The Evolution of Customer Expectations

The modern customer is a demanding and fickle buyer. They expect well-priced products, knowledgeable, tailored customer service, and an easy and beneficial relationship with a brand. They assume that transactions will mirror the ease and intuition of modern technology and social media, and that brands will deliver and delight.

Modern customers don’t hope for a good experience, they expect it, meaning that more often than not complaints are rooted in expectations not being met rather than just a faulty product or service. At Moorhouse we have seen these issues arise across sectors from Financial Services to Telecoms, Consumer to Transport, and we aim to provide insight and action to tackle these challenges head on. Whilst there is no magic wand, pinning customer demand and satisfaction to both strategic and specific tactical change can bring substantial shifts in service delivery. So how can a forward-thinking organisation meet and exceed customer expectations in this changing environment?

Are you paying attention?

Do you truly understand how your customers feel about your organisation? You may be able to breakdown your customer base by age, location, and buying history, but detailed data analytics are ineffective if you only interact with your customers when they complain. Organisations have to both meet and surpass what customers already expect, by combining realistic promises with outstanding delivery. It has been suggested that between 2015 and 2018, poor customer experience will cost the UK's four largest banks up to £3.7 billion in foregone revenue[1] – no laughing matter in a world where MetroBank and Mondo have exploded onto the scene and the customer’s radar. Yet well-handled complaints offer as much opportunity as peril, with each unhappy-to-happy customer transition potentially building brand loyalty and creating brand advocates.

Consequently organisations must understand what their customers need and want, and when they require products and services. Only then can organisations look to add value and personalise a service. Most people know that they can’t call their phone network’s customer service at midnight, but they do expect to be able to check their mobile data usage or pay a bill online. In this way organisations should look to use this ‘applied common sense’ by investing in a detailed understanding of customers’ baseline expectations, and use this to inform the internal delivery of systems and processes. For instance, the vast majority of customers prefer to be self-reliant when dealing with product or service issues, with 90% of customers expecting self-service support portals or FAQs[2]. In this way organisations should invest significantly in their ‘first line’ of impersonal customer service, and then engage with those customers who require individual attention in a more tailored, personalised way.

The importance of timing

The age of single interaction and single transaction is gone. Customers read reviews before they make a buying decision, engage with customer service representatives on webchat, and search for equivalent products online – to name but a few examples of the new customer service landscape. In this world where customers can interact with a brand 12 to 15 times before they click ‘buy’, organisations need to establish and proactively manage their customer communication. They expect immediate knowledge and an experience in keeping with the brand’s ethos and if irritated, disappointed, or discouraged they are quick to change providers or abandon a purchase. 28% of customers will abandon a shopping cart if presented with unexpected shipping costs[3], and this stark figure emphasises the importance of both communicating key customer messages but also seeding these messages at the correct point in the customer journey.

The most common customer complaints are around the ability to engage with a knowledgeable representative, infrequent or non-existent communication, and a customer’s disappointment with a product or service. However, a proactive organisation has to not only address these issues but do so fast – 47% of customers would take their business to a competitor within a day of experiencing poor service, and 79% would do so within a week[4]. In order to survive in a world of real-time customer complaints, organisations must invest in order to be responsive. It’s not about always being “on”, but about engaging meaningfully with your customers within agreed time and location boundaries, and adjusting your messages according to the customer’s expectations.

These demands also accentuate the importance of robust and efficient supply chains and back-end processes, and the role they play in creating a seamless customer experience. Not only do these suppliers need to do meet deadlines, but organisations should also look to use logistic firms that continue their brand ethos. Satisfied customers expect all parts of their consumer journey to be consistently seamless – remember, many a premium product has been let down by disjointed delivery.

Personalisation versus privacy

Another major challenge facing brands is how to successfully personalise the customer experience without infringing on privacy. 77% of shoppers are willing to share their location providing they get value in return[5], demonstrating how sharing information is welcome in exchange for a tailored offer from a brand that they trust. The flip side of this digital behaviour is that the majority of online shoppers in the UK have concerns over online security, ranging from explicit fraud concerns through to those over-familiar marketing messages. So whilst customers are expecting more and more from service providers, they are also increasingly cagey about the way in which their information is used.

This heightened sensitivity around security concerns was most clearly demonstrated by the data breach at TalkTalk[6], where the company lost 101,000 customers and suffered costs of £60m as a result of a cyber-attack in October. Not only was their brand integrity damaged, but it also demonstrated the importance of customer engagement, in good times and bad. What other organisations should recognise is that the majority of TalkTalk customers’ anger was because customers felt there was a slow response and a disregard for their personal data. Customers want and need to know about events that affect them in real time, and communication must react in an immediate and knowledgeable way. 

Managing, meeting and exceeding expectations

Understanding, managing and augmenting customer satisfaction levels is a modern challenge that organisations need to tackle head on. Given customer’s self-awareness and the current security conscious environment, organisations should tread carefully but also be bold in engaging with their customers to establish what’s welcome (or not), and tailor their messaging and products appropriately. In order to navigate customer qualms and take advantage of the opportunities presented by data-enabled customer interactions, organisations need to capitalise on where, when and how customers want to interact with them by reacting quickly, listening continuously and testing thoroughly.

The value of a satisfied customer is potentially limitless, and these opportunities are available to those who invest in strong analytics, timely customer engagement, and tailored products and services. Because what customer wouldn’t want to feel understood and valued.

[1] http://www.consultancy.uk/news/3277/poor-customer-experience-costs-big-4-uk-banks-billions

[2] http://www.mycustomer.com/service/channels/infographic-how-consumers-are-changing-the-face-of-customer-service

[3] https://blog.kissmetrics.com/5-ecommerce-stats/

[4] http://www.mycustomer.com/experience/loyalty/are-consumers-really-becoming-less-loyal-lets-look-at-the-evidence

[5] http://digitalmarketingmagazine.co.uk/customer-experience/a-beacon-for-a-more-personalised-customer-experience/3279

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/02/talktalk-cyberattack-costs-customers-leave

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