10 Customer Expectation Trends You Need to Know About

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Whether it’s speed, convenience or a personal touch, customer service principles are timeless. However, how these principles play out changes over time.

These days, not only are technological developments generating new opportunities for businesses, but they’re also stimulating changes in customer expectations.

Consequently, customer experience is now the frontline of business competition. In fact, Gartner predicts that an estimated 81% of brands are competing on customer experience as of 2020.

In other words, if you want your company to thrive, you should pay close attention to evolving customer expectations.

So, what are the most impactful customer expectation trends right now? What are the key opportunities? Here are 10 customer expectation trends that are driving business innovation and competition.

1. Ultimate Efficiency

We all have a device in our pockets that provide limitless information and instant global communication. It even enables us to purchase virtually any product online at the touch of a button — and our purchases arrive same-day or next-day.

This insane amount of day-to-day convenience has — understandably — drastically changed consumers’ expectations of efficiency. We’ve grown entitled. We don’t want ‘fast,’ we want ‘instant.’ We don’t want ‘easy,’ we want ‘effortless.’

Business-to-business (B2B) companies aren’t exempt from these demands, either. After all, a B2B buyer has access to all these conveniences in her personal life — why shouldn’t she have them in her professional life?

Therefore, companies must strive for ultimate efficiency to meet these expectations. Everything must flow with pinpoint accuracy.

2. Free Delivery

Ecommerce is no longer a small segment of retail — it’s ubiquitous. Even in a brick-and-mortar retail setting, ecommerce is present in numerous ways — for example, shoppers often compare prices on their smartphones before they make a purchase.

For this reason, many customers have very little tolerance for additional fees when buying online. Whether it’s processing, handling or delivery fees, we don’t want ‘inexpensive,’ we want ‘free.’

The result? Offering free expedited delivery will soon no longer be a competitive differentiator — it’s increasingly becoming a mandatory expectation.

This puts pressure on businesses to optimize their supply chains and shipping partnerships to ensure they can provide free shipping without eating too much into profit margins.

3. Self-Service

Speed and convenience have long been essential aspects of a successful customer experience. And self-service is often faster and more convenient than waiting for help. From self-checkouts in supermarkets to extensive FAQ pages and product knowledge bases, many consumers are willing to attempt to solve the problems they face on their own.

Businesses can automate countless commonplace tasks to allow customers to self-serve. For example, companies like Amazon have demonstrated that customers don’t need to wait for a support agent to initiate refunds, returns or answer questions.

And thanks to COVID-19, this trend looks set to continue with the introduction of new hands-off processes, such as no-contact delivery or restaurants requiring customers to order via an app.

All in all, businesses that empower customers to self-serve will meet changing customer expectations and save significant resources in the process.

4. Instant Communication

Although customers are increasingly comfortable with helping themselves, they still need help from support agents from time to time. And when customers need help, they expect to get it — fast.

Smartphones and social media allow consumers to be constantly connected to friends, family and colleagues by instant messaging. They’re also connected to their communities and the world via social media feeds and 24-hour news services.

This has given rise to a hyperconnected ‘always-on’ culture — a culture that now extends to your customer service strategy.

For this reason, ‘fast’ response times are no longer a competitive advantage. Now, companies leading the charge offer near-instant response times.

The use of increasingly sophisticated chatbots is a crucial tactic in meeting this demand. However, speedy responses from well-trained customer support agents are still preferable.

5. Constant Access to Customer Support

It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 am or Christmas day — smartphones, social media, search engines and news services are available 24 hours a day.

Consequentially, customers expect support agents to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year as well. But that’s not all. Customers also expect to be able to contact support via their preferred method — typically either live chat, email, phone or via social media platforms, like Messenger and Twitter.

For many businesses, the most practical way to offer 24-hour customer service is to set up support centers in different time zones around the world.

6. Attention on Social Media Platforms

Often, even the most solitary consumers are connected to more than 100 people on social media. And many customers have more followers than the brands they purchase from.

As a result, buyers have more power than ever. A private written complaint sent in the mail is one thing — whipping up a public social media frenzy denouncing a brand is another.

Wise brands engage in social listening and take customer comments seriously. They engage openly, follow up and ensure that customers are given the attention and respect they crave.

7. Personalization

Personalized service has long been the hallmark of a superior customer experience. Those who’ve experienced becoming a ‘regular’ at a local coffee shop or watering hole can attest to this personally.

Digital experiences are no different. Today, many commonplace online tools are personalized, such as Google Search and Facebook’s news feed. Customers also expect a personalized shopping experience. And they don’t just want personalized recommendations — they expect to be treated as a unique and valued individual, not as another website hit.

To do this effectively, businesses need to utilize customers’ communication history, their personal preferences and buying habits.

8. An Omnichannel Experience

Customers engage brands in many different way ways — they:

  • Use many devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers, smart TVs, smartwatches, etc.
  • Connect via multiple channels, such as the brand’s website, emails and support agents.
  • Hop between social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.

So, how can brands automate the process of maintaining personal brand relationships with hundreds of thousands of individuals across multiple digital touchpoints? Omnichannel strategy.

Implementing an omnichannel strategy allows companies to track individuals as they interact with the brand across different channels. This way, customers can enjoy a consistent personalized service and experience however they interact with a brand.

9. Privacy

Customers are also becoming more aware of — and concerned about— how companies are collecting, analyzing, harnessing and selling their data.

Consequently, there’s a growing preference for privacy. For example, consumers flock to the search engine DuckDuckGo that doesn’t track or harvest users’ information.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How can businesses provide personalization (which requires tracking) and privacy?” Well, in short, we can’t. However, finding the balance between tracking and personalization should be a chief concern moving forward.

Transparency and integrity are key. Businesses need to explain what data they gather and how they utilize it. To build trust, businesses must also allow users to control their data.

10. Shared Values

As the internet matures, competition is becoming fiercer. With so many businesses to choose from, customers are progressively drawn to brands that share their values.

For this reason, aligning your brand with a cause can do wonders to capture attention, differentiate your business from competitors and resonate powerfully with your target market.

This doesn’t mean that you need to engage in full-blown social entrepreneurship like Toms. There’s power in simply promoting, partnering or donating to a cause.

Bottom line, if your business cares about more than profit, you have a leg-up on companies that don’t. And by leaning into your core values, you…

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