Did you know that a survey of marketing leaders revealed that 81% believe their brands compete mostly or solely on the basis of customer experience?
Customer experiences are paramount in the modern consumer experience—so brands that can meet—and exceed—customer expectations have a major leg up against their competitors. Finding ways to exceed customer expectations isn’t just good for your customers, after all—it’s great for your bottom line.
How so? Exceeding customer expectations creates great customer experiences. Great customer experiences create loyal customers. And loyal customers are profitable customers.
Not only that, but meeting customer expectations allows you to create a stronger customer-product or customer-service match, by adapting your product and service offerings to the needs and desires of your customers. And by providing a better product-market fit, you in turn create better customer experiences and more loyal customers. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle that works out in everyone’s favor. But how do you do this? We’ll show you how, step-by-step.
Start With The Customer
Of course, in order to meet—or exceed—the needs and expectations of your customers, you need to start with your customers themselves: who are they, what do they expect from businesses today, and what do they want from your business in particular?
Brands who want to understand the customer should start with understanding general customer expectations and desires, and then niche down their research to understand their own audience and target audience. While you may imagine you already know what the customer wants and expects, the data might surprise you.
Over the past 5-10 years, customer expectations have been changing. With help from big brands like Apple and Amazon, customer expectations from what brands can, or should, provide have been steadily increasing. From two-day shipping and instant round-the-clock service to convenient shopping experiences and personalized recommendations, customer expectations are growing—just look at some of the data:
- 62% of consumers say they’ll lose brand loyalty if the brand delivers an un-personalized experience, up from just 45% in 2021
- 84% of customers say “the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services,” up from 80% in 2018.
- 73% of customers “expect companies to understand their needs” and fulfill their expectations, but only 51% of customers say this generally happens.
Once you understand the state of customer experiences and expectations generally, it’s time to dig into the data on your own market and audience. For this, doing audience research and creating customer personas can be a useful exercise to understand your audience better.
Customer personas allow you to create look-alike personas for different subsets of your customer base, which in turn allows you to more easily understand, anticipate and solve for their needs and expectations. For example, perhaps a small subset of your customer base still prefers in-store shopping so they can try items on. Optimizing your online experience with more videos and sizing guides, while extending your return period and making exchanges easy, allows these customers needs’ to be taken care of, no matter where they shop.
In addition, you should spend time mapping the customer journey from research to post-purchase to understand customer needs, expectations and experiences each step of the way. Understanding the customer journey allows you to meet and exceed customer expectations at each step, while also giving you insight into who your customers are, how they shop and interact with your brand, and what they want out of their experience with you.
Aligning Your Products & Services To Exceed Your Customers Expectations
Once you understand what your customers want, you can align your products and services to not only meet those expectations, but exceed them.
How do you align products and services to exceed customer expectations?
Adapt services and experiences based on customer behaviors
62% of customers expect companies to “adapt based on my actions and behaviors,” but less than half of customers (47%) say this regularly happens. As a result, companies who do win at adaptability and personalization have a lot to gain.
Adaptability can be at both the macro level—your customers in general—or the micro level—one particular customer. Either way, in order to adapt based on customer behavior, you have to have a method for tracking and analyzing customer data.
Wondering what this adaptation can look like? On a macro level, a great example is companies who offer “subscribe and save” discounts for their popular products. Shoppers who prefer a particular brand of shampoo or cleaning products are likely buying them every month, or every few months—subscribe and save programs are an example of providing an adapted service based on customer needs. Instead of the customer needing to remember to replace the shampoo every time they run out, they simply subscribe to receive a new bottle every month—and at a discount.
It’s a win for customer loyalty and customer experience.
Offer immediate services and solutions
Modern customers have come to expect instant solutions—whether it’s two-day delivery or round-the-clock customer support, immediate is anticipated. In fact, 68% of customers would rather use a self-service option to find answers than talk to an agent, just so they can get the answers they need immediately.
As a result, brands who can offer immediate services and solutions for customers will have an upper hand on meeting and exceeding customer expectations. When it comes to customer service and solutions, providing the opportunity to reach your brand anywhere and anytime, and get questions answered right away is essential. Developing an omnichannel approach to customer service is one way to implement this practically, as is increasing your self-service support options, such as knowledge bases or live-chat AI support.
Provide easy customer experiences
Ultimately, customers want easy, seamless shopping experiences from start to finish, whether they’re in the market for a bottle of shampoo, a car, or a new home loan. Meet customers expectations by making it easy to buy from you.
Sound obvious? That’s because it is—but implementing it is harder than it sounds. Remember, as we mentioned above, while customers expect brands to understand and adapt to their needs and expectations, fewer than half of customers experience this regularly. This means most brands have some catching up to do—but offering personalized, seamless customer experiences is a great way to start.
