Guest Blogger

Any customer service manager has known for years that the quality of customer feedback often depends on what the customer expected when they got in touch. For example, if your shiny new PC crashes after a few days and minutes after calling the helpline you have it back up and running then factors such as the location or the agent or their accent are irrelevant – you needed immediate help and that’s what you got.

Conversely, if you call your bank to ask for advice on an investment product and find that they bounce you from one person to another because nobody really knows the product then the experience may be enough to convince you that your savings deserve a new bank.

But these differences are often about expectation rather than absolute measurements of service. Of course the bank example might also just be terrible service, but the bank should know that a customer asking about how to make an investment would have a high expectation that they get good information. These customers need to get the A-team, not whoever is free at the time.

There are several additional changes playing out that are affecting customer expectations in all industries and it is bad news for those who are not planning ahead. I see three broad areas where the customer experience is changing dramatically at present:

  1. Marketing: the process of marketing a brand is blurring into the customer service function as customers expect more of a relationship with brands. This not only raises the customer expectation that you are there for them even if they are not buying, but it also demands internal changes and new management roles. Who becomes the Customer Relationship Director?
  1. Personalisation: Customers are used to complex tools such as smart phones being customisable using apps. This expectation is spreading to other products and services – the app store approach will be needed so brands can communicate with individual customers, not just treating all of them as one. Customers buying products as diverse as jeans to beer to cars will expect to be able to personalise the product and also get service that is tailored exactly for them.
  1. Data Analytics: Brands think they are swamped with data now, but the Internet of Things has barely started. Once customers are really using wearable technologies the amount of data on behaviour, location, and preferences will explode. Brands will need to manage this fire hose of data using analytic tools that can connect to CRM systems that then allow intelligent decisions to be made on how to support individuals.

To the corporate executive all of these areas of change may appear to be a problem – every grain of sand on the beach is shifting. I would argue that all of them present opportunities to look after your customers better than your competitors, but more importantly, if you are not already thinking how the experience of your own customers will be affected by these changes in the coming year or two then you may be too late.

Customers are already starting to expect a very personal service that can only be provided using analytic tools. They don’t care about internal divisions between a marketing or service team. Customer expectations are already ahead of what most brands can provide, but there is a roadmap to a future state.

In many ways customer expectations are now driving the customer reality, but while some executives are planning ahead, others are still pondering how to manage “new” social networking channels. The customer will not wait for you to get it right – they have alternatives. Customer expectation and experience need to be synchronised for any organisation to flourish today..

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