Why is it important to understand customer expectations?

Customer satisfaction is the balance between customer expectations and how a business performs. It’s a simple formula. Or is it?

What are customer expectations?

Customers who buy from you or join your cause, have certain expectations as they work with you. Some of those expectations are set by your business, as part of  your sales presentation, and / or packaging, advertising, and other publicity. Other expectations are set by the industry, the government and what competitors are doing.

Technology is the wild card here. Technology keeps changing what is possible to do. Early adopters latch on to new technology and start demanding it from the organizations they buy from.

Each organization tries to figures out how to be different and better than its competitors and they start playing with new technologies. The early adopters lead the way and soon the main stream all join in, followed by the hold outs  or laggards.

For example, I can remember when I had to go to a bank to deposit money, stand in line and wait for a teller. And banking hours were very restricted during the business day and maybe one early evening. Now banking hours are far more flexible.

Then along came ATMs…automatic teller machines. There was a period of adoption and the line ups got worse in the smaller bank branches in order to encourage customers to try to use these new fangled automatic teller machines.  Some, even allowed you to pay bills using the ATMs. Do you know any banks that don’t have teller machines now?

Next came online banking, the ability to see your bank balance and make payments on line using your computer. Do you know any banks that don’t have online banking?

Mobile is the new frontier.

As smart phones started to proliferate, Banks needed to jump in with Mobile apps that allow you to see your balances and do selected transactions from your mobile phone. And as one bank after another offered these new apps, the pressure on the others to follow suit was and continues to be enormous.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are special shopping days in the US. The Friday after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday as that is the day most retailers start operating in the black (that is, profitably), instead of in the red (unprofitably).  Cyber Monday is the Monday after Black Friday and is designated as a big sale day for on line shopping. What is significant about Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2011 is that the volume of mobile payments rose over 500% from the prior year.

According to Paypal, Black Friday mobile payments rose 538% and Cyber Monday payments from cell phones rose 514%. Most of these purchases were from ‘smart phones’ and Paypal estimates that they were done from home rather than when consumers were out shopping.

So why is this important to customer satisfaction professionals? Customers of many retail firms are now expecting that companies embrace Mobile Websites that can be read easily on a mobile phone. And that these website will be enabled for e commerce. Mobile phones and mobile service providers will need to offer attractive service offerings to promote the ability for consumers to take advantage of mobile commerce.

Summary

As technology changes and new capabilities become possible, businesses need to adapt to meet the new  customer expectations of your products or services. It is tough to keep up as the pace of technology change is rapid and some technologies don’t flourish and others do.

But one thing is clear. Customer expectations will not remain constant year over year and that means every business will need to revamp its products and services to meet a new set of challenges.

Customer satisfaction professionals will need to include these new customer expectations in their measurements.  IT departments will need to deliver these new applications to keep up. Customer service will need to train their support personnel in these new offerings.

How has technology changed your business? Share you interesting story in the comment section below.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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