Keeping your online business afloat managing customer expectations

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Tired of playing firefighter with your online biz? Ready to take charge and keep your customers content? Well, statistics show that 68% of buyers are willing to pay more for products and services from brands that provide stellar customer service. Like any superhero, providing customer service involves the power of foresight and the knack for adaptation. It's about recognizing what your customers want, setting sensible expectations, and reliably meeting them. Yet, your team may encounter various customer service issues every day. Some are easy to tackle, while others are more intricate, such as mixed-up workflows that don't match the customer's journey or situations where expectations go unfulfilled.

No matter what, there are means of bypassing these barriers to meeting consumer needs. Following these pointers, you can rest easy knowing you'll have a better shot at trumping the ultra-competitive online market with 12 to 24 million other enterprises striving to fulfill customer desires.

Therefore, in this piece, we'll examine the mysteries of managing customer expectations and offer advice for keeping your clients content and returning for more. We'll delve into recognizing and establishing reasonable expectations, the essential divergences between catering to and surpassing expectations, and how to cope with unmet expectations.

Comprehending customer expectations & what matters most.

To accurately understand customer expectations, we need first to define them. These expectations are the beliefs and perceptions of a customer about your product or service and what they believe they will receive in terms of quality, value, and service. Defining customer expectations allows us to assess how well our product or service meets those expectations, enabling us to create appropriate strategies to help satisfy those expectations.

But how can you determine precisely what customers need?

It's like playing detective. You have to gather clues and piece together what your customers want. You can collect customer feedback, surveys, and market research data. By analyzing this information, you can better understand what your customers expect from your business and use that knowledge to shape your products, services, and customer experiences.

Factors that influence customer expectations

  • Product or service quality: We all know cost is a major determinant in purchasing decisions - no shocker there. 78% of Gen Z, 74% of Gen X, 74% of millennials, and 73% of Boomers would agree. But let's not forget about the quality of a product - it's just as important! 65% of Gen Z, 78% of millennials, 82% of Gen X, and 72% of Boomers recognize it as one of the main factors affecting their purchase decisions.

  • Brand reputation: What do people think of your brand? That's the big question! Your past interactions with customers and word-of-mouth reputation shape customers' expectations regarding customer service and product quality. If they're not good, they don't expect much. 

  • Price: When it comes to pricing, it sets the tone for what customers can expect. The more expensive the product or service, the better quality customers anticipate.

Top 5 types of customer expectations

The expectations customers have of your company can make or break a sale. If the customer doesn't feel like they're getting what they want or expect, then there's a good chance that you'll lose that customer forever.

But what are these customer expectations? And how can you make sure that you're meeting them? Every company needs to be aware of five types of expectations. 

Explicit expectations:

Explicit expectations are specific targets that customers seek when seeking your product or service. For example, a customer may come to an automotive dealership expecting a certain price range and minimum miles per gallon. 

Implicit expectations:

Implicit expectations are what customers have come to expect as table stakes from businesses in your vertical. These expectations are typically based on previous experiences with your competitors and what they've heard from family and friends. 

Interpersonal expectations: 

Interpersonal expectations are what customers expect during person-to-person interactions with your team members, usually during customer service. Typically, customers expect your employees to be professional, experts in their field, friendly, and courteous. 

Digital expectations:

Digital expectations relate to the interactions that customers have with your brand online. While customers steadily turned towards digital for years, COVID-19 accelerated this trend. The onset of the pandemic saw a 10% increase in the online customer base across verticals. That means it's become critical for your website to be easy to discover and navigate. 

Dynamic performance expectations:

Dynamic performance expectations are related to how a product or service is expected to change over time. These changes relate to shifts in the overall environment, customer needs, and business goals. One example is how many businesses shifted to delivery and curbside pickup during the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Benefits of understanding customer expectations

Imagine a world where your customers are always satisfied; it's a dream come true for any business, and understanding expectations are the key to making it happen. 

Happy customers:

When you understand what your customers expect, you can improve the experience for your customers. This practice has been proven (time and time again) to increase retention, satisfaction, and revenue. You can also ensure they are satisfied and happy with your products or services, leading to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth.

Increased sales: 

When customers are happy and satisfied, they are more likely to purchase from you again and recommend you to others, increasing sales.

