Most of us would agree to the fact that it’s important to manage our customer expectations but how many of us do it well?
What are Customer Expectations?
Let us understand in brief what customer expectations mean. Customer expectations are beliefs about the product or service which serves as a standard against which actual performance can be judged. It is the perceived value which customers seek from the purchase of a product or service.
There can possibly be two main levels of Customer Expectations:
• Adequate Service Level: Adequate Service Level is the least what a Customer expects to be delivered. This is the level of service that the customer might be satisfied with and is the minimum service level considered acceptable. Anything below this level would make customer unhappy.
• Desired Service Level: Desired Service Level is what the customer is hoping to get; a blend of what the customer believes ‘can be’ and ‘should be’. Anything above this level would make customer delighted.
Various Factors which can influence Customer Expectations
There are various factors influencing Customer Expectations. Some of them are listed below:
1. Personal needs – These are individual customer needs and preferences.
2. Explicit service promises – Statements about the product or service made by the organization to the customers either through sales people or through advertisements.
3. Implicit Service Promises – Product/Service related cues that lead to inferences about what the product or service should and will be like. These quality cues are dominated by price and the tangibles associated with the service. Higher the price and more impressive the tangibles, the more a customer would expect from the Product/Service.
4. Word-of-mouth is personal or sometimes non-personal statements made by parties other than the organization. It carries weight as an information source because it is perceived as unbiased. Word of mouth is very important in products/services which are difficult to evaluate before purchase and before direct experience of them.
5. Past experience of the customer with product/service.
6. Derived Intensifiers – Factors which are driven by another person or group of people.
7. Product/Service alternatives are other providers from whom the customer can obtain Service. As the number of alternatives increases, the level of expectation also increases.
Zone of Acceptance
Zone of Acceptance is the extent to which customers are willing to accept any variations in product/service performance. The more important the factor, higher would be the expectation and narrower would be the zone of acceptance. Mostly customers are likely to be less tolerant about broken promises than other service deficiencies, which means that they have higher expectations for this factor. In addition to higher expectations for the most important service dimensions and attributes, customers are likely to be less willing to relax these expectations than those for less important factors.
How should we manage our customer expectations?
Managing your customer expectations is very important to keep them satisfied. Here is what you can do:
• Step1: Capture customer expectations through Feedback, Survey, Face to face interactions & offline interactions.
• Step2: Analyze and validate these expectations.
• Step3: Identify any gaps in the expectations.
• Step4: Formulate actions to bridge the identified gaps.
• Step5: Communicate and Align your customer expectations.
The overall process will ensure that your customer expectations are better managed resulting in ‘Delighted Customers’.