Month: April 2019

Guide to customer expectations

Guide to Customer Expectations

Customer expectations are the desires or anticipations customers have about a brand when interacting with it. It is the anticipated outcome of the interaction. The secret of providing great service lies in the ability to understand and respond to customer expectations. When we do not know our customers, we fail to meet up to their expectations. In this article, you will understand customers’ expectations and what shapes their attitudes. To begin with, let us look at the dimensions of customer engagements.

5 Dimensions of customer Expectations

A Texas A&M University study categorizes customer expectations into five dimensions: reliability, tangibles, responsiveness, assurance and empathy.

  • Reliability: Customers expect you to perform the promised service accurately and dependably. They want to see you do what you say you do. They expect the product will perform as you have said it performs.
  • Tangibles: Customers want inviting and good looking physical facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication materials.
  • Responsiveness: your firms’ willingness to be of assistance to the customer and provide prompt service.
  • Assurance: Your employees’ ability to convey trust and confidence and their knowledge about the products or services.
  • Empathy: The individualized attention provided to them and demonstrations that you feel for them.

We can thus observe that customers have very basic expectations. It is not about the magic investments it is about the magic moments the customers spend with your brand. With the advent of the internet and growth in technologies, customer expectations are also evolving.

4 New customer Expectations

A Salesforce research on understanding customer expectations reveals that, todays customers expect:

  • Connected Journeys: Customers are expecting more connected journeys. Making it necessary for companies to eliminate bottleneck processes and breakdown silos.
  • Personalization: Customers expect more personalization of products and services to meet their very specific needs.
  • Innovation: Customers want to deal with innovative companies, expect product development, and appreciate those embracing new technologies.
  • Data protection: Customers expect their data to be protected and their privacy assured.
4 New Customer Expectations

These new trends which are typical of the digital age in which we live, permit to significantly improve online user experience. It will be necessary to know if customer expectations are absolute or variable. To better explain this concept let us look at the zone of tolerance.

Zone of Tolerance in customer Expectations

The zone of tolerance represents the range of service performance that a customer considers satisfactory. It is important to recognize your ability to manage your customers’ tolerance, and therefore satisfaction and dissatisfaction, through transactions. The zone of tolerance is the difference between customers’ expectations regarding their desired service and the minimum level of acceptable service.

The acceptable service can be considered as the lower level of what they expect to receive and the desired service is the higher level of their expectation. The target of the organization should be to deliver a level of service superior to the zone of tolerance.

When the organization exceeds the zone of tolerance, they are offering a service beyond the customers’ expectations and this creates a “wow” effect. It is therefore important for the organization to do an audit of the things they must do to have the minimum level of acceptable service. To achieve this it will be good to look at the factors that shape these expectations so as know how to manage them.

The 7 major factors that shape customer Expectations

Some of the major factors that shape the customers’ expectations are the corporate promise, the price, the marketing, the customer’s mood/attitude, alternatives, Comments from others, and education. 

The Corporate promise

Looking at adverts today, we realize that, instead of showing the characteristics of the product, marketers try to patronize the customers, build a passion for the product and apply to the cognitive faculties of customers. These adverts, corporate logos, slogans, utterances of CEOs, create a certain expectation in customers.

When an event planner says ‘your one-stop wedding shop’ the buyer entering this shop expects to find everything linked to the wedding.  Customers tend to judge the organizations from the promise the enterprise has made.

Customers measure the services in function of what the enterprise has promised. Most customers are unsatisfied because they feel the enterprise has not kept the promise. Corporate staff who promise to resolve a problem within one week should do so, and in case of inability, call the customer to report the status of the problem.

The publicity made by the enterprise, slogans on its magazine and websites should be tailored to the internal processes. All workers must know the promises the enterprise has made because it is binding on them and would constitute the measuring rod for the services offered.

