Evolving Customer Expectations

By Brad Cleveland 

Customer demands are constantly evolving because improvements in service reset their expectations at new levels. While customers initially appreciate better services, they quickly get used to, expect and demand them. Further, the experiences that customers have with any organization—not just yours or others in your vertical sector—help shape their perceptions. In short, service leaders in virtually any line of business are raising the bar for every organization.

Fortunately, zeroing in on customer expectations is not the hit-or-miss proposition it may seem. We’ve followed this issue for more than two decades and have found 10 customer expectations that consistently emerge from customer feedback and surveys.


1. Be accessible
2. Treat me courteously
3. Be responsive to what I need and want
4. Do what I ask promptly
5. Provide well-trained and informed employees
6. Tell me what to expect
7. Meet your commitments and keep your promises
8. Do it right the first time
9. Follow up
10. Be socially responsible and ethical

The real challenge, of course, is in defining what these expectations mean. For example, there was a time when being accessible simply meant having a toll-free number and reasonably well-trained agents. Today, developments in social, mobile, web and other capabilities continue to push the meaning of accessibility.

Or consider courtesy. It used to refer primarily to the way agents handled calls, but the definition today is much more systems- and process-dependent. Don’t make customers repeat the same information. Don’t transfer them around. And don’t make them go over their account history again.

In short, knowing your customers and anticipating their expectations—thinking through each of these ten issues—is essential to developing a good service strategy. Truly understanding your customers is what can most separate you from competitors in an economy where products and services can otherwise so quickly be replicated.

Copyright Brad Cleveland

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