How To Drive Delight In An Age Of Fast-changing Customer Expectations

Archers and bowmen trained in instinctive shooting have a special skill.

Bystanders will see them take their stance, tighten the grip on their bow, and shoot swiftly and accurately by ‘instinct’. But their perfect shot is attributed to consistent practice and extreme focus that builds muscle memory to make their execution so natural and seamless.

Persistent and focused efforts by brands to decode shifting customer expectations help in landing the perfect shot at customer delight. The relationship between customers and brands must become so well-coordinated that companies should anticipate and know how to draw customers almost by ‘instinct’.

In the past year, the steady growth in digital channels and an astounding burst in e-commerce sales have altered customer expectations in numerous ways. A shocking rise in brand switching — 40% of U.S consumers changed brands for better value and quality of products during the pandemic1 — puts immense pressure on companies to know and meet customers’ expectations.

Now to the bigger question. What do customers expect from brands? What makes them smile, love, and call out brands with nostalgia in their everyday conversations?

Drawing pointers from Freshworks’ recent global survey titled ‘Deconstructing Delight’ covering 11,000+ consumers across ten countries, we’ve presented the key customer expectations that your team should be aware of, to aim and pin customer delight instinctively.

What do customers really expect from brands?

Yes, customers have complex needs, but they have certain fundamental expectations that brands must be aware of to be truly customer-centric and successful.

# Expectation 1: “Be mindful of what I value and care about.”

Not a hard ask, but a fair and straightforward expectation from customers is for brands to have more information on the people they interact with. 55% of customers* expect companies to know more about them — getting contact details right (37%), understanding their brand relationship history (25%) — while engaging with them.

Today’s buyers are also more value or purpose-driven and hold strong opinions on various issues — sustainable living, cruelty-free products, societal giving to name a few — which drive their purchasing decisions. 63% of consumers* expect brands to consider their personal values while communicating with them. 

Aligning your brand to what customers care and value has a positive impact on revenue and brand loyalty. 77% of consumers2 agree that they buy from brands who share their same values, and 84% of customers3 nod to being more loyal to such companies.

Take the example of a purpose-driven brand like Bombas socks. With a clear mission to clothe shelterless people, they manufacture high-quality socks that reach the needy every time someone purchases from their store. They’ve given more than 50 million pairs of socks to shelter homes as part of their 1-Purchased, 1-Donated cause. Their mission strikes a chord with value-oriented customers as they’ve exceeded $100 million in yearly revenue within five years into the business4.

Bombas socks - Purpose-driven brand
Purpose-driven brands witness more sales

#Expectation 2: “Value my time, please.”

Brutal truth: Customers hate brands that waste their time. Period.

80% of customers* want quicker responses from companies, and 22% find call center wait times too long. Accustomed to same-day deliveries and swift responses in other industries, customers measure a brand’s performance with the same yardstick and have higher expectations, only to be disappointed.

Now, this doesn’t mean having a solution to every customer’s need instantly. Instead, customers wish to know upfront if their needs can be met by a brand or not. A polite yet direct ‘no’ to a specific request in the very first interaction saves your brand reputation, rather than making the customer go in circles with no resolution in sight, leading to a frustrated customer and a dented brand experience. 

Customers expect timely acknowledgment and updates on their order or issue resolution to make them feel more valued.

#Expectation 3: “Make it easy for me to transact and interact with you.”

Today’s customers are looking for easy and instant ways to purchase and interact with a brand. A glitchy website experience on an e-commerce site or a complicated checkout process is enough to make customers go scouting for better options.

Frictionless and hassle-free customer experiences win over memorable and immersive moments, as per a recent HBR article, which shows how customers prioritize convenience and ease of carrying out business consistently.

Customer loyalty depends on how easy you make it for your customers to do business with you – Gartner

Convenience store chain Wawa, which has over 900 stores along the East coast of the United States, wanted to make coffee, salads, and their signature hoagies truly convenient to order. Their decision to double down on ordering effortlessly5 via their mobile app along with their move to provide fresh, made-to-order food earned loyal fans to the ‘Wawa’ brand.