The corporate promise must be internalized into the culture of the organization. The first consumer of the adverts of the firm should be its internal customers. They must be aware of the promises being made and their role in delivering this promise.

The price charged

Price is a key element of the marketing mix. Price can be determined in several ways. One of the common methods consists of determining the psychological price. This is the price the greater number of buyers are willing to pay.  Some other organizations would set the price either based on the profit they want to make or the cost of the goods they need to cover.

The higher the price the higher the expectations the customer would have about the quality of the product or service. However low prices are not considered to be a guarantee of poor service. A high fee charged by a lawyer, doctor, or consultant for consultations determines the degree of attention the customer would be expecting to receive.

Customers pay the price; so they expect an equivalent or higher service to what they are paying. The price should therefore be more than or proportionate to the service offered. Customers would expect an increase in quality for every extra fee charged.

Comments and recommendations and reviews

Today customers read the reviews before they buy. People’s reviews will tell you about their experience and this shapes your expectations.

When someone else talks about you the effect is different.  More people would believe if your story is told by another person. Comments, word of mouth, reviews and recommendations play a very strong role.

One way organizations could encourage customers to talk about how their experiences have been or recommend them is by promoting word of mouth. Word of mouth is very strong and gives the customer a first impression of the products or services.

While positive reviews are an indication of good experience, it is also professional to leave the negative reviews, correct them, and comment on the organization’s corrective measures undertaken. This is another way to build trust.

Alternatives

How do customers perceive our products, among other products? Do they compare us with others?  Most customers have seen, appreciated, or consumed similar products elsewhere. They thus tend to compare the service between organizations. Sometimes much effort is put to satisfy customers, but because these same customers have had better experiences elsewhere they tend not to appreciate the service received.

It is important to know the customer in order to better manage their expectations. Some customers may even know the product better than you, making it very difficult to impress them with a good presentation.

To better manage this, organizations must always perform a competitive analysis of their products and share with their teams how the organization’s products stand out from the rest.  Knowing the competition permits you to know where you have a competitive advantage, and thus have an idea of the customers’ expectations about your brand.

Customer’s mood

The customer as already mentioned is a social being whose character changes and whose mood is not the same all the time.  We should not conclude that the customer will be calm and comprehensive just because they were nice the last time. You must be able to read the customer’s mood each time. It is recommended to always start the interaction with a mood breaker. A mood breaker could be a joke, a small story, a comment, or a compliment.

We must learn how to give an appropriate compliment without necessarily flattering the customer. Customers love being appreciated and valorized and this when done can improve their mode.

The customer’s mood has a direct effect on their purchase behavior and subsequently their satisfaction. Happy customers have a higher probability to purchase. They make the purchase decision faster. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences), rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).

Level of education

Intellectuals tend to be more confident and feel too much detail is boring. Whereas persons of low educational levels tend to question more and require more information before making a choice. You should understand that people have different temperaments and IQs. Do not show off your knowledge or have a low impression of others. People would get very offended when you make them look inferior.

Conclusion

The customer always has an expectation. At every interaction with the customer, make sure the customer leaves impressed. Every interaction is an opportunity to sell both the products of the organization and its image. When you know the customers’ expectations, you are able to deliver superior services. When you cannot determine the expectations still deliver a great service that would at least exceed their acceptable service levels.

Now that you know what customers expect, the level of the expectations, and factors that affect the customers’ expectations it will be important to develop a strategy to manage your customers’ expectations. What we will suggest is:

  • Deliver what you promise.
  • Make your interaction environment inviting.
  • Be ready to assist at all times.
  • Know your products.
  • Remember at all times they are humans with feelings.
  • Create Omnichannel experiences.
  • Show what is in it for them.
  • Make it better every time.
  • Protect their data.
  • Know that for every penny you charge they expect something extra.
  • Know that they value the reviews they read about you.
  • Be sure you know what competition does for they know.
  • They could just have had a bad day, be nice!

The video below from Marketing 360 gives more insights on why we should manage customer expectations.

