Customer experience remains one of most exciting marketing opportunities for every business, regardless of industry. Here are eight things that must be true to fulfill customer expectations every time they do business with you.

Customer Experience: 8 Ways You Could Fail to Meet Customer Expectations

No matter what unique novelty you build into your customer experience marketing strategy, if you fail to deliver when it comes to what the client expects from you in the first place, it might all be for naught. Use this eight point checklist to ensure that you don’t miss the mark with your customers.

Meeting customer expectations is the baseline from which a truly compelling customer experience can be created. But if you don’t know what customers expect to be true each and every time they do business with you, you run the risk of failing to deliver for some customer must-have’s.

A study released by the EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit) called Creating a Seamless Customer Experience reveals the areas that customers say represent the experience they want to have with the brands they do business with. In the study, respondents were asked to select up to three basic customer expectations which they considered most important relative to “the ideal customer experience.”

One note of caution: In this case, “Ideal” is not the ideal.

The word ‘ideal’ has more than one meaning. Most often it’s used to describe something that is perfect, as in: “existing only in the imagination; desirable or perfect but not likely to become reality.” But as it relates to this study, the definition that is more applicable is, “satisfying one’s conception of what is most suitable.” As you think about the customer experience your business provides relative to these eight customer experience baselines, remember that these are elements that customers want to be true of each and every interaction when it comes to the brands they do business with.

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In other words, you’re going to have to do even more to exceed customer expectations. That said, it’s also worth noting that many of your competitors may be missing the mark when it comes to providing an ideal customer experience in one or more of these areas. If your business gets them all right, you could be giving your business a competitive advantage and improving the way customers perceive your brand.

CHART - baselines for meeting customer expectations

8 Baselines for Simply Meeting – Not Exceeding – Customer Expectations

1. Fast Response Time – 47%

Whether you are being asked to provide information, a quote or proposal, or you must deal with a customer complaint, consumers said that providing a fast response was critical.

2. Simple Buying Process – 47%

Equally important to buyers is that the purchasing process be simple. Our marketing director often paraphrases this concept as “Marketing 101: Make it as easy as possible for the customer to buy.” Any time the customer has to jump through an unnecessary or unexpected hoop, it represents something that might interrupt the buying journey and stop the sale.

3. Knowing Where My Stuff Is – 34%

Whether it’s buying a commodity online or a service that takes months to complete (such as website development), your customer wants to know where their items are in process and when they can expect them. They want to know that their stuff isn’t lost, stolen, or forgotten along the way.

4. Omni-Channel Experience – 25% and 14%

Your customers want your business to “feel” the same whether they are interacting with you in person (or in-store), on your website or blog, one fourth of the consumers surveyed said that clarity and simplicity across channels was important to them, and fourteen percent said that consistency of product information across channels was key to their perceiving a customer experience as ideal.

5. Being There When I Need You – 22% and 14%

Whether it’s having the ability to engage with a brand over multiple channels (in person, by phone, via email, social channels, etc.) or wanting to know they can reach a brand representative at a time most convenient to them, customers want to know that your business will be there when they need you.

6. Giving the People What They Want – 12% and 7%

Buyers increasingly expect that brands will personalize their buying experience, and that means much more than an auto-fill field that inserts their name after the word ‘Dear’ in an email message. Keeping track of customer purchases, preferences, and interests and creating better buyer profiles in the spirit of predictive marketing can help ensure that you don’t waste your customer’s time with irrelevant offers.

7. An On-Going Relationship – 10%

One out of ten survey respondents said that their ideal customer experience included brand engagement after the sale. If you aren’t checking in with customers post-transaction, you run the risk of failing to identify dissatisfaction or giving customers the impression that your business simply doesn’t care about whether they were satisfied with the customer experience. Plus, checking in after the sale is a great way to encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews, ratings and testimonials for your business online, and lay the foundation for referrals and repeat business.

8. A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name – 7%

Fans of the popular sitcom Cheers will instantly recognize this reference to the show’s theme song, referencing the fact that people want to go where everyone knows them (and is glad that they came). In the survey, seven percent of respondents said that their ideal customer experience would include a brand that recognized them (and their preferences) as a customer, regardless of the channel they used to interact with the brand. In addition, seven percent of respondents also said that they expect brand engagements to reflect their preferences and interests as revealed on different channels.

