Issue 31 | October/November 2019

This past October, my daughter Grace and I co-presented the welcome at ICMI’s Contact Center Connections conference in Chicago. Grace is 17 and a senior in high school. One of the themes of the event was generations—how they differ as employees and customers. Rather than just talk about Gen Z, I decided to bring a member with me!

As we prepared and compared notes in the weeks prior, we kept coming to the same conclusion: for all the differences among generations, there are so many similarities. We all want systems and processes to work well, and choices in how we access services. None of us love long waits. We value employees who are informed, helpful, and down-to-earth.

In this issue, I’ll review the basic expectations customers have. Build services around them—as they evolve—and you’ll be well positioned for the opportunities ahead.

Warm Regards,

Brad Cleveland

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Meeting customer expectations with the right services is fundamental to building a strong brand. The challenge, of course, is that customers’ experiences with any organization—not just yours or others in your industry—shape their perceptions. So you’ve got to continually revisit what good service means. For customer experience leaders, this can seem like a daunting challenge.

Fortunately, it’s not hit-or-miss guesswork. The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) has identified ten expectations customers have of customer service. They include (in no specific order):

  • 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. For many organizations—even, say, a small retail store—customers assume that your services will be available through a convenient range of channels, which may include in-person, phone, self-service, mobile-friendly information, and any number of alternatives. Customers don’t want to think about the channels or processes. They just want service to be understandable and easy.

Grace and Brad, October 29, 2019

Beyond these ten expectations, there is another category of expectations that applies to service delivered in person, such as a retail store or restaurant. It’s called “tangibles,” and it refers to the aesthetics and functionality of the environment. In other words, anything that impacts the customer’s perception of the organization and service being delivered. These include:

  • The facilities (comfort, appearance, functionality)
  • Employees’ appearance (for example, is there a dress code?)
  • Safety (e.g., in buildings and parking facilities)
  • Amenities (e.g., Wi-Fi and water in waiting areas)
  • Design (for example, how easy it is to get around a building or complex?)
  • Other factors unique to your environment (e.g., daycare at a gym).


In fact, other customers can even be considered one of the tangibles. Most restaurants require shoes and shirts, and some even ties or jackets. But for a snack bar at the beach, swimwear is fine.

You’ll want to consider both categories—the ten expectations of service and tangibles. Then, regularly revisit customer expectations with your team as you shape your approach to service. I encourage you to be creative. For example, Andaz hotels, which is part of the Hyatt group, replaced the traditional lobby with a comfortable, open lounge; arriving guests are treated to a beverage as they’re checked in by a host with a tablet. And here’s one of my favorite examples: many dentist offices, once dreaded by children, now feature greeters at the door, games, and a choice of flavors for cleanings. If your intent is to promote and encourage better health with these young customers, why not make it fun?!

As you explore customers’ expectations, let me make three recommendations. First, listen to your customers. Make the effort to get input from customers and employees first-hand. And make use of all forms of customer feedback to better understand expectations. Second, trust your instincts. If you prefer clean restrooms when you’re on a road trip, if you would like to run a question by your insurance company on a Saturday morning (because you’re busy the rest of the week), these may be obvious opportunities. Companies such as Wawa and GEICO have leveraged them into services that have fueled their brands. Third, and above all, make service easy and resolve issues quickly. Simplicity and speed are proving to be sure winners.

Recent Issues

82% of consumers say the number one factor that leads to a great customer service experience is having their issues resolved quickly. (Source: ICMI)

Fully engaged customers represent a 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer. (Source: Gallup)

For companies that provide an excellent customer experience, customers are:

  • 86% more likely to repurchase from the company
  • 77% more likely to recommend the company to others
  • 79% more likely to trust the company
  • 62% more likely to forgive the company

(Source: Temkin Group)

Download the Customer Expectations Worksheet located here. Use it to describe how your customers define each of the expectations listed. Then identify potential quality standards and how systems and processes can enable you to deliver services that meet expectations.

ICMI releases the latest edition of Brad’s book: Contact Center Management on Fast Forward: Succeeding in the New Era of Customer Experience.

LinkedIn Learning recently releases “Calculating the Value and ROI of Customer Service,” a new online course by Brad. For this and other courses, go here.

See the frequently updated statistics page at, with sections on customer expectations, contact centers, and social/mobile/tech.

*Brad delivers private keynotes, workshops, and executive briefings to organizations and associations. For more information, contact

Brad has devoted his career to maximizing the value of customer-facing services. As a speaker, consultant, entrepreneur, executive, and president/CEO, he has seen change from many perspectives and has a deep understanding of the critical importance of customer service delivery to an organization's success. He has worked across 45 states and in 60 countries, and has been privileged to assist in the evolution of service delivery for clients such as American Express, Apple, Coca-Cola, USAA, and others, as well as for governments across the globe. Brad serves as a senior advisor to the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), and is an in-demand speaker and consultant.

To inquire about consulting or speaking, connect through any of the channels below.

© 2019 Brad Cleveland   All Rights Reserved