Improved customer retention: 

Understanding customer expectations allows you to build strong, long-lasting relationships, improving customer retention.

Improved communication:

You can communicate more effectively and avoid misunderstandings when you understand customer expectations. This leads to smoother interactions and fewer conflicts.

Competitive advantage: 

By understanding and meeting customer expectations, you can set yourself apart from the competition and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

How to set realistic expectations

Setting realistic expectations is about being clear, honest, and consistent with your customers. Doing so can ensure a smooth customer journey and build customer trust and loyalty. Here's how to do it.

Setting expectations at the beginning of the customer journey

It's essential to set the direction for your customer journey before starting; much like planning a trip, you need to know the destination to make the necessary arrangements. In the same way, setting expectations early on ensures that both you and your customer are on the same page. This can be achieved by clearly communicating your product or service offerings and any applicable limitations or restrictions.

Communicating clearly and honestly

Transparent communication is a powerful tool that can clear up any confusion. You can set realistic expectations and avoid misunderstandings by being open and honest with your customers. This means being upfront about potential delays, unexpected obstacles, or service changes.

Providing a consistent experience

Consistency is crucial for a happy customer. Like comfort food, they know what they're getting and love it. By providing a consistent experience, you can instill trust and loyalty in your customers. This means consistently delivering on your promises, meeting or exceeding expectations, and maintaining high customer service. Consistency also means having a clear and consistent brand message and a user-friendly website or platform.

Best practices for meeting and exceeding customer expectations

Meeting and exceeding expectations are about providing an exceptional customer experience. Here are some great tips for meeting expectations.

Understand the difference between meeting and exceeding expectations:

Making a layup and slam dunk, similarly meeting and exceeding expectations, are two different things. Meeting expectations is meeting the customer's requirements, while exceeding expectations is surpassing them. Understanding the difference between the two is crucial in providing an exceptional customer experience.

Provide exceptional customer service:

Great customer service acts like a superhero sidekick, always there to assist and resolve any issues. Providing exceptional customer service means going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure your customers are satisfied and happy. This can include quick response times, personalized attention, and going out of your way to resolve any issues.

Go above and beyond to delight customers:

Delighting customers is like giving them a surprise birthday party, unexpected and makes them feel special. Delighting customers is about exceeding expectations to create a memorable experience. This can include small gestures such as a follow-up call, thank you note or larger actions like offering a special promotion or discount. By delighting customers, you can create loyal customers more likely to recommend your business to others.

Managing Unmet Expectations: What Happens If You Don't Hit Customer Goals?

Deal with customer complaints:

Let's face it, no one likes dealing with complaints, but running any business is necessary. The trick is not to take it personally and instead view it as an opportunity to improve. Think of it like a game of Tetris; sometimes, things just don't fit, and it's your job to make it work. By addressing complaints quickly and effectively, you can turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one. This could include actively listening to the customer, apologizing for any inconvenience, and taking steps to resolve the issue.

Turn negative into positive:

According to FinanceOnline, 45% of buyers will stop using a brand because of a bad review. 

So you'll need to deal with unmet expectations before they become bad reviews quickly. Find a solution to the problem, exceed the customer's expectations, and turn a negative situation into a positive one. This could include offering a discount or free service, providing excellent customer service, or going above and beyond to ensure customer satisfaction.

Learn from your mistakes:

We all know that no one is perfect, and sometimes things don't go as planned. But the important thing is to learn from our mistakes and use feedback to improve and prevent future issues. Think of it like a science experiment. You need to try different things and see what works and doesn't. By actively seeking and listening to customer feedback, you can identify areas that need improvement and make the necessary changes to ensure customer satisfaction in the future. This could include updating your processes, providing additional training for your team, or even making small tweaks to your product or service.

Sum up

So, to sum it all up, managing customer expectations is like a game of strategy, but the real prize is a happy and satisfied customer. We've explored the importance of understanding customer expectations, setting realistic expectations, meeting and exceeding expectations, and handling unmet expectations. Now it's time for you to put these tips into practice and see the results for yourself.

We'd love to hear about your experiences with managing customer expectations. Share your successes and any challenges you've faced in the comments below. Remember, you've got the tools and the know-how to be a customer-expectation superhero! Now go out there and knock it out of the park.

Ihor, CEO at Workee

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