Customers are empowered with more access to information, businesses, and options than ever before. Because of this, customer service expectations when it comes to brands have soared. And these higher expectations have to be met — or companies risk getting left behind the competition.
While customer expectations can differ between companies and industries, we’ll explore some common themes and trends you can use for your customer service strategy. To begin with, let’s define customer expectations.
What are customer expectations?
Customer expectations are customers’ assumptions about a brand, product, or service and the level of care they need to receive throughout their journey to be happy with their investment in that product, service, or company.
These expectations hail from a variety of factors, including previous experiences with your business, customer communications, interactions with industry competitors, and reviews from other customers.
The levels of customer expectations have got more and more demanding over time — especially on the back of constant technological advancement. Meeting these rising customer expectations is mission-critical to ensuring customer satisfaction and coming out on top during a purchasing decision.
Whether you’re a small business, or a large one, knowing and factoring customer expectations into your customer service strategy is paramount to exceeding customer expectations and building customer loyalty.
10 customer service expectations you can’t ignore
As John Jantsch, Founder of Duct Tape Marketing, says, “Customer service is an opportunity to exceed your customer’s expectations.”
Here are some essentials to keep in mind as you work to understand, meet, and exceed customer expectations for a good customer experience.
1. Personalized experiences
Customers expect to be treated as distinct, unique individuals. This means having a personalized experience across all interactions with your business and encompasses everything from knowing their contact info and preferences to purchase and interaction history.
In fact, 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations. By connecting your CRM to your live chat platform and other technology, your agents can address customers by name and offer customized discounts and product recommendations for personalized service.
2. Privacy and data protection
In the U.S., 63 percent of consumers say they’d share more information with a company that offers a great experience.
However, there’s a fine line that businesses need to walk when it comes to personalization and customer privacy. Customers still want control and transparency over the info you use and how you use it. As a result, businesses need to be clear about what data they’re collecting and why, as well as provide concrete evidence that the data is safe — by using trust certificates, for example.
3. Omnichannel support
Customers want the convenience of communicating with you on their preferred channel. However, channel preference varies across generations and the complexity of the customer support issue. So, you need to be able to communicate through a range of avenues, including live chat, email, social media, telephone, SMS, your physical store, and more.
But that’s only half the story. You also need to ensure the experiences between channels are connected together seamlessly. This way, interactions can easily move from one channel to another and flow like one continuous conversation.
To meet these service expectations, integrate your customer service technology and workflow into a single platform and encourage collaboration between agents and departments.
4. Rapid response time
When it comes to online experiences, 94 percent of consumers cite speed as a key contributor to a great experience. Consumers also list resolving their issues within a single interaction as the most important aspect of a good customer service experience.
A couple of ways to offer fast and efficient resolutions are to actively check for complaints across all channels, including social media and review websites, as well as have the technology in place (live chat, for example) to facilitate rapid responses in the first place. It’s also important to ensure agents have the knowledge and resources to give customers quick and accurate responses.
5. Self-service options
Self-service customer support is growing increasingly popular — with 90 percent of survey respondents saying they expect brands and organizations to offer an online portal for self-service.
Customers can take advantage of the convenience of using self-service resources, like chatbots, help centers, and community forums to find answers on their own anytime without reaching out to customer support.
6. Proactive customer support
With the amount of customer data available today, customers expect businesses to be proactive — about 70 percent of people have a more positive view of brands that offer proactive customer service notifications.
To implement proactive support, reach out to customers using live chat or chatbots based on certain triggers — for example, if they have spent an unusually long time on a particular page. Also make sure to use the information you have on hand, such as customer behavior or trending topics in support interactions, as well as keeping any content you provide up to date. You can even actively solicit customer feedback through surveys throughout the customer journey to ask how you can improve the service.
With this data, you can identify recurring customer issues and address them with customers before they become bigger problems.
7. Digital innovation
Among the different trends, digital customer expectations are among the fastest rising. Over 3 out of 5 consumers say retail technologies and innovations improved their shopping experience.
As technology evolves, customers expect businesses to incorporate new tech and tools like AI chatbots, VR, AR, and video, to improve customer service processes and efficiency — 72 percent of customers expect virtual assistance to become more common, along with 68 percent expecting immersive virtual or augmented reality experiences, for example.
8. User-friendly interactions
The top factors customers attribute to a memorable online experience include up-to-date inventory (listed by 15 percent of consumers) and ease of usage, such as easy navigation (13 percent) and user-friendly design (12 percent).
With more customers going online, it’s essential to keep your information and resources up to date with content that’s easy to find and relevant to your customers’ most frequent questions.
You can also optimize your website’s user experience, including mobile experiences, to remove navigational friction and provide clear instructions, calls to action, and ways to reach support or give feedback.
9. Being heard and understood
Only 38 percent of U.S. consumers say the employees they interact with understand their needs; 46 percent of consumers outside the U.S. say the same.
When agents interact with customers, it’s important to make customers feel listened to and acknowledged. Customer feedback should be noted and acted upon. And the team should keep customers updated to let them know how the problem is being addressed. It also helps to have customer information on hand so agents have a wider context to work within and understand any historical interactions.
10. Transparency and honesty
Transparency is a top tip for customer engagement, as more and more customers want businesses to embody their values. A large majority (62 percent) of customers say they have stopped buying from a company whose values didn’t align with theirs.
This includes genuine and open communication about a product or service and delivering on the promises your solutions advertise.
And, if things go wrong, apologize, accept responsibility, and let customers know what to expect with timing and follow-up while awaiting a resolution.
How to exceed customer expectations
Now that we’ve looked at different types of customer expectations, here are some practical ways to go above and beyond them to see the benefits of meeting customer expectations.
Understand your customers
To provide a truly efficient and effective customer support experience, you need to know what customers want, their common issues, and how to measure customer expectations.
This can include qualitative research like getting feedback, reading reviews, or following trends in customer support. You can also follow up with customers throughout their journey to ensure that they can resolve their issues successfully. In addition, you can use CSAT scores and other customer service KPIs.
The right tools can help with managing customer expectations. With an all-in-one customer support platform, you can organize incoming requests across channels, automate customer support with chatbots, knowledge bases, and other self-service features, and personalize your customer experience with data and analytics.
Embed a customer service mindset into your team culture
To build a consistent and quality customer support experience, create a standard training program for your service representatives. Topics can include how to handle customer interactions and satisfy customer expectations through clear communication, empathy, using chat etiquette, and conveying a friendly and welcoming tone.
Get in front of problems
Once you know customers' needs and expectations, you can get ahead of common issues by empowering customers with resources like tutorials, videos, and walkthroughs. You're bound to exceed customer expectations by anticipating problems before they arise with proactive customer service.
Ever-evolving customer service expectations
When it comes to customers' expectations, it’s important to remember that the work is never done. High customer expectations will continue to rise and set an even higher bar for the future.
As long as you strive to stay attuned to these expectations, you can close the gap between them and reality to deliver excellent customer service that adds value for your customers.