What is Customer Service?

In this article we will discuss what customer service is all about. This guide brings out the importance of customer service and its central role in every organisation. It also permits us to understand who the customer is and what role customer satisfaction plays in the success of the organisation.

Importance of customer service.


“What if customer Service was a basic human right?” Patricia Pedhom Nono

Organizations are created to serve customers. The customer is the very essence of every profession. Be it a business unit, non-governmental organization or governmental organization. The customer is the center of every profession. You may be from the medical, legal, political or religious core, we all serve customers.

We may not have the same type of customers. Your customers could be children, they could be citizens, patients, followers, or your students. We all have customers and we all serve customers. You can therefore perceive the customer as the beneficiary of your activity.

So Customer service is a way of life, and everyone around us is a customer. Some customers could already be benefiting from our services and others yet to. We are all in the business of serving customers and must serve both the existing and potential customers well.,

Customer service is therefore central to every organization and the mastery of this very important aspect of organizational life is important for organizational success.

Let us look at the definition of customer service, what motivates customers, why they behave the way they do and how we could be able to satisfy their needs with simple actions.

Business dictionary defines customer service as “All interactions between a customer and a product provider at the time of sale, and thereafter. Customer service adds value to a product and builds enduring relationship.”

This definition brings out three main things about customer service.

“All interactions”, “adds Value”, “Relationship”.

The error most people do is to think that customer service is about a single interaction. It is wrong to think that customer service happens only when the customer is buying from us.

The words “All interactions”, means even when the potential customer visits, buys or passes around our premises. The nature of the interaction will either add value to the organization or reduce it. The role of good customer service is to add value to the organization by creating value for the customers. The third point states, it is a “Relationship”. This brings to light the emotional connect that must exist in customer service. Going beyond a mere contact to build sustainable relationships.

Customer service entails being able to anticipate and satisfy the needs of existing and potential customers in a consistent and dependable manner. Good service entails a conscious act and must be consistent. This explains why staff may need to undergo training in customer service to be able to have a consistent high level of service throughout the system.

You must be wondering, if customer service is this important why is it not a rule. Now you see the point. “What if customer service was just a basic human right”? Certainly some organization’s which we will call customer centric organizations have understood this lesson.

A company, must not only have eyes on profits but also on how best to serve its customers. Profits and market share are the products of listening to customers and acting upon their needs. 

Customer centric companies recognize staff members who balance job efficiency with customer satisfaction. Their managers focus on supporting their staff in doing their jobs well. This permits staff to focus their attention on taking care of customer needs. Such companies exhibit a participative management style where staff have opportunities to offer feedback on key customer issues before decisions are made.

So you can now see that customer service is the bridge between the customer and the brand or the organization. The customer is therefore one of the pillars of the sales act.

Service a core pillar in the 3ps of the sales act

3Ps of the sales Act

To sell a product, three basic conditions are necessary; the first is that we must have an element or something which we are selling; (i.e. the product or the service).  Secondly we must have the medium through which we will sell the product or service (i.e. the place or venue), and lastly we must have the buyer who needs the product or service and would like to acquire it.

Without a buyer to acquire the product the good remains with us. So selling is only made complete with the buyer acquiring the product.  The physical or immaterial transfer of the product materializes the sales act and provides a framework for customer service.

Till date, allot of focus has been put on the product and the place and very little attention has been given to the buyer. It is sad that the most important element of a sales act is the most ignored. Let us have a deep look at the distinction between the product, the place and the person (which we call here the 3ps of the sales act).

Product and place are inanimate whereas the person is animate. Meaning once the product and place have been decided on, we could easily forecast the impact these two will have on the sales act. E.g. lighting effects and music during sales promotions would attract allot of attention. A very beautiful car will attract attention, a well painted and decorated office would be attractive to customers as such the product and service once configured permits to obtain almost certainly a particular output.  This is not the case with human beings or persons.