Customers raving about effortless service at Wawa stores
Customers raving about effortless service at Wawa stores

Customers also expect brands to be easily accessible when they have a query. They don’t want to have to reach out on a pop-up chat on your site, an automated IVR, an angry tweet, AND an email to voice out a single concern. On the other hand, going omnichannel and offering a unified experience across all these channels brings down customer efforts, making customers stick to the brand.

Gartner reveals that disloyalty to brands is high among customers with high-effort experiences at 96% compared to only 9% of customers with low-effort experiences.

#Expectation 4: “Be honest and stick to your core brand values.”

Our research shows that close to 80% of customers* expect brands to be more honest with them and 56% of customers say that a brand’s customer service experience often doesn’t match the image they portray.

As per an Accenture report, transparency in sourcing materials, product pricing, and employee work ethics attract about 66% of customers to buy from a brand. In addition, clear and fast responses to customers are considered as critical factors in building trust by 59% of the consumers6

Once a brand earns people’s trust, they enjoy loyal customers and happy advocates, as brand authenticity drives 90% of customers7 to choose the brand they’re willing to support. 

Edelman trust report
Benefits of building brand trust

5 Ways to exceed customer expectations and delight your customers  

Going back to the instinctive archers drawing their bow and shooting intuitively, one critical technique they need to master is focusing on the smallest point of their exact target to shoot with precision.

To hit the sweet spot of customer delight, the commitment to improve a series of smaller experience targets takes you closer to managing customer expectations efficiently.

Let’s take a look at some of these targets.

#1 Invest in listening to what your customers value

A no-brainer yet often-overlooked or preassumed step is to take the time, effort, and resources to truly understand what your customers expect to experience while interacting with your company.

Mapping out a detailed customer journey and knowing customers’ key touchpoints helps you better understand your audience’s behavior and preferences. Tapping into the wealth of customer information you have from website sessions, support interactions, and marketing initiatives to gives a unified view of your customers.

Sometimes, all you have to do is just pay attention to what your customers are saying about your brand — on feedback forms, review sites, social media, communities, or support portals. 92% of consumers6 say brands don’t listen to them all the time. So taking the effort to listen to them and act on their feedback helps them feel more valued and gives you insights into what customers expect from your brand.

Related resource: The Complete Guide to Customer Feedback

#2 Opt for personalized and contextual interactions at scale

About 77% of customers* are willing to exchange their personal data for a superior customer experience, though privacy is also a significant concern. Companies should find the balance in collecting and responsibly utilizing customer data for a better customer experience

New services must make it easy for companies to swiftly provide quicker, more personal service that meets soaring consumer expectations in this post-pandemic economic boom. – Prakash Ramamurthy, Chief Product Officer at Freshworks.

Personalized and contextual customer engagement begins by first getting the basics right. Addressing customers rightly with their names and having their purchase or relationship history easily accessible makes a big difference.

Customers get irked at repeating the same information to multiple people within the company to get their concerns addressed. To them, the first point of contact represents the whole brand, and they expect the company to have information and context of their previous experiences with the brand.

Small-sized businesses have an advantage in offering such personalized and contextual experiences — 34% of customers say they love shopping from a small business because they feel a personal connection. 

But how do you maintain the same level of commitment to humanized and personal interactions as your business grows? 

The answer lies in integrating your customer data across CRM and support platforms , and identifying distinct, behavior-based customer segments to set up smart workflow automation. That’s exactly what India’s leading fitness training brand – did. They aggregated customer data across different communication channels and platforms to give their agents better context while interacting with their customers, which led to faster and improved issue resolutions.  

Related resource: How to Ensure Personalized Customer Service Every Single Time

#3 Prioritize the quality of customer service

 A 2021 PwC survey indicates that 26% of customers8 perceive exceptional customer service as a major factor influencing brand loyalty. Making it a priority to deliver consistently delightful customer service interactions directly impacts the overall brand experience and business revenue.

