Aligning with Customer Expectations

“The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them – preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.” – Richard Branson

The simple meaning of aligning with customer expectations is for companies to understand value in the way that customers perceive it and the expectations they have from a company. Customers must feel assured that irrespective of where or how they a company’s product, they will get top quality and great customer service. Companies, which are able to do so consistently, would be able to claim alignment with customer expectations. The success of a company / brand depends on its ability to create and maintain an emotional connection with its customers. This is what would give it a competitive edge, over even the most established, and reputed companies. Aligning with customer expectations would mean staying in touch with customers, and interacting with them on a personal level in a bid to keep pace with their evolving needs and expectations.

In today’s digitally connected world, companies have no choice but to ensure their businesses are in sync with customer expectations, especially given the multiple channels that customers can engage with a company. Customers expect that they would receive consistently good service across all channels, and would not need to repeat any previous information. A company that would be aligned to customer expectations would differentiate itself by offering authentic and valuable experiences to its customers, and each experience would reflect its values and beliefs. Staying true to its core would make a company seem trustworthy and believable. When a company can do so repeatedly, customers would stick even in a time and market when they have multiple choices. Customers stay when they can perceive and believe that a company understands them and would always be willing and able to meet their changing needs.

Aligning with customer expectations is about targeted messaging – messages that appear relevant to the particular customer. Without relevant messages, a company would be unable to highlight its value proposition for its customers, and without such differentiation it would just be one more in the crowd. Customers want to know that a company is ‘listening’ to them, and are happy to pay for services and products that seem specifically made to satisfy their needs and meet their expectations. The market today is harsh – customers are short on time and patience, and usually give a company only one chance to make a lasting first impression. It then becomes the onus of a company to reinforce the perception through its marketing efforts and providing value to the customers on a consistent basis. Aligning with customer expectations is about knowing what customers expect from a company and ensuring that a company consistently meets and exceeds them. In turn, customers reward a company by staying with it for a long time, and becoming increasingly profitable for the company.

The companies today that are termed successful have followed a simple mantra – not settling for less than the best for its customers. Their daily operations and philosophy reflects their commitment to align themselves with their customers, and deliver much more that what is expected of them. By aligning with customer expectations they have a clear direction and are able to find ways to wow their customers each time.  We know that in today’s competitive business environment, simply satisfying customer expectations will not ‘win the game’. Customers would constantly be prone to ‘distractions’ and would be easily lured away by competition, who would offer lower prices for the same products. Customers want more in return for their loyalty – and only companies that consistently give them ‘that more’, would succeed in retaining their customers in a market that seems to be shrinking rapidly.

To build brand loyalty and ‘ardent fans’ from your customer base, it would be necessary to constantly exceed customer expectations, and deliver experiences that would be memorable and aligned with their expectations. By aligning with customer expectations a company can ensure that it gives customers its best, and this would be something that they would never find elsewhere. It is common sense – a company cannot meet (let alone exceed) customer expectations without knowing and aligning with those expectations first. To give customers what they want, a company must know what they love and hate, and what kind of service would keep them ‘hooked’ to the company.

Aligning with customer expectations is not an overnight task and neither should it be guesswork. In order to know for certain, a company must go back to the source of those expectations – ask the customers directly for their feedback. Ask them what they need and then put a robust plan in place to meet and exceed those needs. When used correctly, feedback from customers can prove to be a beacon that would present a clear picture of what they expect, and what the company should do in order to surpass their levels of expectation.

As mentioned, customers have become more demanding and intelligent. They now explore multiple avenues and companies to get their needs fulfilled. Customer service today must be top class and that would include speed – customers do not have the time or patience to wait for solutions to tackle their problems. They want prompt resolutions, without a compromise on the quality of the solutions – a company that can do this would have found the ‘secret’ to success. In our previous exposition, we wrote that poor customer service would be a company’s real competitor, and in order to rid itself of this ‘competitor’ a company must ensure that its ‘people’ deliver only the best service. For employees to know what top class customer service is about, they must receive training and coaching regularly, and should be treated with respect and care by their company. Happy and empowered employees make top class customer service their duty and responsibility. Imagine if all the employees in a company came to work with a single-minded focus of keeping customers happy, loyal, and delighted – success would be guaranteed.

The small things such as common courtesy – a pleasant greeting, a please and thank you, a genuine smile – all go a long way in ensuring that customers want to stay associated with a company. Things that a company may consider trivial, and or a waste of their time and resources, could actually be the things that make the difference between a great experience and an average one for the customer. These things add a personal touch, make a customer feel unique and special, which in turn makes them want to stay with a company. By aligning with customer expectations, a company would be better equipped to personalize the experiences of each customer, and offer them products customized to their unique needs.

It is understandable that a single company would not be good and proficient at everything. However, in order to remain the best of the best, it would be essential for a company to carve its niche, and become so good at what it does that customers never need to seek another company for the same set of offerings. The hype around top class customer experiences is justifiable, and companies that can provide the best experiences would be the ones to receive customer attention and business. How aligned is your company to customer expectations?

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