Learn about the key reason that customer expectations evolve and change. Identify the 10 overarching expectations customers have of service interactions, as well as expectations for tangibles when service is delivered in person. Take inventory of your customers' expectations and how they shape quality standards.
- Service quality is defined in terms of the customer's perception of how well your service meets his or her expectations. Simple, right? Wait a minute, aren't expectations always changing? What do customers expect? Let's explore the answers to these questions here. What's the primary reason that customer expectations evolve and change? Maybe the answer is obvious, but in a nutshell, it's innovation. While customers initially appreciate better services, they quickly get used to, expect, and even demand them.
The experiences that customers have with any organization, not just yours or others in your industry, shape their perceptions. So service innovations from any organization raise the bar for everybody. Organizations that wish to remain competitive must continually revisit what good service is and what it means. For customers, this is a virtuous cycle. Bring it on! For those of us designing and managing customer service, it can seem like a daunting challenge. The good news is, identifying customer expectations is not the hit-or-miss guesswork it might at first seem to be.
The International Customer Management Institute, ICMI, has found that there are 10 expectations customers have of service interactions. They include, and I don't list them in any specific order here, be accessible in the channels I prefer. Treat me courteously. Be responsive to and anticipate what I need and want. Do what I ask promptly. Provide well-trained and informed employees. Tell me what to expect. Meet your commitments and keep your promises.
Do it right the first time. Follow up. Be socially responsible and ethical. What is changing, of course, is what these expectations mean. Accessibility is an example of that. Customers expect a full range of choices from self-service to human assistance, and they want them to be intuitive, to work well together. If you're like me, you probably used your mobile phone to investigate features or customer feedback even while you're in-person, shopping in a store. In another example, you might start a service interaction in one channel, say search, and end up interacting with a service representative.
In fact, a variety of service channels: phone, web, chat, in-person, any other, any combination might be in play simultaneously along with the risk of different answers or experiences if quality standards aren't aligned across channels. Customers don't want to think about the channels or processes. They just want service to make sense, to be easy. In the exercise files, you'll find a worksheet with a complete list of 10 customer expectations, and I recommend you put a small team together and discuss them.
It's a great starting point for thinking through your customers' expectations and considering how they might shape quality standards. And for now, just focus on the expectations part of the worksheet. As you go through the expectations, think of how they work together, how they're interrelated. In addition to the 10 expectations of service interactions, there's another category that applies to in-person service often called tangibles. That refers to the aesthetics or the functionality of the environment.
These include the facilities, materials used, the neatness of employees. For example, is there a dress code? Is that appropriate? Amenities such as Wi-Fi and water in waiting areas and design. How easy is it to get around a building, for example? In other words, anything that impacts the customer's perception of the organization and the services being delivered. In fact, other customers can be considered tangibles. Most restaurants require shoes and shirts and some even ties and jackets.
A swim-up snack bar at a pool or near the beach will encourage something very different. Tangibles and the 10 expectations of service should be considered together. Hyatt's Andaz hotels have replaced the traditional lobby with an open lounge where arriving guests are treated to a beverage while they're checked in by their host using a tablet computer. By rethinking their approach to a number of these expectations, they've created the unique customer experience. The customer expectations worksheet has an optional section for tangibles.
Again, you're just focusing on customer expectations for now. Go ahead and include it in your discussion if tangibles apply. As you explore expectations, here are two recommendations to keep in mind. First, research is revealing that above all, customers want service to be easy. They want to resolve their issues quickly. Customers are diverse. The services we have are diverse. But simplicity and speed are proving to be sure winners. Second, some organizations formalize this exercise of assessing expectations with an ongoing initiative that has a project owner and that involves customers.
This makes sense given how important it is, and it's an option you have as you build out your quality standards. Staying on top of ever-evolving customer expectations is a fascinating and important prerequisite to establishing effective quality standards. And I encourage you, keep this discussion alive in your organization.
Watch and learn how to establish quality standards in customer service, and improve loyalty, revenue, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement. Brad Cleveland divides the lessons into three chapters, covering quality and customer service definitions, quality standards for individuals, and quality standards for the overall organization. Along the way, he shows how to implement a process, measure progress, and effectively coach employees.
- Defining quality
- Ensuring standards count
- Measuring individual performance
- Coaching customer service professionals
- Creating quality standards for the service organization