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The real reasons for customer break-up

In the course of having dinner with a good friend of mine, he said many years ago that someone told him the reason most relationships fail is because of unmet expectations. I have been thinking about that quote for weeks and this very short video captures that sentiment:
Too often, customers play the girl who fell on her face and the blame is politely put on the customer– we brand them as “unreasonable”. I once drove to a store to return a product, confidently expecting my money back. To my chagrin, I was told I was 4 days outside “the window.” I argued my point by pointing to the “hassle-free returns” sign behind the counter. In the end, I knew my goose was cooked when she uttered the 3 scariest words in customer service: “Our policy states ….” They probably felt I had expected much more than they ever promised, I left feeling they didn’t fulfill their brand promise. This chasm in expectations is at the root of the customer relationship problems, or for that matter, any human relationship.

Trying to meet customer expectations is no easy task. Bruce Tempkin helps illustrate what’s at stake in this infographic. I think given the stakes, it is worth pausing to ask what these expectations really are. Can you articulate what your customer expects of you in plain English? Do you know who set these expectations? Did you explicitly set these expectations? Are they implicit? Are they implied because of what your competitor practices are? In other words, are your competitors setting expectations for your customers?

If the goal is to close the chasm between what your customers expect of you and what you are providing, then a good place to start is being clear what these expectations are. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Journey Mapping – focus on the emotions and feelings through each journey map. Remember, they are not always linear (quite frankly they are seldom linear these days). In addition to feelings and emotions, capture expectations through each step and document the source of those expectations and whether you are meeting them. What you might learn is that you are making a lot of subtle promises in your marketing, on your website, in customer service that culminate into customers expecting far more than you are prepared to give.

2. Mine from your existing data – that mountain of customer feedback, calls, and emails collecting dust on your servers – the nuggets of customer expectations you have been in denial about. If you need inspiration, use voice/text analytics to surface experiences where your team uses those three scary words: “Our policy states…”

3. Talk to other companies or their customers. If you are in an industry not famous for great experience, there’s no need benchmarking with your peers. Instead, reach out and talk to Amazon customers, for example. It helps you not only learn what expectations other companies you admire have set, but also helps you see where customers get these expectations from.

Closing the expectations gap certainly requires understanding first; and from there it can give you perspective on where to focus your attention.

How are you closing the expectations gap?