Consumer sentiment is a fickle thing, as all too many business owners have discovered the hard way. However, when it comes to predicting buyer behavior and how customers will react to a product or service, one thing is certain: Expectations forever grow higher, not lower.
Due to today's advanced technology, it's more important than ever for organizations to focus on meeting expectations through superior customer service.
Technology has transformed modern consumers
Partnering with Forrester Consulting, Accenture Interactive published a report in 2016 based on 702 online surveys and 11 interviews with customer experience decision-makers.
"Complacency is evident when comparing how brands benchmark themselves against their direct industry competition versus how their own customers evaluate them against best-in-class companies regardless of industry," the report stated. "We found that while 52 percent of respondents believe that they are ahead of their competitors or 'best in class' in their industries, only 7 percent are exceeding customers' expectations."
Part of the problem may be that business leaders fail to understand just how high expectations have risen. The driving force, of course, comes in the form of digital technology. Computers, and now smartphones and other mobile devices, have led to increased personalization for customers, regardless of industry. What's more, this technology promotes instantaneous results, meaning that even as customers expect more, they expect it faster.
Developed with comScore in 2016, the latest UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper report illustrated the modern mindset of tech-savvy consumers. For example, the report showed 4 out of 10 mobile users have used their devices to make online purchases. This means 40 percent of mobile-enabled consumers expect the companies they do business with to provide mobile-friendly websites and online ordering.
Meanwhile, of shoppers who make purchases via smartphone:
- 64 percent used a retailer's application.
- 60 percent researched products while in store.
- 53 percent checked in via social media.
Businesses that do not offer app access, provide wi-fi on premises or have a social media presence for consumers to interact with could be missing out on a significant number of sales.
According to a report from Walker Information, by 2020, customer experience will be the most important brand differentiator, eclipsing both price and product. With consumers expecting red carpet-treatment, companies that fail to adapt may also struggle to stay afloat.
Speed is of the essence
As early as 2014, a study from Lithium Technologies found that of the 87 percent of consumers who have requested help from a business online, two-thirds expected same-day responses. Forty-three percent expected a response within one hour. Fourteen percent expected it within five or fewer minutes. It's a safe assumption that consumer expectations for fast response times have not decreased in the intervening years.
"More than half of survey respondents said online reviews are important to making decisions."
When these expectations are not met, modern consumers have a wide variety of platforms from which to complain about poor customer service.
Online review websites such as Yelp are but one example, as Facebook and Twitter also make it easy to reach a large audience regarding a business' perceived shortcomings. According to data compiled by Moz, online reviews impact 67.7 percent of consumers' purchasing decisions. In fact, more than half of survey respondents said online reviews are either fairly, very or absolutely important to their decision-making process.
Whether it's retail, restaurants or any industry in between, consumers have no shortage of options. Companies cannot afford unmet customer expectations in a crowded marketplace.
Superior service through technology
With modern consumers demanding comprehensive customer service and lightning-quick response time, it's clear businesses must do all they can to deliver a gold standard experience.
Enter issue tracking software.
No matter the business sector, companies must be able to resolve situations in a timely manner. This is especially true if a problem has arisen that threatens consumer experience.
Through issue tracking software, businesses can automate and customize how issues are handled, so there is always visibility into the process, ensuring problems are handled by the appropriate individuals efficiently and effectively.
Issues aren't a failure of customer service, but a test of it. By resolving them quickly, businesses can redeem themselves in the eyes of consumers and ensure high customer expectations are met.