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GuidesCustomer researchWhat are customer expectations & how can you exceed them?

What are customer expectations & how can you exceed them?

Last updated

18 July 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Eliz Ayaydin

Customers have more choices than ever about where and how they spend their money. With more selection comes sky-high anticipation for quality service.

Customers expect more from the services they use, the companies they spend money with, and the products they buy. Businesses must seriously impress customers to succeed in today's crowded marketplace.

Understanding customer expectations is essential for any modern business to build a loyal customer base and a healthier bottom line. From start-ups to large corporations, customers are the key to success. 

Learn more about customer expectations, their importance, and how to use them to create a successful, thriving business. 

What are customer expectations?

"Customer expectations" refers to anything a customer believes will happen when interacting with a company, its products, or its services. 

They relate to all customer interactions with a company, from their first visit to the company website to making a purchase or calling their customer service team. 

There are four levels: 

Basic

These are the bare minimum requirements a customer expects a business to fulfill, like product quality, fair pricing, and general customer service. 

Example: A customer expects the new hairdryer they’re buying to be reasonably priced and work as advertised. 

Expected

Customers anticipate these things based on previous interactions or what they've heard about other people's experiences. 

They are based on what the customer perceives as "normal" within the industry. 

Example: A customer expects a dealership to wash their car after a service appointment because all the other companies in the area do it. 

Desired

These are things a customer wants but might be unique in the industry, and they typically relate to the customer experience

Example: A customer purchases shoes online. When revisiting the online shop, the website recognizes the customer and makes recommendations based on their previous purchases. 

Unexpected

These are expectations that a customer has, but they might only be aware of them once the business meets them. This happens when a company goes above and beyond. 

Example: A customer is still deciding whether they want to try a new software package, so the company offers them a 90-day free trial to try it out with no cost or obligation. 

Understanding customer expectations helps businesses work to meet or exceed them. 

What are examples of customer expectations?

Your customers may have thousands of assumptions about your company and its products before they ever make a purchase, including: 

  • What problem the product solves

  • How a service meets their needs

  • How quickly a business answers the phone when they call

Some of the most common and important customer expectations your business can meet are: 

Personalization

Customers expect businesses to customize their experience, cater to their preferences, and build on their previous purchases and interactions. 

The more you can personalize the customer experience, the better. You can include everything from marketing to the purchasing process and customer service after the sale. 

Quality customer service

Customers expect a company's customer service to be prompt and effective when they have questions or issues. They expect the service to be enjoyable and remove obstacles to purchasing. 

Quick resolution for complaints

Customers expect complaints to be dealt with quickly and satisfactorily. 

Low-effort experiences

Customers expect a seamless experience requiring minimal effort on their part. 

Up-to-date knowledge

Customers expect businesses to have accurate, up-to-date information about their products and services, often beyond what they can research online. 

Omni-channel availability

Customers expect companies to be available across various channels, such as social media, email, and telephone. 

Easy-to-use platforms

Customers expect businesses to provide easy-to-use platforms like websites and apps to use their services or buy products. 

Performance

Customers expect products and services to perform well and do what they're meant to.

Data protection

Customers expect transparency around how companies use their personal information.

Innovation

Customers expect companies to evolve their offerings and create something new and exciting.

A good experience in these areas can prevent a company from losing customers to its competitors. 

How do customers form expectations?

Your customers will come to your business with certain assumptions already in place. Those may come from: 

  • Previous interactions with the company, both online and in-person

  • Their knowledge of the company from research, reviews, or recommendations

  • Similar or competing company experiences and products

Your company’s marketing, social media posts, and website content can also attract customers to discover what your business offers and how it will deliver it. 

Why are customer expectations important?

Customer expectations are fundamental to a business's success. A company can reap many benefits, including increasing its sales and revenue. 

Meeting expectations increases customer satisfaction, and satisfied customers are more likely to return to your business and recommend your products and services to others. 

Over time, you build a loyal customer base and enhance your brand reputation. These critical elements create a business that can withstand even the most challenging economic times. 

Knowing what your customers want from your business is essential to delivering a memorable and unique experience that they'll want to repeat. 

Failing to meet them can result in losing their business to your competitors. You shouldn't be willing to take that risk in a competitive and crowded market. 

How have customer expectations changed over time?

Seamless and quick transactions

As the marketplace changes with technology and trends, so do customer expectations. The rise of e-commerce has led customers to expect a seamless and convenient online experience. 

They want to browse a company's products online, make a purchase in a few clicks, and receive the order quickly with minimal effort. 

They expect their online transaction to be secure and have various payment options. If your company falls short, customers will likely end up on a competitor's website. 

