Great Expectations: What do customers want?
Expectation is the root of all heartache, wrote Shakespeare. While the sentiment has been echoed by philosophers and poets for ages, in the world of business, expectations have a whole new connotation – especially when it comes to customer service expectations.
Knowing what customers want and then, delivering that, is fundamental to success in business. Yet, how many enterprises really know what their customers expect? How many are equipped to do what it takes to meet those expectations? How many are able to leverage the right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools?
It’s a common mistake to assume that all customer expectations are centered on the form and function of the product. Of course, that’s important. Not more important than the quality of service offered, though. Say, you order dinner on an app, are your expectations limited only to the quality of food? Do you not expect the delivery to be prompt and hassle-free?
In today’s digital world, customers expect nothing less than the best from the product as well as the process. Not surprisingly, studies are being conducted regularly to gauge changing customer expectations. Let’s look at what some of the latest findings suggest:
Right here, right now
According to recent research, 64% customers expect companies to respond and interact with them in real time. With social media becoming a preferred customer service channel, customers expect replies to tweets and online posts pronto.
Gone are the days when customers were willing to jump through hoops to get service. Today, enterprises are under tremendous pressure to cater to time-starved customers, who are low on patience. However, being responsive on social media is not enough. Customers expect front-line service and sales professionals to have the ability and authority to resolve customer issues adeptly. This calls for enterprise investment in better training and empowerment of employees.
In our increasingly virtual world of growing anonymity, 79% customers wish for personalized services and deeper customer relationships. Seemingly simple things like being addressing by name and treated with genuine respect rank high on customers’ wish list.
With technologies like CRM, it’s a lot easier for enterprises today to meet these customer expectations. For instance, when a customer reaches out to a company’s call center, the executive already has the complete customer interaction history – purchases, transactions, etc., with the company. So, the groundwork is already there. It’s only a matter of using the information intelligently to create personalized experiences.
Choices, choices, choices
One size doesn’t fit all. Online self-services may be preferred for routine transactions and inquiries, while there may be occasions – especially when things go wrong – when customers would rather speak with a human professional than a smart machine. The writing on the wall is clear – customers expect enterprises to communicate with them on their preferred channel, whether it’s in person, online, or on the phone.
However, meeting customer expectations is not just about being present across all channels, but also about ensuring that the communication is seamless and agile, even when it shifts from one mode to another. CRM tools make that possible.
Customers detest unpredictability in service. Research says that 73% customers are likely to switch brands if they don’t receive consistent levels of service. So, follow-up efforts and promotions are vital aspects of keeping customers delighted.
Experts concur that to boost customer satisfaction, enterprises need to keep giving them the right amount of information at the right time through their preferred channel. But to do that, enterprises first need to figure out who their customers are and what they want. Would the customer prefer daily updates on social media, or weekly reports via email, or perhaps, only emergency notifications on the mobile phone?
There’s more to artificial intelligence (AI) than chatbots. And, according to a new report, more than 90% of companies with world-leading brand recognition and high levels of customer satisfaction use AI solutions to increase customer satisfaction, compared to 42% of companies in their fields overall.
The technology is being used to optimize tools, applications, and operational processes to engage with customers across every phase of their journey. This helps enterprises predict customer needs and meet them proactively; because 51% customers expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before customer contact.
Enterprises need to start investing in predictive intelligence – which involves anticipating and managing customer expectations rather than waiting for the customer to raise an issue. That way, enterprises can exceed customer expectations and build brand loyalty, which can lead to advocacy.
Customers don’t really hate giving feedback; it’s just that they consider it a futile exercise. For, how many companies actually act on it? Whether enterprises take customer feedback over the phone or email, the critical part is to respond to the comment or criticism, act on it, and let the customer know what’s been done to make things better based on the data.
Customer feedback is a powerful tool, provided enterprises know how to use it intelligently. It’s a good idea to ask for feedback immediately after a service experience. While happy customers are morale boosters, there’s lots to learn from the unhappy ones.
Moral of the story
Customers today have high expectations. Only enterprises that meet or exceed those expectations will reap returns in the corporate bottom line. The idea is to translate customer service to customer loyalty.
Enterprises need to start understanding and measuring customer expectations to learn how to manage customer satisfaction. From having a dedicated budget for customer experience improvement initiatives to fostering a healthy attitude towards customer service across departments, there’s so much that can be done. After all, expectations don’t always have to cause heartache, right?