How To Manage Customer Expectations
Given how important customers are to your business success, being able to understand and manage their expectations is crucial.
With today’s customers more knowledgeable and critical than ever before, these expectations and subsequent demands are continually changing. So, ideally if you’re to keep ahead of your competitors you need to find ways of anticipating and exceeding those customer expectations.
However, before we can look at that we need to define what we mean by the term.
Factors that can influence your customer expectations
While customer expectations can be influenced by a myriad of factors there are some key elements that can have a crucial impact on these expectations.
Previous customer experiences
One of the most significant factors is a customer’s prior experience with your organisation.
If most of your customers are highly satisfied, that’s great, but it also sets a high level of expectation from them, which you must be able to maintain moving forward. Alternatively, if their previous experience has been substandard, then they may lack confidence in your business and their expectations may be low.
Your customer communications
From your blog posts, tweets, web pages, emails and marketing literature to anything you communicate through print advertising, radio and TV. All this helps contribute to customers’ expectations about you. So, it’s important everything you communicate is honest, consistent, clear and unambiguous.
Reviews and word of mouth
The internet is an amazing research tool in helping you come to a more informed decision about whether to buy a product or service from a company, particularly the information on product review sites.
However, the flip side is that these product review sites can be highly impactful in influencing your own customers’ expectations of you, based on the reviews that others have left about your business. In addition, they may have also read what people are saying about you in forums or on social media platforms, with some of these views spreading by word of mouth too. So, it’s important that you’re able to keep track of what’s being said across all these platforms.
Your customers experiences with other companies
Given the many common expectations that people have about companies, it’s likely that your customers’ experiences with other companies and organisations can influence their expectations of you too.
From the strength of your product development to the quality of your customer service teams. If you suspect any areas of your business or teams, are not performing as well as they could be, then you need to be doing your utmost to improve them.
Tips to better manage customer expectations
Once you have a better appreciation of how customer expectations are formed and how they can change over time, it will give you a better foundation for managing them. However, you should also be clear that these expectations may vary between different business types and industries. For example, customer expectations in the hotels and the rest of the leisure industry are likely to differ significantly from customer expectations in the healthcare sector.
Subsequently, we’ve outlined some tips that should help you to better meet their needs and expectations.
1. Always communicate clearly and honestly
As we mentioned earlier, customers’ expectations can easily be influenced by what they read and see. Therefore, as you have complete control over how you communicate with your customers, you should ensure this information is as clear, consistent, complete and honest as you can make it. Here’s some pointers to help you with this:
a) Ensure all the information you post to your website is accurate, complete, consistent and up to date.
b) Make sure the language you use in all your online and offline communications is appropriate for your customers. Don’t confuse them with technical jargon and ensure you’re engaging them with the right language and tone of voice.
c) Ensure any video or visual messages from your organisation are aligned with your other communications.
d) Be responsive and timely with your social media communications.
e) Adequately train service agents or any other staff involved in direct customer communications, so the information they provide is consistent with any other communication channels that you use.
f) In situations where you can’t provide an instantaneous response, try to give your customers as estimate of how long they will need to wait. By clearly informing your customers in this way you can better set their expectations and avoid disgruntlement.
2) Cultivate loyalty
No matter what business you operate in, fostering customer loyalty is extremely beneficial. Firstly, it costs far less to retain a customer than create a new one. And loyal customers can be extremely valuable in shaping the customer expectations of others.
Some simple ways you can engender greater loyalty among your customers include:
- Using their names to personalise your communications with them
- Always trying to ensure each customer is made to feel special
- Always thanking them for their custom and loyalty
- Maintaining regular communications with them
- Paying special attention to any details that can affect customer expectations
3) Monitor your market and beyond
Your clients and customers’ expectations are likely to have been greatly influenced by what they have experienced from other businesses in your industry and elsewhere.
For example, if a customer previously used an online chat facility on one of your competitor’s website’s and got a response within seconds, then they are likely to want the same from you. Similarly, that would also be the case if your competitor was also providing a great service on social media channels.
Consequently, you need to be aware of these expectations and look to match or beat them. If this is not possible, then you need to clearly communicate with your customers why this is not the case, to help reset their expectations around this.
4) Cultivate expertise
To keep your customers happy, your employees need to be recognised as experts in everything they do and provide. This means every staff member from those involved in direct customer communications, from your front-line support staff, switchboard operators and sales professionals, to those in your marketing, product development, finance teams and more.
Everyone needs to be adequately trained and confident in their skills, so they’re able to manage even the most demanding customer expectations.
5) Follow up for feedback
Customer experience can be greatly affected by whether or not an organisation follows up after an initial contact.
For example, if a customer has contact with a support team, whether by phone or an online chat tool, and a resolution to their issue is provided, follow up contact should always be made to check whether that customer was happy with that resolution. Similarly, this should be the case for any other key customer interactions including product purchases and more. And the best way to do this is through a customer survey.
In fact, by issuing surveys across all the key touchpoints a customer has on their journey with you, from first contact with your brand, to purchase, post-sales support, ongoing service and beyond, you’ll get a much better measure of their expectations and how well you’re meeting them.
Identify and exceed expectations
For the best results your feedback collection needs to be an ongoing process. This way you can establish feedback loops, from which you’re continually able to collect and analyse data, and make improvements.
Your survey questions will be key to this. Whether you’re asking what your customers are most looking forward to from you in the future, to what they expect from products and services in your industry or what they’re experiencing from your competitors and more.
Your questions can provide a lot of valuable insight. And if you’re asking exactly the right questions, this can help you to not only meet, but in some cases exceed your customer expectations.