How To Measure Whether or Not You’re Meeting Your Client’s Expectations
As you align your products and services to customer expectations, it’s essential to continually measure whether or not you’re actually meeting those expectations. As we’ve seen from the data above, customer expectations aren’t always met, and rising customer expectations aren’t always to blame. The “delivery gap” is nothing new—in research conducted by Bain & Co., 80% of companies said they were offering “superior experiences” for customers. However, when customers were surveyed, only 8% of customers agreed.
In order to close the delivery gap for your brand, you need to regularly measure if you’re meeting your client’s expectations—here’s how.
Have regularly tracked metrics to measure customer satisfaction
One of the best ways to measure if you’re meeting (or even exceeding!) customer expectations is by tracking a set of metrics regularly. The exact metrics to use will vary based on your industry, customer service approach, and overall goals, but some common metrics to track include:
- CSAT—Customer Satisfaction Score, or CSAT, provides a measure (typically on a scale of 1-10) of how satisfied a customer is after a given interaction with your brand. These are typically offered to customers as a quick survey after a call or web chat.
- NPS—Net Promoter Score, or NPS, provides a look into how likely customers are to recommend you to a friend or colleague. Your overall NPS score is measured on a scale of -100 to 100+ and shows what percentage of your audience is promoting you. Promoters are satisfied with their experience of your brand and are likely to recommend you; while Detractors are dissatisfied with their experience and likely to recommend others don’t purchase from you.
- FCR—First Call Resolution rate, or FCR, measures how frequently customer concerns are resolved the first time they reach out to your brand. This is important for customer satisfaction since 78% of customers expect to be able to solve even complicated concerns after just one interaction.
Whatever metrics you decide to use to measure customer satisfaction, having regular checkpoints to review and analyze the data will help make the best use of these measurements.
Ready to perfect your CX?
Collect and implement customer feedback and reviews
Of course, meeting customer needs is an ongoing process, not a one-and-done approach. As such, brands who are seeking to transform their customer experiences should be consistently:
- collecting customer feedback
- evaluating and analyzing customer trends, data and feedback, collectively
- reading customer reviews for common themes and insights
- implementing changes based on the data
- building and releasing new products and services based on customer feedback.
Without ongoing research and insights into your audience, your customer experience will eventually become stale. Customer feedback and data is not only a great way to measure whether or not you’re meeting customer expectations currently, but also to understand how to improve your products and services to better meet customer needs.
Ask your customer service agents for feedback
As your brand representatives, customer service agents are on the front lines talking to customers day in and day out. As such, they should have valuable insights and feedback for you around common customer complaints, feedback and concerns. Ask them for their insights into your customers!
Even better, create a dedicated and ongoing system or process through which agents can report on any trends they’re noticing—they’ll often be able to spot potential trouble spots or blossoming issues before the data does, allowing you to get a head start on meeting customer needs and reducing poor customer experiences.
Your Quality Assurance program for your call center can also provide valuable feedback and data around common complaints and problems. Not only can you improve your customer service directly to meet and exceed customer expectations, but you can use feedback and common complaints from customer calls to improve your product or services directly.
Easy Ways To Exceed Your Client’s Expectations
You have the audience research, their expectations and the data—now how do you practically exceed customer expectations in the short term? Take a cue from other businesses who are doing it well and implement some of these strategies.
Add in the “wow” factor
Brands who are willing to go the extra mile for their customers are able to provide standout customer experiences. Finding ways to deliver the “wow” factor into your customer experience will not only cement your brand in the mind of your customers—in a good way!—but will exceed their expectations of how a shopping experience could be.
This doesn’t have to be a huge gesture either—for example, Grove Co., a popular e-commerce brand, gathered traction on social media by simply writing a quick, handwritten note on the outside of their boxes packaged up for delivery. Customers were so surprised and delighted to find these notes they quickly took to sharing them on social media—leading to more word-of-mouth marketing and brand loyalty.
Don’t overlook a human touch
In a world of automation and depersonalized experiences, customers want to be treated like more than just another number—and will pay more for companies who provide that experience to them. Keeping a human touch in your brand, and especially in your customer service, is a great way to exceed your client’s expectations.
At Global Response, we take a personalized, human-first approach seriously: our strategies are customer-focused and human-centered. We specialize in ensuring agents have a personalized, human touch to every customer interaction, ensuring your clients feel seen, known and understood by your brand.
Personalize your customer’s experiences
Personalization is quickly becoming more and more of an expectation from customers, so brands who actually nail customer personalization have a lot of brand loyalty to gain from it.
Find ways—at any point in the customer journey—to show that you know your customers and use this knowledge to personalize their experience. Collecting and organizing customer data can help significantly with personalization.
