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I meet many organizations that say they want to exceed customer expectations at every moment of contact. I tell them they are mad! No organization can afford to do this.

The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations

- Roy H. Williams, Author of the Wizard of Ads

For most organizations, just meeting their customer’s expectations would provide a good experience. To create a great experience you have to define which areas customers value most and exceed these aspects of the customer experience. Defining these areas implies knowing what the customer’s expectations are.

In this post, we will take a closer look at customer expectations, and how they affect your organization’s ability to deliver a customer-centric customer experience.

Most organizations know what their customer rational expectations are. They know how quickly they want a delivery, how much people are willing to pay for their product and what features it needs to have. What they don’t know is what their customer emotional expectations are, a massive gap in their understanding of their customers. When you understand a customer’s emotional expectations, you can design an emotionally-based experience.

The four actions needed to exceed customer expectations

Four actions must accompany the design of an experience that exceeds customer expectations: Managing, Researching, Reviewing, and Supporting. Let’s take a closer look at each of these and how the most customer-centric organizations use them to exceed customer expectations:

  • Managing: Decisions about how to manage the emotional expectations of the customer must be made, including which ones are most important and how these will be exceeded. How this is done and why it’s important are well known to all involved in the most customer-centric companies
  • Researching: When a company is looking to exceed emotional expectations for a customer, they need to know what their emotional expectations are for each moment in the experience. To get this information, they need to research and document these expectations in their current experience. This technique can require detailed research including Implicit-Association Tests (IAT), which is a test that measures the strength of the association between concepts and memory, or a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), a technique for measuring brain activity in response to stimulus
  • Reviewing: One thing all customer-centric companies know is that customer expectations change. What might have been enough last year, is not enough this year. As a result, Customer-centric organizations review their customer expectations regularly and frequently, and at the very least annually
  • Supporting: Organizations that are mindful of customer expectation include budget to exceed them. This budget is earmarked to exceed customer expectations. These resources enable the team to take action in cases where it is needed to surprise and delight customers

The only expectations that matter in customer experience design

One of the biggest dangers an organization faces is the people that ‘know’ what a customer expects. The conversation normally goes like this, “I know what our customers want, I have been doing this job for years.” Or, “I have been a customer of our product for years, so I know what customers want.” NO, YOU DON’T. Please don’t fall into that trap. To find out a customer’s expectations you must ask them! They might not be not what your management would like them to be.

Sometimes this can be a tough sell to your senior management. First it requires them to let go of their preconceived ideas.

However, our history creating these types of experiences shows that when you exceed the emotional expectations of what customers want, the time, resources, and commitment are all well spent. Furthermore, your organization’s business goals are met—and exceeded!

So I ask you… whose expectations are at the center of your customer experience design today?

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About Colin Shaw

Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organisations devoted to customer experience. Colin has been recognised by LinkedIn as one of the top 150 business influencers in the world. He is an international author of four best-selling books on customer experience. Colin’s company, Beyond Philosophy provides consulting, specialised research & training from its global headquarters in Florida, USA. @ColinShaw_CX

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