Case in point, Zappos is well known for its unwavering commitment towards excellent customer service and it takes the No.1 spot in their core values9. Their staunch belief in delivering ‘Wow’ moments through great customer service accelerated them to reach $1 billion in annual sales within ten years of starting up.

Zappos customer service example
Zappos winning because of their commitment to exceptional customer service

Fundamental elements of good customer service include –

  • Timely response to customer queries
  • Offering knowledgeable and contextual help that drives resolution
  • Being available for your customers across different communication channels
  • Extending proactive support that eases customer

A stellar support team — well-trained in crucial customer service skills and assisted by intelligent bot capabilities — along with robust self-service options spread across your support strategy helps up your game in customer service.

Related resource: 10 Practical tips to improve your customer service

#4 Allow customers to reach you on their favorite channels seamlessly

Digital shopping has opened up multiple channels for customers to purchase and interact with a brand. A rise in channels means more business for companies — omnichannel shoppers in the U.S consumer packaged goods (CPG) market spend 23% more than10 those who shop only in physical stores.

While that looks like a promising number, companies have to work harder and smarter to provide seamless experiences to customers across every channel. This implies maintaining superior standards in speed and quality of interactions in each channel, including physical stores, social media, email, chat, call, and self-help portals — without losing context of a customer’s need.

Managing customer expectations and achieving customer delight in a multichannel setup demands a connected and holistic view of the customer without treating every channel as a separate and siloed interaction.

When the pandemic forced many businesses to switch to online selling channels, ShipTime — a shipping solutions provider, saw a massive uptick in their support queries. Dave Wilson, the vice president of operations at ShipTime, wanted to give their customers more options to access their support for faster resolutions.

Taking the omnichannel approach to customer service, Dave’s integrated Freshdesk with its messaging and cloud telephony capabilities brought down response times to 30 seconds from 6 minutes and saw a positive rise in CSAT scores.

Freshdesk has helped us communicate better with our customers using different entry-points like email, chat, call, or web portal based on what kind of communication method the customer prefers – Dave Wilson, Vice President of Operations, ShipTime.

#5 Measure regularly how you’re faring in meeting customer expectations

After you’ve set up experiments and techniques to address customer expectations, it is vital to measure if these changes meet or fall short of what a customer expects. You’ll then know if you can retain the change or make any adjustments to the existing process. 

While some customers voice their opinions on such changes publicly on review sites and social media platforms, you could also request their specific feedback with tailored survey questions to measure particular aspects of brand experience. Common survey mechanisms include,

  • Customer satisfaction surveys (CSAT) that gauge how satisfied customers are with the product or service experience.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) which measures how likely someone is to recommend your product or service to their friends and family.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES) that checks how easy or tough it was for a customer to get their issue resolved during a support interaction.

To effectively measure your customers’ sentiment, incentivize and find creative ways to regularly collect feedback from your customers. In addition to surveys, keeping your eye on vital CX and support metrics like response times and first contact resolution rates enable you to track your progress in meeting customer service expectations.

Related resource: A complete guide to define, measure, and improve customer satisfaction

Don’t miss the opportunity to pursue customer delight by meeting customer expectations

An encouraging insight from our ‘Deconstructing Delight survey’ is that only 14% of consumers expect to be wowed by a company. This reveals that the bar is set quite low when it comes to brands working on meeting customer expectations.

In the post-pandemic economic boom, companies that delight their customers across in-person and digital channels will seize the lead. – Stacey Epstein, Chief Marketing Officer at Freshworks.

Customers crave attention and personal care from brands, and the market is yet to see a high infiltration of brands that align with what customers expect of them. Investing in knowing your customers deeply and implementing the right technologies for customer engagement and support helps you build the necessary muscle memory that instinctively aims for utmost customer delight.

Fast and personalized


Originally published on May 23, 2019. Updated on October 14, 2021.


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