Spotify is a great example of a brand making huge strides in the personalization space—their on-point algorithms create personalized recommendations for songs, podcasts and even complete playlists based on your listening history. Beyond that, their popular “Spotify Wrapped” feature at the end of the year gives users a personalized look back at their “listening stats” for the year, delivered in a well-designed design package that users can (and do!) share with friends.
But personalization doesn’t have to involve complicated algorithms. It can be as simple as:
- Sending a coupon on a user’s birthday
- Recommending new products based on previous purchases
- Prompting a customer to buy a refill of a product a set number of days after they purchased it originally
- Offering follow-up services or add-on items that coordinate with the user’s initial purchase
- Sending content or how-to guides relevant to recent browsing or purchasing history
There are endless ways to customize and personalize the customer experience—the key is that you do it.
Acknowledge and reward loyal customers
Rewarding loyal customers isn’t just rewarding for them—it’s a win for businesses too. After all, the data doesn’t lie:
- 84% of loyalty program members make a redemption from the program.
- 62% of Gen-Z shoppers say they are “highly influenced” by loyalty programs.
- 32% of consumers “strongly agree” that loyalty programs improve their experiences with brands.
As a result, brands who are looking to exceed customer expectations—and create loyal customers—need to be thinking about rewards programs. Some simple ways to implement loyalty programs can include sending occasional rewards for loyal customers, creating a referral program where customers get bonuses or discounts when a friend joins or purchases, or simply offering bonus gifts, freebies or discounted shipping for rewards members.
Provide seamless, omnichannel experiences
Customers expect to be able to reach your brand whenever and wherever. Offering omnichannel support means being available on all the channels your customers are—from phone to email, web chat to social media. An omnichannel contact center can provide you with the skilled agents and technological solutions to make this a reality and exceed your customer’s service expectations.
But omnichannel experiences in 2023 go beyond simply offering support via multiple channels. Truly omnichannel solutions offer seamless, connected experiences for customers, things like:
- browsing history or cart selections that are still saved when they switch from mobile to desktop
- a CRM that allows agents to know what they’ve talked to customer support about in the past, what they’ve purchased and other customer data—meaning customers spend less time explaining themselves and repeating their situation
- email marketing that’s relevant to previous purchases
- onsite and in-person recommendations based on their known preferences and shopping history
These kinds of solutions offer a seamless and connected customer journey that means your brand never misses a beat—and is always ready to meet your customers exactly where they are.
How To Deal With Unrealistic Expectations
Of course, you can’t please everyone all the time—and sometimes you won’t be able to please unhappy customers. Regardless, there are a few things you can do to help your brand deal with unrealistic customer expectations.
Remain calm and step into their shoes
Oftentimes, customers with unrealistic expectations are already frustrated and on edge by the time they contact your brand. As a result, it’s essential for customer service agents to have training in how to stay calm and professional in intense conversations, and de-escalate situations when the customer is angry.
However, it’s also important to see things from the customer’s point of view. In some cases, expectations that seem unreasonable to you may feel quite reasonable to the customer. As a result, it’s important to know how to listen to your customers needs’ and see it from their point of view. By doing so, not only can you provide empathy—and better customer support—for your customers, but you also provide the opportunity to find more creative solutions for consumers.
Try to provide resolution for poor customer experiences
Sometimes you deliver a less-than-spectacular customer experience. When this happens, don’t despair—simply do your best to make up for it and provide a resolution. Go above and beyond whenever possible to resolve the situation and meet customer expectations, while also understanding what you can and can’t control.
For example, if you can’t fix the problem perfectly, perhaps you can:
- Offer the customer a discount or a refund on their purchase.
- Offer to replace or exchange their purchase with another item.
- Offer to provide a discount on a future purchase or service.
- Provide a discounted or compensated upsell for a subpar experience.
Whatever you do, do provide empathy and understanding to your frustrated customers, and work with the customers to offer as much as you can to make up for a bad experience.
Set expectations clearly
When dealing with customers, it helps to set expectations clearly from the beginning. Of course, you can’t control customer expectations, but be sure to let customers who contact you know when they can expect a solution, what possible reasonable solutions are, and how they can expect to hear from you throughout the process.
Most importantly, don’t make promises you can’t keep! This will only make things worse, as customers who may already have unrealistic expectations may set them even higher if you’re promising more than you can realistically offer.
Be honest and transparent
Customers value honesty and transparency from a brand. In many cases, even when they are disappointed by your product or service, they will respect a brand who deals with them honestly from start to finish.
Acknowledging their disappointment, taking responsibility for any part that was in your control, and communicating openly about what solutions you can or can’t offer them will go a long way in earning customer trust and loyalty. If customer expectations are totally unrealistic, pandering to them won’t help. Simply honestly acknowledge what your brand can offer and work from there.
Ready to work with a customer experience expert that can take your brand to the next level? Reach out to an industry expert from Global Response today.