Adapting to Changing Customer Expectations

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Customer Expectations: Do you really know what they expect?

Customers are inexplicably fickle. As much as we attempt to understand and anticipate customer behavior, it still confounds us. We use customer behaviors to build and tweak our customer service processes and create metrics for performance measurements. However, just when we think we have it down, their behavior surprises us.

Keeping up with these changing—and often rising—expectations is an ongoing challenge. Customers are savvier because they have access to more information and peer reviews of products, services and brands. In today's market, customers are the purveyors of power, not just the choice to buy or not to buy from you.

Key Customer Expectation Points to Consider

Here are a few of the more common consumer expectations as covered in the early sections of Customer Experience for Dummies. As you read through each one, consider how it applies to your organization. Reflect upon how customer expectations a decade ago have evolved to where they are today, and what your customer's experience may look like into the next decade.

  • Speed—We live in a world of instant gratification, where at the click of a button your product is ordered and delivered the next day. Even though research may take up pre-purchase time, that window is becoming smaller as customers increasingly want things right now. How is your organization measuring your customer's desire for expediency?
  • Authenticity—Customers want no games, gimmicks or nonsense. Don't bog them down with the fine print, clauses, terms or policies, which can make their engagement with you painful. Be honest. Don't bait and switch. Are you being honest and upfront with them through all transactions?
  • Care—Customer shopping patterns come in all sizes, shapes and colors. There are those who want to keep things easy, fast, and shop exclusively online. Others prefer a personal interaction with you and a takeaway that makes them feel good about the experience. What are you doing to acknowledge your customer's humanness?
  • Knowledge—In the eyes of your customer, every day is customer appreciation day. Be knowledgeable about your customer's purchases, inquiries or service requests. This will go a long way toward building customer loyalty and advocacy.
  • Availability—Make yourself accessible to your customers. Whether via phone, email, social media or in person. Your customer's needs extend beyond your business hours.
  • Ease of Use—Customers who have been with you a long time take pride in knowing the ropes. When implementing or changing processes that impact customers, keep it simple.
  • Immediacy—Find out when your customers want delivery. Customers want service customized to their specific needs, timetable and instructions. Follow up to verify details whenever possible.
  • Reception—Listen to what customers are telling you and affirm their feedback by doing something with the information that they are sharing with you. Customers appreciate being heard and that you care enough to make necessary changes.
  • One-stop Shopping—Be on point when answering customer questions or helping them get information. Customers are not concerned about your organization's structure or reporting relationships. They deserve to have their questions answered and concerns addressed the first time they ask.
  • Good Design—Focus on quality and good design. Customers expect a seamless experience with your product and expect it to work the way they want it to.
  • Problem Solving—It's all about solutions. Customers don't care that its broken or doesn't work, they just want you to fix it and fix it now.

Use these key points to assess your organization's ability to anticipate, react and manage around always-evolving customer expectations.