Connected experiences across digital channels

Technology has also led to customers assuming a company will meet them wherever they are and whenever they want. That means customers want to reach a company through their preferred channel, whether on a social media platform, website, or email. 

Companies must attend to all channels, so they may need to increase customer service resources to meet customer expectations. 

Aligning values with brand loyalty

Consumers are becoming more socially aware of how their choices impact the world, particularly their social and environmental impact. 

Because of that awareness, consumers expect businesses to take a stand on social and ecological issues, prioritizing sustainability, ethical practices, and social responsibility. 

Consumers are more likely to shop with brands that align with their moral values, and corporations are no longer ambiguous entities. 

How to go beyond customer expectations

When there’s so much marketplace competition, and customers are more informed than ever, it's no longer enough to only meet expectations. 

You must consistently exceed expectations to build a loyal customer base and a positive brand reputation.

While that may feel overwhelming, it doesn't have to be.

Your business can integrate key strategies into your operations right now. These examples can help you start wowing customers and building a loyal brand following:

Create opportunities for customers to self-serve

The more you can automate a process and allow customers to serve themselves, the better. 

It's often more convenient and faster for customers than waiting for a company response. They don't have to wait on hold or stand by while someone else finds the answer for them. 

When customers can access the information they need and choose the best solution independently, it empowers them and puts them in control. They can resolve issues faster, making them more likely to view the company positively. It can also lead to more loyalty in the long run. 

Instead of paying labor for problem solvers, you can allow customers to serve themselves, making this a cost-effective idea to implement. 

Customers can solve their problems through resources like FAQ pages, instructional videos, chatbots, and social media posts.

Approach each interaction with empathy

Empathy is key to good customer communication. Showing empathy during every customer interaction allows businesses to build customer relationships and understand their needs and concerns. 

Empathy can help you find more effective solutions to a customer's problems and prevent issues from happening in the future. It’s also an easy way to exceed expectations.

Some simple ways to show empathy in customer service are: 

  • Listening carefully

  • Letting them vent

  • Repeating and confirming what they’ve said (active listening)

  • Being positive and patient

  • Staying respectful

  • Using validating phrases like “I understand where you are coming from.”

When you empathize with customers, you increase their satisfaction with the interaction. The customer will be more likely to recommend your business to others. 

Set expectations and meet them

Setting accurate assurances that you can consistently meet is the best way to build customer trust. Customers are far more likely to return to a business if they are confident they won’t be disappointed. 

Clear communication and full transparency prevents unrealistic or unclear expectations and reduces misunderstandings between the customer and the business.  

It makes a business accountable, too. When you set expectations, you must take ownership of them and deliver on them. Otherwise, you could put your company's reputation in danger. 

Create moments of delight

Providing good customer service is a baseline expectation: It's forgettable. 

Times where you surprise and delight a customer are memorable. When you intentionally seek to create those moments of delight, you create positive, unique experiences for the customer. 

Delighted customers are more loyal and more likely to share their positive experiences with others. It's also an excellent way to differentiate your business from your competition. 

You can create moments of delight in small ways: 

  • Unexpected rewards

  • Free samples

  • Celebrating milestones

  • Exclusive events or promos

  • Going the extra mile

  • Anticipating your customer's needs 

These are all easy ways to delight your customers, and your team should look for opportunities to go the extra mile. 

Ask for feedback and apologize when necessary

No company gets it all right the first time. Be open to feedback from your customers and adapt to meet their needs. 

Collecting customer feedback regularly and asking the right questions is a great way to gather insight into their expectations and what they’d like to see from your business. 

Feedback removes assumptions from the equation, giving you first-person accounts of how to improve. 

You won't get it right every time, either. Being humble and apologizing when you get something wrong can go a long way with a customer. 

When you sincerely apologize and try to right a wrong, you can create a happy, loyal customer for life. It helps to be more human.

Create a customer-centric culture

Foster a company environment that encourages employees to put the customer at the center of their decision-making processes. Regardless of what team they are on, each employee can contribute to customer happiness by keeping the user in mind. 

For example, when designers create new features, and marketers develop new campaigns, they can put customers at the center of each decision. 

The responsibility for customer happiness doesn’t only lie on the shoulders of the customer service team. 

Creating a shared customer-first mindset is a great way to exceed customer expectations.

How are you exceeding your customers' expectations? 

Do you know what your customers expect from you? Are you clear on how you are meeting expectations and how you can exceed them? 

Knowing your customers' wants is the first step in delivering an incredible experience. It enables you to build a loyal customer base that repeatedly recommends you to others and buys your products. 

Take time to learn about customer expectations through customer service surveys, feedback, and analyzing customer behavior. Dovetail can help you create a home for customer insights that are searchable, shareable, and ready to explore so you can deliver a top-tier customer experience. Try it for free today.

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