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Customer expectations are often tough to meet, especially for small businesses. These expectations evolve with the times and are sometimes impossible to meet.
After all, customers can switch businesses whenever they want if these expectations aren’t met.
But no matter the challenge, you must equip your business with the tools to meet and exceed these expectations. You must continue to learn various strategies to keep matching these expectations.
In this guide, we will tackle the ins and outs of meeting the ever-changing needs of customers and strategies on how to address them best, plus tips to keep you guided.
What are customer expectations?
Customer expectations are the service standards that customers expect from businesses such as fair pricing, topnotch support, and more. These expectations in turn shape your brand’s customer service to match these demands.
Many technological tools exist to help match customer expectations. Customer service tools such as live chat, discussion forums, SMS text support, and more help businesses cater to their customers.
But these tools don’t guarantee quality customer service. Many brands make the mistake of relying too heavily on these tools for customer support. As a result, brands fail to meet or succeed in people’s expectations.
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Why is it critical to meet customer expectations?
People love to stick to what they’re most comfortable with. So, it’s critical that you continuously find ways to match customer expectations as these allow you to increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, reach a new audience, and boost sales.
6 Basic customer service expectations
Knowing the standard customer expectations allow you to design customer service that matches their needs and find strategies that could exceed them.
Here are 6 basic customer expectations for businesses:
1. Smooth service
People expect brands to address their concerns fast. It’s a huge determining factor for whether they should continue doing business with you or not.
Smooth or fast service can be defined as:
- Immediate responses to questions or issues
- Fast follow-ups
- A smooth, intuitive website
- Reliable and quick transactions
A smooth service makes people feel that doing business with you is comfortable and hassle-free. Expect these definitions of smooth service to change and grow as more and more technological tools arise to help aid these needs.
2. Personalized customer experience
Customers don’t like to receive generic responses to their questions or issues. They want swift and accurate answers.
A personalized customer experience makes customers feel that they’re being cared for and heard. Customers expect businesses to do all the work when doing business with them and all they have left to do is decide.
To create a personalized customer experience, you must:
- Understand and know your customers
- Know their mindset and relate to their common issues
- Provide a quick solution to their problems
- Give personalized rewards that instill customer trust and loyalty.
3. Correct information during self-service
Not all customers immediately approach you when looking for something. They usually find a way to solve it independently before asking for support.
That’s why it’s critical that a business’s self-service option or FAQ page contains accurate information and addresses the common issues that your customers face.
An incomplete or inaccurate self-service page risks brands from customers losing interest or an increase in bounce rates. Businesses must keep their self-service tools up to date and offer a quick option for support when solutions aren’t found.
4. Low-effort website experience
Everything should be easy for the customers. Low-effort experiences are key to making customers happy.
Customers expect browsing through your website to be smooth and hassle-free. People don’t want to go through hoops to do business with brands. Everything should make their lives easier.
Some low-effort experience examples include:
- Website pages load fast
- Responsive support team
- Visuals such as photos and videos load easily and are of high quality
- An easy check-out process
5. Omnichannel presence
As a business, you should be wherever your customers are.
Customers often don’t want to open your website for quick questions or updates. So, brands must establish their presence on every channel their customers could already be in.
Social media is one important platform that businesses should have. It allows brands to connect easily with customers, study online behaviors, and learn from common problems.
6. Quality products and services
Customers expect products and services to perform as promised; otherwise, they feel cheated. The heart of your business is the products or services brands offer. Everything else, such as customer service and tools, circles around marketing these products and services.
It’s much easier for a business to lose customers from one bad review than multiple positive reviews. So, businesses must aim to offer quality customer service and products or services.
6 Ways to exceed customer expectations
The standard goal of all businesses should be to meet basic customer needs and develop strategies to exceed them simultaneously.
Here are 6 ways to exceed customer expectations:
1. Establish customer expectations
Establish what your customers expect from you. You must understand your customers’ mindsets to know their basic needs. Ask questions such as:
- What kind of customers do I have? What made them interested in my business?
- What are the common issues my customers face?
- What do my customers expect from my products or services? Do they think it’s performing as advertised?
