Customer expectations: how to meet rising demands

Published May 7, 2019
Last updated May 7, 2019

Customer expectations have never been higher: recent data indicates that 65% of customers expect service to be faster than it was five years ago, while 41% of millennials want more options for contacting companies.

This rise in customer expectations isn’t limited to a single touchpoint or interaction, either. From customer service wait times, to service channels available, to the overall quality of service and experiences delivered, customers want (and expect) the very best. If your brand doesn’t provide that, buyers will find another brand that does.

So why are customer expectations changing so much? Let’s examine this shift and dive into some tactics your business can deploy to meet those rising expectations.

Why customer expectations are changing

As David Mattin of TrendWatching explains, the shift in customer expectations is the product of expectation transfer, which happens when businesses take innovative leaps forward and customers bring their new (higher) expectations with them when evaluating brands. Uber, for example, changed how quickly customers expected a ride at their door. As Mattin said, “Uber helped to create new expectations and those expectations spread, becoming the now well-established trend known as on-demand.”

When one company raises the bar for customers, other brands are expected to follow suit. This is a challenge that’s constantly shifting the business landscape, but there’s one way your company can meet those expectations consistently: by improving the customer experience.

Customer experience optimization: The secret to meeting customer expectations

Keeping up with rising expectations starts with making the customer experience a priority. A Walker study found that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Walker also sent a strong message to modern businesses: “We must understand that empowered customers in 2020 will demand a new level of customer obsession.”

But saying and doing are two different things. Here’s what you’ll need to know to optimize your customer experience for a modern environment in 2020 and beyond.

1. Offer a wide range of channels for customer service

Customers get frustrated when there’s only one avenue for customer service available. In fact, 60% report that they want multiple service channels. This is because not all customer experiences are the same and customer communication preferences change based on the issue they’re working through. For example, data shows that 76% of customers want support by phone when they’re dealing with a product malfunction or requesting a rebate, but that other customers appreciate email, live chat, SMS/text, and social media for other purposes.

The simple act of making more avenues available will improve the overall customer experience. This same study showed that 28% of customers report having multiple options for contacting customer service created a positive experience, while 27% reported that not being able to contact customer support using their preferred method resulted in a negative experience.

2. Accommodate alternative channels that are gaining popularity in customer service

Self-service is on the rise, and if people can solve their own problems without waiting for a customer service representative, they’re happy to do it. 98% of customers say they’ve tried a self-service solution, even going so far as to search a company’s FAQs and help centers before trying anything else. Over a third (37%) will attempt self-serve options if available.

Giving customers efficient self-service options not only expands their potential avenues, but can decrease the number of help tickets submitted, reduce handling times, and improve their overall experience. But you can go beyond self-service and expand to other channels as well. 67% of customers have used live chat, social media, or even texting for customer services, while 36% of those in Gen Z prefer social media for their simplest inquiries.

3. Coordinate customer service channels

It’s one thing to have different service channels available, but customers should also be able to switch between service channels for a seamless experience. Brands can do this by using rich customer data to empower customer service reps and to provide each interaction with the appropriate context.

85% of customers will try a different service method if they don’t receive a response from their initial inquiry, which means many customers enter into an interaction with a brand with context already established. Brands should respond to this and utilize customer data to save time and to deliver a more personalized experience.

4. Get proactive

Identified a few common problems, questions, or points of friction for customers? With proactive support, you can get in front of those issues and guide customers through solutions to deliver maximum value. You can deliver this via in-product messaging, instructions and how-to videos, or even simple best practices or troubleshooting tips delivered in an email.

Having these proactive forms of customer service means a smoother overall customer experience that anticipates problems and gets out in front of any points of frustration that might damage your customer’s relationship with the product or service.

Embracing Customer Expectations

To meet the expectations of the modern customer, you don’t always have to be perfect--you just have to be better than the competition. Through utilizing multiple avenues of communication and accurately tracking your experiences with each customer, you’ll stand a better chance of increasing customer satisfaction.