People at times react differently from what we expect. This is a good reason why you need to understand who your customers is and determine their reactions to situations. The key question here is, how do we keep customers satisfied?

 Customers represent both an input and an output to the enterprise. This explains why a satisfied customer always returns and always speaks positively of the enterprise thus attracting more customers. Quality management puts a lot of emphasis on transforming customers into assets for the enterprise.

Once the customer visits a sales point he or she leaves that sales point with a feeling. This feeling could pull them back or push them away. This feeling is what we call a perception. The enterprise should be able to determine the feelings of their customers and harness them into actionable insights. Johnson and Clark (2001) state that customer satisfaction levels vary between two extremes; delighted and dissatisfied.


When you serve a customer well, they leave satisfied. The bad news is; this satisfied customer could seek the same service elsewhere either to compare what others have to offer or simply because they expected good service from you in the first place. Delighted customers on the other hand will often come back, while a dissatisfied customer most often go away.


After having a positive experience with a company, 77% of customers would recommend it to a friend. Temkin Group


The key point here is; it’s not enough to serve the customer well but to give the customer a reason to always come back. To achieve this all we need is go the extra mile. Offer the extra service, offer beyond the normal without necessarily increasing the price. The service should be more than proportionate to the price paid.

Transformed customers constitute a human resource to be valorized by the enterprise. We could do a distinction here between internal human resource (workers) and internalized human resource (transformed customers). Just like workers emotions and psychophysiology is studied, measured and nurtured, so too should customer feelings and expectations. We must study the psychophysiology of the satisfied customer. The enterprise must be able to put in place a customer satisfaction management system. How we relate with the customer shows our customer intimacy.

Customer intimacy

Customer satisfaction management requires a blend of psychology, sociology, philosophy and quality management techniques. Customer satisfaction is as important as financial management within the organization and must be given the required attention and resources. Increasing customer value through customer intimacy can permit revenue growth.

Increasing customer value, through customer intimacy can permit revenue growth.  Looking at the value creation map presented by Bernard Marr et Al. of the Grandfield School of management you will observe that intangibles drive up the value of tangibles. Customer satisfaction constitutes one of the greatest intangibles of an organization.

Customer satisfaction as an intangible asset

Strategically, intangible assets constitute a great competitive advantage. Identifying the opportunities present to an enterprise would be of no use, if the enterprise cannot be able to use its knowhow to discern and create value out of its intangibles. It’s worth noting that customer satisfaction as an intangible asset is not easy to measure but if well-conceived and valorized, it could be measured by the spillover effects it has on performance.

It takes just the right attitude to transform customers. The fact that the customer moves to your sales point either by curiosity or conviction doesn’t make that person an intangible asset for you. Building a strong professional relation on the foundation of satisfaction is what creates the asset.

Customer satisfaction as a key performance indicator

Customer satisfaction is a key performance indicator due to the fact that, when the customers are satisfied then the future of the business is guaranteed, then liquidities would come in, then the enterprise would have a good image, which further reinforces the customer perception.

For a customer to be satisfied we must understand his needs. Once these needs are satisfied, the customer becomes satisfied and when we go beyond satisfying his needs the customer is delighted. What therefore are customer needs? How do we discern them? How do we satisfy them?

Customer Needs

Maslow’s hierachy of needs

The American Psychologist Abraham Maslow demonstrates that man has seven innate needs. Let us focus on the first two which he termed higher order needs:

  • The need for freedom of inquiry and expression;
  • The need for knowledge and understanding;

How does the understanding of this model help us build a better relationship with customers?

To answer this question we would further borrow from the techniques of effective communication. To communicate well we must master four things:

  • Listen well
  • Speak well
  • Write well
  • Read well

Focusing on the first which is listening, we could link it to Maslow’s first need ‘freedom of inquiry and expression’. We must allow customers freely express themselves, without cutting in or assuming we know what they are about to say. Listening to a customer with attention permits him or her to satisfy this need for expression and inquiry.

