Voice of the Customer: Gauging Customer Expectations and Levels of Satisfaction

Although most companies value meeting customer expectations as a priority, many do not invest the time and resources in investigating what customers have come to expect. The gap between actual consumer expectations and the company’s perceptions of the customers’ expectations can lead to lower levels of customer satisfaction and product / service performance. This is especially true in the services industry due to the intangible nature of the service being provided.

The solution to the problems presented by the gap between customer expectations and company perceptions is to simply listen to and understand the customer and what he or she is expecting with regards to a particular product, service, or brand.

There are different ways to approach the task of understanding a customer’s expectations which include social media, a market research program and upward communication.

Social Media
The online exchange of communication amongst customers offers the firm a golden opportunity to quickly learn more about its audience and their expectations as well certain frustrations. The nature of social media platforms allows a firm to quickly respond to consumer desires, as well as identifying any brand evangelists.

A consumer can report a problem on social media in a much more seamless manner than with traditional methods. The firm can take advantage of the fact that customers are coming to them with valuable feedback.

Service Market Research
Feedback solicitation is an important part of the customer experience. A good service organization takes and handles criticism in a very serious manner. The firm must not only listen to criticisms when they are offered, the firm must also create a seamless method of communication with the customer. Since most customers often complain to other people about the company, complaints have the potential to be inaccurate as the only source of consumer information.

Mystery shopping is a form of market research that is unique to service providers. The technique is effective for keeping employees sharp and on their toes and rewarding those already representing the firm to the best of their ability.  It can be an effective method for enforcing higher service standards.

Listening to the customer is an integral part of the research involving customer perceptions and expectations. An effective service organization utilizes all the tools at its disposal to listen and understand its customers in order to reduce the gap between expectations and perceptions to ultimately increase satisfaction.

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