn how to exceed customer expectations and deliver top-notch service regardless of when, where and how consumers come in contact with them.
Here are some methods you can incorporate into your strategy for managing customer expectations:
1. Build a customer-centric culture.
Your organization should put customers first in everything it does. To do this, all employees, starting from the top managerial levels down to the entry-level positions, should participate in internalizing that customers are the company’s priority.
A truly customer-centric organization makes sure users receive valuable and authentic experiences while staying true to the values and beliefs the business fosters. Being consistent in enforcing this practice improves brand loyalty and trustworthiness.
A brand’s success lies in its ability to maintain a good relationship with its customers. To do this, you should maintain engagement with them and continue to seek their feedback in order to help further improve your services.
2. Respond quickly.
New technologies have introduced faster communication to people all around the world, allowing anyone from anywhere to send and receive a response with the blink of an eye. The side effect of this, though, is that people are now less willing to wait for answers and responses.
Customers expect businesses to respond in a matter of hours or even minutes. According to the Customer Satisfaction Index, organizations who have a response time of 10 hours or less receive over 90% in satisfaction ratings.
Customer expectations in this aspect are certainly high, but this is the reality today, especially now that there are a lot of options consumers can go to in case they get impatient waiting for your reply.
3. Provide transparency.
No one wants to purchase anything from a business that hides things about their products. You usually see this when brands promote a product for a very low price, only to surprise customers with hidden charges and miscellaneous costs upon payment.
Most customers prefer a brand that’s completely transparent to them. Studies also show that 73% of customers are willing to pay more for a brand that’s transparent with their sales policies, so it’s essential to incorporate this in your organization.
4. Have a strong presence in online communication channels.
There are a number of popular social media platforms today that have become the new hub for sharing content and communicating with other users. The creation of websites has also become cheaper and easier to manage. With these developments, customers expect you to be present in at least one of these channels.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you have a multi-channel or an omni-channel approach. You also don’t have to be on every platform if you can’t provide proper support for each of them. It’s okay if you only have a Facebook or a Twitter account or you only have an official website. What is important to customers is that they are able to contact you on the channel you support without any problem and receive responses in a timely manner.
5. Be empathetic.
Although being received by a chatbot or an AI is within customer expectation, talking to a real person is preferred by most. People want to be treated like humans and not just another ‘number’ waiting to be served by your company.
In-store employees are exposed to personal interactions with customers, which is why they need a strong training program. Have them follow a protocol they should observe in specific situations. Remind them to include a personal touch in each interaction and avoid using the same line over and over again to the point that interactions feel robotic and monotonous.
6. Personalize your approach.
Generic email campaigns and promotional materials are often considered junk and irrelevant by customers. Not only that, it doesn’t instill any uniqueness to your brand that will differentiate you from the competition.
Businesses often get customer information through sign-ups, reward programs, promos and other marketing gimmicks. Add to that the sophisticated ways programs can gather data on user behavior, and you have no excuse why you are not personalizing offers.
Aligning customer experience and customer expectations is a continuous process. This is why it’s vital to regularly conduct a business performance review and include this topic on the agenda to ensure everything falls in line. It is very wasteful to spend resources on something that doesn’t meet customer service expectations.
Maintaining a personal connection with your customers is still the best way to keep in touch with their ever-changing demands and expectations. You have to put yourself in their shoes and see things the way they do. Only then will you be able to truly identify the customer experience you provide.
If you want to know how to exceed customer expectations, contact SeeLevel HX. As one of the best mystery shopping companies in North America, we will provide you with over 90 years of combined expertise in assessing customer needs and exceeding their expectations.