Customer Experience management is a hot topic, and I would get a least one invitation a day to a CX seminar or workshop.

Reflecting on the content of these events and having reviewed literature on the subject, it seems that the main focus is on improving Customer Experience in terms of streamlining transactions between the brand and the consumer, and orchestrating key ‘touchpoints’.

As part of these concepts, TNS Global has coined the term ‘Situational Equity’ – the at-risk moments where there is a gap between what the customer wants and what the brand is able to deliver in terms of pricing, product fit, place, and promotion.

Yes, the ‘Four Ps’, so, nothing new with that!

The inside-out perspective of Customer Experience management still prevails, not the ‘outside-in’ view. In other words, the focus is still on how the brand delivers Customer Experience, fulfils brand promise, and transacts, as opposed to what the customers actually expect. Measurements are on satisfaction and not experience, let alone expectations. Which brings me to the nub of this article, and that is: without knowing what the customers’ expectations are, how can the right Customer Experience be delivered?

Smith+co (2016) touch on the subject of customer expectations, stating that clarity is vital on the following before attempting to align or define your Customer Experience:

1. What do your target (most profitable) customers expect and are you meeting these expectations?

2. What do these customers value that drives their retention and advocacy?

3. Have you created and articulated a brand promise that speaks to these values and differentiates you?

Point 1 is good council. But the challenge of understanding and meeting expectations is increasingly difficult. The human race has an inherent insatiable appetite for instant gratification and this is being fuelled further by the internet.

We live in the ‘Now Society’. Simply just delivering a core product or service is not good enough. It’s increasingly hard to differentiate, particularly as consumers have so much choice literally at their fingertips, hence the rise of digital disruptors.

The principle business model these disruptors adopt is that they wrap around traditional products and service facilities that make a consumer’s life better and as a result they are raising the bar of expectations. No market sector is immune. Here are few examples of industries which have been caught napping:

The legal market: Customers expect prompt service and value

A traditional conservation industry that was thought to be immune from the digital age, and yet there is an app called Ask a Lawyer. If you have a car accident you can find a lawyer in the moment who specialises in such matters. One that is available, gives you immediate advice, and provides navigation to their offices.

In the UK regulation has changed. You don’t have to be a qualified lawyer to provide legal services provided you get a license to practice. This has led to new entrants innovating Customer Experience and is significantly raising service expectations. Watch out laggard law firms!

The higher education market: Customers expect choice and flexibility

Another sector which some thought had digital immunity. Yet people are increasingly wanting vocational courses and to be able to take them at their own pace and at a reasonable cost with great teachers.

Udemy.com provides online certified vocational courses. It was founded only seven years ago, but today it has 8 million students and offers 32,000 courses provided by qualified teachers from all around the world, making it far bigger than most universities. Udemy is crowdsourcing education – no wonder student applications to traditional universities are declining.

The brewing industry: Customers want choice

Intelligent X is a new generation of brewers using technology to provide outstanding customer engagement. The brewery gains real-time insight directly from consumers about their opinions on the beer they are drinking. Consumers are asked for views about their preferences and how the taste of the beers could be improved or ideas on new flavours.

Using AI, the brewer takes the insight to then brew beers based on the expressed input from its customers and lets them know when the product is in the bars. What better way to gain consumer advocacy than to allow your consumers to feel part of your product? Expectations raised again.

I could cite many more examples, not least the Fintechs such as Monzo, where innovative organisations are improving Customer Experience by wrapping services around traditional products through knowing and meeting consumer expectations. These business models serve to inform, educate, support, entertain, and ingratiate their customers.

As a result, customer expectations will continue to rise.

I leave you with two thoughts: don’t try exceeding customer expectations without knowing what they are in the first place – just meeting expectations is a good start – and don’t embark upon a Customer Experience strategy without tackling the expectation question first.

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About The Author

Paul Fennemore is a Digital Transformation and Customer Experience Consultant and an Associate Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Oxford Brookes University. Paul has an MSc with Distinction in Digital Marketing from Oxford Brookes University.