Secondly we must be flexible enough to speak well, or write well. These three aspects permit to enhance understanding. A customer who is well served but whose doubts have not been clarified most certainly would not be satisfied. Our writing to customers must be visible and we must adapt our tone and choice of words to permit the customer understand us well. Good communication alone is a strong factor of satisfaction 

Customers therefore have very basic needs:

Customer’s needs
  • The need to be understood
  • The desire to feel important
  • The feeling that they are welcome
  • The need to be listened to

These needs are basic, they are simple but require skill. When you carry out these simple actions that aim at satisfying the customer it is important to obtain some feedback to know if you achieved your goal.

Customer Satisfaction feedback

Customer satisfaction is both an input and an output to the enterprise. Looking at it from the marketing perspective the role of marketing is to anticipate and supply customer requirements efficiently and profitably. Which means enterprises should understand that what they sell is not products but a promise of satisfaction.

The core task of marketing is determining customer needs and ensuring that these needs are met. Sales are only complete when we obtain feedback on the services offered. Customer satisfaction thus needs to be measured and analyzed so as to determine the internal processes that permit to obtain the financial output.

With the multiplication of products and services everywhere, you cannot afford to send customers away unsatisfied. This does not mean unsatisfied customers would not exist, they would, and this is why you must learn how to deal with difficult customers and transforming them into advocates

Customer Satisfaction goes beyond the product

When you watch adverts today, you notice that most often, nothing is said about the product itself, focus is on a storyline, a catchy event. Why are companies all turning green, promoting environmental protection, ethics and social values? To understand this let us look at two theories. First, the pyramid of needs of Abraham Maslow.


The lesson to be brought forth here is that, instead of focusing so much efforts on products, focus should be on the needs that the products satisfy. According to Maslow until inferior level needs are satisfied the person does not move to higher level needs. So it is not the product we should focus on, but the link between the product and the needs of the people. Showing how their needs would be met through the consumption of the product.

This explains why in most adverts, little attention is given to the technical attributes of the product, and focus is on captivating the buyers attention and stimulating their emotions. Of course as a buyer you would only be interested in a service or product you think will satisfy your needs.

The sales person should be able to identify the dominant needs of each customer and thus act as a bridge between the product and the heart of the customer. Let us take a simple case of the banking sector. The banker could tell a student how savings enables to meet us with their feeding that shelter needs. Tell a newly employed how savings gives him security and freedom, tell business man how savings would enable him build his asset base, and tell a retiring millionaire how choosing his institution guarantees a future for his children. The idea is assuring satisfaction, by demonstrating what is in it for the customer.

The second theory is that which focuses on the different product levels. Each product has 3 levels:

  • The functional level
  • The symbolic level
  • The material level

The material aspect of the product is what we see, feel and touch. Its color, its size, its beauty. The functional level of the product is what it does or its use, while the symbolic is the perception of the customer as to what he or she is consuming and how others will perceive them as they consumes the product.

Taking time to demonstrate the symbolic elements of the product or service permits to enhance customer satisfaction. Many people would buy a product just for the perception others have of them consuming it or the feeling they have consuming it. So give to the customers what they need. Be it affection, security, recognition, fulfillment; these needs once satisfied transforms them into delighted customers.

Because of this importance attached to the concept of customer service several experts have developed theories on how to improve the overall customer experience (considered to be more holistic concept), measuring the level of satisfaction and integrating this into the strategic objectives of the organization.  Software developers today are able to gather data on the customers and use this to develop insights and speculations about their behavior. Today the concept goes beyond just service and encloses the entire customer Journey.

It is important to see the customer as a stakeholder in the organization. The customer is not just a stakeholder but a major stakeholder and they are the reason for which the organization exist. It is difficult to separate customer service from sales. As we are always selling either a service, a product or a perception to customers.