You might not be able to manufacture customer happiness, but you can follow this proven recipe for making customer happy, courtesy of a customer satisfaction survey from Accenture.

Customer Satisfaction Survey Reveals Key Drivers for Consumer Satisfaction

An Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey reveals a list of “customer satisfaction ingredients.” Here’s the list of drivers the customer satisfaction survey found when it comes to what U.S. consumers really want from the brands they do business with:

  • Good value for the money – 8
  • Great customer service – 7.9
  • Competitive prices – 7.8
  • Competent, intuitive staff – 7.8
  • Trustworthy – 7.8
  • High quality products – 7.8
  • Hassle-free – 7.6
  • Knowledgeable experts – 7.2
  • Lots of options – 6.7
  • Cater to my preferences – 6.5
  • Good people – 6.5
  • Engaging – 6.3
  • Innovative – 6.2
  • Relevant to me – 5.8
  • Responsible – 5.4
Customer Satisfaction Survey with a Recipe for Making Customers Happy

Customer Satisfaction Survey: Meeting or Beating Expectations

It’s important to understand that this list of fifteen consumer satisfaction drivers are those that must be fulfilled simply in order to meet expectations, not exceed them. Satisfaction is defined as:

  • fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations or needs
  • the pleasure or feeling that one derives from being satisfied
  • the payment of a debt or fulfillment of an obligation
  • what is felt to be owed or due to one

In other words, these are things customers expect to be true each and every time they do business with your brand – what they feel your brand owes them in exchange for patronage. If you fail to meet any of these standards you could be losing customers without even knowing why, since only about 4% of dissatisfied customers actually speak up and give a brand a chance to make things right. That means that 96 percent of customers who are dissatisfied with your brand may never even voice a complaint. In fact, 91 percent of customers who are dissatisfied leave and never come back (“Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner).

96% of customers who are unhappy with your brand might never even voice a complaint.

Understanding Customers – Ruby Newell-Legner

The imperative to meet customer expectations every time they do business with your brand becomes even more significant when you consider that it could take more than ten positive experiences to make up for just one unresolved negative customer encounter.

Acquiring a new customer could cost 7x more than retaining existing customers.

White House Office of Consumer Affairs

The cost of acquiring customers could be 6-7x what it costs to keep existing customers coming back, or even more (White House Office of Consumer Affairs). From a purely practical standpoint, it’s well-worth taking this list of customer satisfaction survey findings and using it as a checklist for evaluating the buying journey in your business.

Customer Satisfaction Survey: Stats Show What It Really Takes to Make Happy Customers

Most business owners understand how pricing, quality and perceived value relate to customer satisfaction. In fact, most business owners have probably already adjusted them in order to maximize the positive impact they have on the customer experience. Of the remaining 12 customer satisfaction survey findings, most can be placed in three main categories, and these may represent areas where business owners will find the ingredients they are lacking when it comes to their brand’s recipe for making customers happy:

Brand Representatives

  • Employees provide a high level of customer service, sales-expertise and advice
  • Employees who interact with customers have the right skills, understand and anticipate customer needs
  • Employees make it easy to do business with the company
  • Employees try to personalize and tailor customer experiences
  • Employees communicate effectively and personably
  • Employees can be creative in resolving customer issues

Brand Personalization

  • The buying journey is personalized to customer preferences, needs, desires and past interactions
  • Brand communications make customers feel more personally connected to the brand
  • Brand values are relevant to the customer’s personal values
  • The brand offers the products/services customers want, and provide the right options to allow for customer personalization
  • The brand is innovative, earning customer intrigue and interest

Brand Integrity, Intelligence and Compassion

  • The brand is intuitive in anticipating what customers want
  • The brand is innovative (a leader in some way)
  • The brand is environmentally responsible
  • Marketing and customer information is interesting, relevant and engaging
  • Customers feel the brand prioritizes and invests in hiring and training employees to be sure they have the expertise, skills and attitudes needed to make customers happy
  • The brand hires “good people” that customers enjoy working with
  • The brand exhibits values customers perceive as compassionate (because they are relevant to their own values and interests)

As you can see, several of the customer satisfaction survey findings fall into more than one category and may even vary from customer to customer depending on their own personal values and perceptions. The more of these ingredients that go into the customer experience, the more likely it is your brand will perfect its recipe for making customers happy.

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