How Can We Gauge Customer Expectations?
The reality is that companies have to continuously work at understanding the changing face of customer expectations.
Posted Jul 28, 2003
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CRM revolves around gauging and identifying customer expectations and trying to meet those expectations, leading to customer satisfaction. If any company knew what its customers expected, it would be the most successful company that there was, and it wouldn't have to worry about losing customers. But the reality is that companies have to continuously work at understanding the changing face of customer expectations. For a CRM initiative to be a success it is imperative companies continually gauge customer expectations. These expectations can be based on visible or hidden needs, and as well as on perception about the company. There are some methods organizations can use to identify customer expectations and needs. Surveys A common method adopted by many companies is to create a survey sheet with relevant questions for the customers to answer. This in turn gives way to customer insight and what the customers feel about the product or service and the organization. Companies need to use this insight to see the world through the eyes of the customer. Surveys can identify which features or services in the customer experience are the most important. Factors that drive satisfaction are not the same as the ones that drive dissatisfaction. So once we know which services are key from the customer's perspective, we can start to understand the mental scripts that customers use for setting expectations. Remember: It is important to carefully plan the survey questions so the responses can be used effectively for analysis. Research Sophisticated research on the behavioral pattern of groups of individuals also suggests what a person's expectations would be in a certain environment. This is a technique used by such organizations as large chain stores to segment individuals on certain characteristics and create offers for these groups that would be of value based on their expectations. One such method is the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET). It uses modern research in the area of cognitive neuroscience, visual sociology, philosophy of mind, neurobiology, art therapy, etc., to understand subconscious needs. The voice of customer (VOC) Technique This involves going to the customers' workplace or purchase--the shop floor, so to speak. This is an observational technique where hidden customer expectations come to light. How and what the customers feel about certain key parameters is closely observed and recorded. What differs here is that marketers don't work only with focus groups or samples from the customer space for data collection, but use all senses (sight, hearing, feeling, etc.) for observing and recording how customers use the services or product. Observations are collected over various mediums over a period of many visits. There are many tools for VOC data collection, including:
  • Flow Charts
  • DDD (data definition diagram)
  • Fault-tree analysis
  • STD (state transition diagram) The purpose of these tools is to capture the VOC by studying, for example, the work processes, collecting environmental data that may influence the work condition, uncovering implied needs, capturing decision-making processes, and finding potential faults or gaps. These are just three of the many methods that companies use to uncover the latent needs driving the customer expectations. Even keen understanding of customer requirements and empathy to customers' feelings in a particular situation can be an effective way to understand their expectations. Organizations should use whatever method is best suited for them, as long as it shows results.
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