Know the best qualities your customers expect from you and understand how they’re taking it in. Are you falling short of their expectations? Do you do your best to meet their needs at all times?
Getting into the minds of your customers allows you to imagine the expectations they have for you and help you better find ways to match them.
2. Take action after receiving feedback
Don’t just let customer feedback sit on your review page. Recognize the effort your customers put in when providing feedback – regardless of whether they’re positive or negative.
For example, show appreciation when receiving positive feedback such as thanking your customers or providing a reward system when they offer reviews. And when receiving negative feedback, take note of the essential parts and plan an action to address it immediately to prevent the same situation from happening in the future.
3. Be accountable for your mistakes
Nothing is nobler to customers than when businesses own up to their mistakes and make amends for them.
People often call out brands on social media to issue an apology or make amends for mistakes. For example, the CEO of Abbott Laboratories apologized for the national shortage of baby formula due in an op-ed in the Washington Post, earlier this year. The company promises to prevent the same event from happening again in the future.
When apologizing for mistakes, the key factor is to be accountable for them and offer to resolve the problem and learn from the situation to prevent the same mistakes from happening again.
4. Appreciate returning customers
People like to be recognized, especially by businesses they continually support. Acknowledge returning customers to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Don’t just let returning customers feel unnoticed by your business. You can show appreciation through the following:
- Send a handwritten note
- Offer discounts or free services during difficult times
- Give freebies when they purchase a product or service
- Grant free upgrades
- Support causes or charities
- Provide meaningful content
There are many ways to show customer appreciation that won’t cost your business much. The goal is to make them feel seen and to show gratitude. In return, cared-for customers will continue to support and even advocate for your business.
5. Measure customer happiness
Track your progress and measure customer satisfaction regularly. Measuring customer satisfaction lets you see which areas you need to improve or what makes them happy.
Customers also feel more appreciated when you actively measure their satisfaction levels and help them see that you’re continuously trying to improve your business. Many small business tools allow you to keep track of customer satisfaction without spending a lot of money.
For example, you can leverage social media platforms and their built-in polls to measure customer satisfaction. These polls allow you to quickly gather real-time customer satisfaction data, especially when launching a new product or service. Social media polls are also cost-effective and low-effort.
6. Track employee sales performance
You must track employee performance occasionally to see how they’re conducting their sales talk.
Aside from providing a template for them to use when conversing with customers, you should know how they handle other sales conversations. Some employees might be too pushy or too lax, which could cause customer dissatisfaction.
For example, Tesla CEO Elon Musk replied to an unhappy customer after meeting a pushy salesperson. Musk apologized for the experience and communicated with his employees to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
5 Customer expectation management tips
As a business, it’s your job to manage customer expectations properly. Don’t give promises that you can’t keep to satisfy your customers. This will only end up backfiring on you.
Here are 5 customer expectation management tips to help guide you:
- Be transparent. Always be open and honest with your customers, especially when dealing with concerns. Keep your conversations transparent and provide proof or receipt when necessary. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or ask for time for research when unsure. For example, if a customer service representative doesn’t know the answer to a problem, they should be open to consulting the rest of the team to brainstorm solutions. This helps customers feel assured that you’re working on their issues properly.
- Set positive and realistic expectations. Start establishing realistic expectations by placing accurate product or service descriptions. And don’t promise something you can’t fulfill just to appease customers. Find the balance between assuring customers with a positive note and setting realistic expectations.
- Discuss all possible solutions. Ensure to provide all possible solutions when handling a problem with a customer. Help them see that you’re doing your best to find a solution that will benefit both parties. Don’t settle an issue until all possible solutions have been tested.
- Give a clear timeline. When fixing a problem, don’t give customers an impossible deadline that you can’t meet. Give them a realistic timeframe for when their concerns will be solved properly.
- Regularly follow up with customers. Don’t forget to follow up with customers after solving a problem. Make sure to send a couple of follow-ups to check if there are no other related issues and how you can help your customers to avoid the same event from happening again.
Ultimately, customers only want the best experience when doing business with you. They only want what’s best for them and for your brand to do as promised.
But even though many technological tools help you deliver the best customer service, what you do to optimize these and how your brand values your customers properly is what truly counts.