8 Ways You Can Meet Customer Expectations and Close the Gap
Setting clear goals is an essential part of managing a successful company. But while your expectations for your team might shape their individual roles and daily workflows, they’re ultimately not the most important expectations your employees should be working to meet.
That’s because when it comes down to it, your success relies on how satisfied your customers are with the products and services you provide. But many companies seem to think that their audiences’ expectations will fall in line with whatever it is that they offer. That’s rarely ever the case.
Instead, you need to take the time to understand what your customers really want and adjust your products, services, and customer support accordingly. That’s why in this post, we’ll cover eight strategies you can use to learn more about your customers’ expectations, and close the gap between their goals and your own.
1. Get to Know Your Audience
The first step in meeting customer expectations is simply establishing a clear picture of who, exactly, your audience is. And this requires going beyond basic demographic information like age, gender, and location.
Of course, these details can be beneficial for developing marketing personas. But in order to really understand your customers, you need to dig deeper and learn about their needs and interests, as well as the factors that go into their buying decisions.
And your best resource for finding this information is your existing customer base. Ask your customers what led them to seek out your product, and why they chose it over other options on the market. Then, use their answers to develop a stronger understanding of what your audience is looking for when they research your company and make sure that you’re providing exactly that.
2. Make Sure You’re Reaching the Right Buyers
Most companies launch their products and services with a clear idea of who their ideal buyers are. But in many cases, those initial assumptions are wrong — or, at least, they’re not nearly specific enough. It’s important to recognize, then, that your ideal customers may not be who you think.
Fortunately, you can determine who they are by analyzing your existing customer base. What traits correlate with repeat purchases? Which segments tend to become long-term, loyal customers?
The answers to these questions will help you establish a more accurate picture of who you should be focusing on with your marketing and retention efforts.
For example, let’s say you’re an accounting software company and your target audience is business owners. After studying your customer base, you notice that customers who work at mid-sized businesses are more likely to upgrade to your premium plan and to stay with your product longer than their small business and enterprise-sized counterparts. This signals that you should shift your focus to these high-value customers, and make them a priority when making key business decisions.
3. Look for New Ways to Meet Customer Needs
Once you’ve identified who your most valuable audience is and what it is that they’re looking for, it should be your goal to continuously find new ways to better meet their needs. After all, you should never expect your audience to change their expectations to fit your product. Instead, you need to be willing to change your product to fit their expectations.
Sticking with the account software example, let’s say you’ve determined that your mid-size business customers’ main priorities are improving efficiency and saving time.
As you consider which new features to add to your product, you should keep your focus on these goals — not on what your competitors are doing, or on the kinds of additions your team thinks would be exciting to create.
When you keep the focus on what your customers actually want, you can be sure that they’ll welcome your product improvements instead of viewing them as unnecessary bells and whistles.
4. Set Clear Standards for Your Support Team
As the team that interacts with your customers most often, your support team has a major impact on whether or not your company meets customer expectations.
This means that hiring and training an excellent team of agents is one of the most important investments you can make in your brand. And the best way to ensure that your agents provide the level of service your customers deserve is by setting clear standards.
First, you’ll want to set goals for key support metrics like first response time, average resolution time, and first call resolution rate. These are the easiest metrics to monitor and measure, and they can help you establish concrete benchmarks for your team.
Then, create guidelines for responding to specific inquiries. Write a list of the most common questions and issues you hear from customers, and establish appropriate responses for each. This way, you can provide consistent customer support experience for each of your customers, and be confident that their interactions are top-notch every time.
5. Be as Transparent as Possible
One of the most important factors in whether you’re able to meet customer expectations is whether you take the time to help them set accurate expectations in the first place.
Some companies make it their sole focus at the beginning of each customer’s experience with their brand to generate a sale. And while the reasoning behind this focus is clear, it’s not the best way to set your customers up for success.
Instead, make it your focus to fully educate prospective buyers on what you have to offer, what they can expect from your brand, and what policies they’ll be agreeing to if they become a customer. Be fully transparent about pricing information, return and cancellation policies, and the level of support they can expect from your team when they need assistance.
Sharing this information may not be as fun for your sales team as showing off new features and impressive case studies, but taking the time to do so up front prevents your customers from being caught off guard by policies they don’t like in the future. This way, they can make an informed decision about making a purchase — and have clear expectations for your brand before they spend a single cent.
6. Develop a Customer-centric Culture
Many companies put the responsibility of managing customer happiness solely on their support teams. But this shouldn’t be the case. That’s because when it comes down to it, each employee’s contributions have an impact on your customers’ experience with your products and services. And you can highlight this impact by developing a customer-centric culture.
Encourage your employees to keep your customers at the center of each decision they make, whether they’re a developer adding new features, or a marketer coming up with new campaigns.
This way, everything your company does will be done with the end user in mind — and will be much more likely to meet and exceed their expectations.
7. Collect Feedback Regularly
As you work towards meeting customer expectations, the best way to gauge whether your efforts are successful is to collect feedback on a regular basis.
Send customer satisfaction surveys, and ask questions about the entire customer experience. Can customers easily find the information they need to make decisions? Is the buying process user-friendly? Does your product itself live up to their expectations?
Asking these questions will help you not only get a sense of the experience your brand provides, but can also help you learn which parts of the process you could be doing better so that you can make the kinds of impactful changes your customers want.
8. Scope Out Your Competitors
If a customer has worked with one of your competitors in the past, their expectations of your company will be largely based on that previous experience.
And the only way to know whether you’re living up to those expectations is to spend some time learning about your competitors. What are they doing well? What do their customers like about their brand? And what are they doing that you aren’t?
If there’s a particular part of the customer experience that a competitor is doing better than you, it’s in your best interest to focus your efforts on improving that part of the experience with your brand. Then, instead of worrying about living up to the expectations created by other companies, you can focus on making the kinds of improvements your competitors will struggle to keep up with.
Meeting customer expectations isn’t always easy. But it certainly isn’t impossible, either. Get to know your audience, make sure they’re the right audience for your brand, and learn as much as you possibly can about their needs and goals.
Then, set clear expectations from the start, and make sure that current and prospective customers always have the information they need to make informed decisions.
Finally, collect feedback on a regular basis to determine how well you’re meeting your customers’ expectations. Use the insight you gain to make necessary changes to your approach, and you’ll become much more successful in building a company your customers love.