Customer Experience News & Trends

What customers want now: How to exceed their 5 biggest expectations

Customers want more than ever, and many companies struggle to keep up with their newest expectations. Here’s help understanding — and exceeding — those expectations. 

More than 80% of companies say customers’ expectations are either somewhat or much higher than they were just a few years ago, a Harris Poll for Lithium found.

While higher expectations might be expected, most companies’ responses to the changing needs aren’t: More than half say it’s tough or downright difficult to please customers, researchers said.

Why? The biggest reason is expectations change quickly.

Here are the five biggest customer expectations these days, and how some companies meet — sometimes exceed — them:

1. Make it even easier

Customers want to put even less effort into their relationships with companies. They want to get their business accomplished with the least possible friction.

You might think that it means they want every possible channel available to get their questions answered and problems solved. But that’s not necessarily the case. They’re willing to use whatever channels you offer, as long as they’re efficient.

Almost 85% of customers prefer ease of doing business over choice of how they do it, according to research from Matt Dixon, author of The Effortless Experience.

Say you only offer customers support over the phone and via email. That’s OK, as long as you personally answer calls within a couple of rings and respond to emails within a half-hour. Plus — and perhaps, most importantly — the people taking those calls and messages must be trained and empowered to handle the inquiries immediately.

When Pershing LLC wanted to improve the customer experience, Edward Piscina, managing director and chief quality officer, took a close look at the subjects and issues they heard about most — not the channels where they came in. After talking to front-line employees and analyzing data, a few bubbled to the top.

Piscina tested the service pros to gauge the current level of knowledge on those subjects. Then they trained hard to fill the gaps they uncovered and improved the experience in the channels they offered.

2. Consistent follow up

Even when you and your customers think issues are resolved or questions are answered, something can come up, prompting customers to revisit the situation. They’d like to be able to follow up with the person who helped them the first time.

Almost 40% said they’d want to reach out to the person who originally worked with them, an eConsultancy survey found. And about 30% would prefer the company got in touch with them to make sure everything is still OK.

Assigning customer service pros to certain accounts — much like sales reps are assigned — can help customers get the consistent follow up they want. For instance, West Hutchinson, VP of customer service and enterprise, at AmericCold Logistics, assigned service reps a specific group of customers, plus he put a backup, who knew the issues a little less intimately but could help in a pinch, on each account. That way, someone owned every issue so it was less likely that follow up could fall through the cracks.

3. Be real

Customers want companies to be upfront with them — good news or bad. They expect that the people they interact with will tell them the truth. That honesty actually builds their trust.

Frustration or anger are often only temporary when companies admit their mistakes — which are increasingly well-known because of social media — and fix them.

One way: Minnesota Life Group Insurance takes the “Smokey Bear” approach.

According to Maria O’Phelan, 2nd VP of customer service & technology, here’s how it works:

First, they acknowledge the fire, by putting it out — fixing the problem. Next, they clear the smoke by apologizing to the customer searching for the root cause.

Then they prevent the fire from recurring. That might mean training or re-evaluating a process so it’s more accurate. Finally, they put in smoke detectors — perhaps adding a safeguard or eliminating red tape — so they can catch similar mistakes before they happen again.

4. Get the timing right

Customers want speed in some cases and compassion in others. Companies need to get the response right in each situation.

In one Gallup survey, customers said they preferred being cared for with quality service at a slower pace over less personal attention at a faster pace. But that’s not true for every channel. Social media responses are judged mostly on the response time and less on quality. A Social Habit survey found almost half of social customers expect an answer in less than an hour.

Unless it’s social media, service pros want to try these tips to create a caring situation:

  • Avoid scripted responses. Nearly 20% of customers in an AchieveGlobal study said canned responses are a huge customer service failure. Instead, treat each conversation as if it’s the first one you’ve had on that topic. To keep things fresh, listen for different words customers use (on topics you commonly hear) and use them in the conversation again.
  • Tell them what you do know. Nearly as many customers thought “no” and “I don’t know” responses were failures on the part of service pros. So tell customers what you can do now or will do to help them — especially if it’s turning to another authority to get a final resolution.
  • Talk to your grandmother. More than likely, reps have extra patience with her and treat her with courtesy. Consider customers the same, giving them extra time to soak in information and share details when dealing with complex or emotional issues.

5. Build relationships

You’d think with all the “friends” people have on social media and the easy connections they can make because of technology, customers would have enough relationships. But loyalty is still built through personalized one-on-one experiences.

In an AgilOne survey, about 70% of customers said they expect a personalized experience with companies. More interesting, they said it doesn’t take much for them to consider it personalized. Just remember how long they’ve been a customer or recall a past purchase.

Of course, if you want to do more than that, try what works at Bruce Office Supply & Furniture. Bri Bruce, director of marketing and advertising, gives service pros who work with customers daily a “customer appreciation account.” They use up to $50 a month to give customers something special and recognize their loyalty.

For example, a rep gave a retiring customer a book on gardening — an interest they had come to realize they shared. What could be more personalized?

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