In the past customer expectations were restricted to areas, such as customer service, but they have become much more than how easy it is to process a refund or change a customer’s reservation date. At Worthix, we see them as the evaluations customers have about the product or service they are seeking to purchase. These evaluations are constantly rising and changing as innovations shape society.
The influence certain customers’ expectations have on business decisions is usually obvious. However, the effects driven by company innovations and technological advancements on customer expectations are a little less apparent.
Below, I’ll take a high-level look at some of the advancements that are influencing and raising customer expectations. I’ll also explore the future of customer expectations in the Experience Age.
1. More Trust in the Internet
Some may be on the fence about the future of trust in the internet but it’s safe to say that overall trust in internet based products and services has increased dramatically.
This trust created opportunities for businesses in the Sharing Economy, such as Airbnb, Uber, Taskrabbit, and Legalzoom. On the other hand, it has also created an expectation for other companies to quickly reinforce this trust through positive reviews, providing trustworthy employees/contractors, having highly accurate GPS, and only sending meaningful push notifications.
Trust has become so essential for the success and growth of these companies that you can see Taskrabbit emphasizing their trustworthiness 3 times before even accessing the site:
Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia discusses how designing for trust was critical for starting a business that’s solely based off letting strangers sleep in your home. One small tactic to overcome the stranger danger bias was to influence the size of the “introduce yourself” box. By suggesting the right length, and guiding guests with prompts to encourage sharing, guest and host felt more familiar with each other beforehand.
2. The Help Yourself Mindset
The used car salesmen has faced a lifetime of ridicule and defamation from their shady dealings and speedometer tampering. But, this reputation allowed companies like Carvana, Autotrader, and Carfax to create an online used car market built on trust.
In BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review, 85% of respondents said they trusted online reviews as much as they’d trust a personal recommendation, showing that customers themselves are becoming a main source of information.
Customers are more informed than ever. They have the ability to research and educate themselves more than salespeople, giving them the power to make large purchases, like cars, electronics, and vacations without ever communicating with an associate until they are ready to purchase. One day, this may even be true for houses.
The expectation created here isn’t that customers want to make all large purchases online, but they do expect to have that power or at least gain information about what they are purchasing. They want to compare and validate their purchases at a trusted source (the internet), by reading forums, comparing specs, watching unboxings, and reading up on competitors.
3. Better Delivery Times
2-hour delivery sounds like something from a hover-car infested, tech powered city in a Philip K. Dick novel, but it’s the new standard in most urban cities thanks to companies like Amazon.
Deloitte captured this change in customer expectations and solidified that 3-4 day shipping simply isn’t enough anymore. In Deloitte’s Annual Holiday Survey they found that in 2015 63% consumers surveyed consider 3-4 day shipping “fast,” then in 2016 it dropped to 42%, and in 2017 it’s down to just 35%.
An even scarier truth for retailers found in the 2017 Deloitte study is that nearly 9 out of 10 (88%) respondents said that “free shipping” is more important when compared with just 12% who prefer “fast shipping.”
If retailers are just now catching up with Amazon Prime’s free 2-3 day shipping, how long will it take for them to reach the new expectations of deliveries in just 13 minutes?
4. Predictive Analytics
Highly customized advertising was considered scary back in 2012 when Target was able to predict that their customers were pregnant, but today’s customers expect and prefer to see only the things they want and need.
Access to constant data streams from apps, browser activity, pixels, and cookies have created a new playing field for marketers and product teams. Customers have grown used to companies using their general information such as location and shopping history, but this has created the expectation that companies accessing this data should only suggest meaningful, hyper-personalized recommendations.
Machine learning and natural language processing have added another layer to this data, significantly changing how product teams collect and process feedback. With sentiment analysis tools constantly scouring social media feeds, or artificial intelligence powered customer surveys that can auto-adapt to any product or service, companies can now capture constant changes in customers’ expectations based on their individual needs as they change.
Harvard Business Review published an article that extensively covers how marketers can use these powerful insights without being creepy.
5. Subscription Price Model
This one didn’t hit me until I signed up for Apple Music, along with their other 38 million subscribers, and realized I spent more on music in 2016 than I did in my entire life (I’m from the Limewire Age). This contributed to the highest music industry sales figures since 2009.
In addition to the new subscription pricing, customers also expect to not have contracts and have the freedom to leave or switch whenever they please. This trend has finally made its way out of gyms and streaming, and into a new, unexpected territory, cars.
I see car subscriptions changing how future customers view ownership of other high-ticket items, such as furniture, boats, and houses. It has already start with smaller purchases like airline tickets and movie passes.
Subscription models have changed the way customers view loyalty and the way companies view Customer Experience. Instead of one time transactions, companies must continuously meet the expectations of their customers. They now need to prove they are worth it at every touchpoint to continue receiving their monthly dues.
The shift toward creating omnichannel experiences for customers has become less of a recommendation and more so the new standard. With 90% of multiple device owners switching between screens to complete tasks, customers expect the ability to complete in-store actions, directly on their phone, or on-line.
I believe the future of omnichannel expectations will appear in the home. The devices leading the Internet of Things will create new standards for other companies. Whether it be the ability to integrate with some of the most popular IoT hubs or having voice recognition that restricts your 6-year-old from purchasing four pounds of sugar cookies and a $170 Dollhouse.
The Future of Customer Expectations
I can’t predict the future. In fact, I can barely effectively meal prep. On the other hand, companies are gaining the ability to do something pretty close to predicting the future.
They are understanding customers’ expectations by measuring the way they make decisions. Companies that are moving beyond traditional market research techniques and harnessing the efficiency of artificial intelligence have opened up new sources of information and insights that allow them to move at almost clairvoyant speeds.
FICO, for example, is already using artificial intelligence to monitor and keep up with the speed of change in customer expectations. We go more in-depth in the case study below: