The four areas of customer expectations
What are the factors that contribute to an expectation? Is it the customer’s own needs, the product recommendations by other people, the communication of a company, or is it a mix of all that? We introduce the four areas that contribute to customer expectations.
What comes first is the need. Or, to put it in another way, a person notices that he lacks something. He wishes to solve this and envisions how a potential, ideal solution might look for him. With their offers, companies satisfy the needs (or the deficiency symptoms) of people. Sometimes, they can also generate some needs with innovation.
Meanwhile, and while a person is in the course of satisfying his needs, he encounters a number of solutions: Countless companies are floundering in the market, offering their solutions to meet a specific demand. Let's take Ralf as a hypothetical customer who needs to make his living room a bit more atmospheric. A floor lamp is intended to remedy the lack of atmosphere. He is spoiled for choice - which floor lamp should he choose?
Every company that offers a suitable product to satisfy the customer’s needs promises him with something. His expectations and/or his catalog of requirements for the quality of the product and the associated services expand with each of these promises.
Experiences and observations
On his journey through the world of supply, Ralf first observes the respective companies and remembers them as rated experiences: He found his way around Company A’s website quickly, and the products were well described and illustrated. The conversation he had with the customer service was pleasant, and he received competent advice. A few years ago, he once had a bad experience with Company C. This observation is anchored in his inner catalog of requirements. He does not want to live through this experience again. The combination of all experiences made from previous customer relationships along with the current observations of companies forms the third area of customer expectation.
Somewhat confused by the many possibilities, Ralf looks at the product reviews and checks online portals. Two companies with their offers are now out of his list. He sends his friends a request via Facebook and asks for their recommendations. Within 15min, he receives answers. Four of his friends recommend him offer A. They had excellent experiences with it.
The customer expectation is formed
Ralf now chooses Company A. He has established his individual expectations based on his needs and ideas, his accumulated experiences, the company promises, and the recommendations during his purchase decision journey. He now knows what he wants and thinks that Company A will best meet his product quality standards and service requirements.
Were the expectations fulfilled?
Eventually, the floor lamp breaks down, or there is a more modern, improved version. Ralf wants to replace it. Now he can look back on a wealth of experience he gained with Company A. Has Company A met or exceeded his catalog of requirements and expectations? If so, then Ralf will surely repurchase the product from Company A. If not, the purchase decision journey will begin again.
Expectations arise from the four areas:
- Needs, wishes and own ideas
- Company’s communication and promises
- Recommendations from third parties
- Experience with the company and with direct/indirect competition
Today’s customer expectations for companies are enormous. It is crucial for marketing to understand that the expectations of customers can be controlled by the dimension of the promise. All collected observations and previous experiences with the rival companies contribute substantially to the expectation of a customer in the course of his purchase decision journey. Companies that proactively approach their customers and seek dialogue via customer feedback always know at what point in the customer journey they meet the customer expectations or not. They can actively shape customer relationships to create positive customer experiences. Customers also report these positive experiences and thus form the expectations of customers in the market.