As a business owner, it’s critical to understand how expectations are evolving and how to adapt business strategies to effectively close this gap.

Everywhere you look, the easy availability of technology to both customers and businesses are rapidly changing customer expectations and experience. In a fast-paced digital and engaged world, this makes creating a meaningful customer experience an important part of any business strategy.  One of the biggest mistakes many make is assuming they know what their customers want, but often they have little evidence to back it up. This gap between customer expectations and a company’s perceptions of what’s required can lead to ineffective business strategies that fail to deliver for customers – and ultimately your bottom line.

UNDERSTANDING NEW CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS

Findings published in the Salesforce second edition of the “State of the Connected Customer” report, showed that understanding customers’ needs — and exceeding their expectations — are becoming table stakes for businesses to compete. The study found:

1. Customers expect connected journeys: Break down your business silos.

  • 70% of customers say connected processes — such as seamless handoffs or contextualized engagement based on earlier interactions — are very important to winning their business.
  • Customers are 3.7x more likely to view seamless transitions between channels as important versus unimportant.

2. Customers expect personalization: Customize everything.

  • 84% of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business.
  • 70% of customers say understanding how they use products and services is very important to winning their business.
  • 59% of customers say tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to winning their business.
  • Customers are 2.1x more likely to view personalized offers as important versus unimportant.

3. Customers expect innovation: Keep pushing the limits.

  • 56% of customers actively seek to buy from the most innovative companies (that is, those that consistently introduce new products and services based on customer needs and new technology).
  • 63% of customers expect companies to provide new products/services more frequently than ever before.
  • 66% of customers say it takes more for a company to impress them with new products and services than ever before.
  • Customers are 9.5x more likely to view AI as revolutionary versus insignificant.

4. Customers expect data protection: Make trust your priority.

  • 62% of customers say they’re more afraid of their data being compromised now than they were two years ago.
  • 59% of customers (including 63% of consumers) believe their personal information is vulnerable to a security breach.
  • 57% of customers are uncomfortable with how companies use their personal or business information.

CLOSING THE GAP

It’s no secret that service is key to exceeding customer expectations. Customer service forms the benchmark of customer expectations, and can have a huge impact on customer experience and satisfaction. To beat the competition, businesses need to use every advantage to capture and retain an active customer base. Try the following strategies to identify and target any wrongdoings in the customer journey.

Listening: Knowing what the customer wants is a necessity of business. Getting that information is required to fully understand where a business should focus its energy. As you work towards meeting customer expectations, the best way to gauge whether your efforts are successful is to collect feedback on a regular basis. Is the buying process user-friendly? Does your product itself live up to their expectations? By utilizing Customer Satisfaction Surveys, (CSAT) you can gain instant results, unlimited feedback, and allow for customer incentives in exchange for completing surveys. These surveys are cost-effective and user friendly while giving you a new perspective on the customer’s experience.

Effective Employee Training: As the team that interacts with your customers most often, your support team has a major impact on whether or not your company meets customer expectations. This means that hiring and training an excellent team of agents is one of the most important investments you can make in your brand. But how do you know your employees are following protocol? It can be costly to your company when they don’t follow the rules and most of the time you don’t know it’s a problem, until it’s too late. Take proactive measures such as Compliance & Regulatory Audits to make sure display materials comply with legal guidelines and ensure that employees are meeting the requirements in their customer interactions.

Experience the Customer Journey ‘First Hand’: This often serves as a big eye-opener for business owners as it is an authentic opportunity to identify possible problems in your current processes. It can also show you how your own customer journey stacks up against your competition. But how do execute this incognito? Surely your employees know how to ‘act around the boss’… but what about the times when you’re not around? Mystery Shopping is a well-known method of customer research and for good reason. Using calls, clicks or visits mystery shoppers follow predefined scenarios as a ‘real’ customer so you don’t have to. Evaluators then record their experience at various touch points throughout the customer journey. By seeing your business through your customers’ eyes, you’ll gain critical data to make meaningful business decisions moving forward.

FINAL THOUGHTS

With brand loyalty in decline, now more than ever companies need to work harder to keep customers happy. Closing the gap between their expectation and experience should be a key goal of your business and marketing strategy to effectively help make this happen. So learn, understand and implement changes to close the gap and improve your customers’ satisfaction.

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