Managing rising customer expectations

Managing expectations
Managing expectations

Every time KLM Royal Dutch Airlines helps a customer via Facebook or twitter on a saturday, sunday or in the evening, every time Rabobank’s conversation manager Robert Lommers replies to a twitter discussion and every time I have a hassle-free experience in one of my favorite online tools CardCloud, Yunoo,, Gist or Evernote, it raises the bar: there’s a new ‘expectations-normal’, a new hygiene level.

The basic idea is really simple (see my previous post): even before an interaction between a brand and a consumer, there’s an expectation of what will be the value and return on that interaction. Under-delivering on that expectation fuels negative conversations (e.g. I am put on hold for over 15 minutes by customer support, the service in a bar is bad, the product doesn’t taste good, my car breaks down after a week). Just delivering on that expectation gives no reason to talk (why would you, there’s no conversation value in that). Over-delivering on conversations fuels positive conversations (e.g. my telco proactively approaches me with a better offer, I get a free drink at my favorite bar, I have an amazing dinner).

You don’t know what you’re missing until you have it. So, every time I have a hassle-free experience, get a random act of kindness and experience great customer service, my hygiene level changes. My ‘expectations-normal’ is raised. And it isn’t limited to the experience in a specific industry. It is difficult for customers to understand that their travel agency can solve their problems via twitter within 30 minutes, while their bank takes more than 2 weeks to answer their email (or won’t answer at all) or puts them on hold for 20 minutes.

At InSites Consulting, we recently did research on the customer satisfaction and experience in a specific industry (sorry, can’t name client or industry). Although our client didn’t perform any worse, their customer satisfaction ratings had dropped. The main reason? There were new entrants in the market who had invested heavily in smart digital tools and great customer service, raising the bar in customer expectations towards a new normal.

The industries with the biggest problems? Banks, governments and FMCG (although there are exceptions). They have dificulties keeping up with this new ‘expectations-normal’.

What are you doing to keep up with the new expectations-normal?

  1. hi polle,

    nice post! can you explain the ‘over-the- top-delivery’ category? how come people then talk badly about you? is it because it’s irritating to be serviced too well?

    thx! kim

    1. Absolutely: have a look at as well. I give three examples there:
      “I once heard a guy tell a story about a company that produced hipster bags. Every time you would order via their website, they would send you an email claiming that your bag had just left their factory and that 10 employees stood there, waving the bag goodbye. A great story and it was made even more appealing by some great copy. But it had the opposite effect, the guy had a negative feeling about it all. It was just too good to be true. They were just trying too hard.Another problem is the content of over-delivering. Getting a free drink at the end of your dinner is a nice gesture of the restaurant. Getting a 50% discount might make you feel cheap and make you talk about the discount and not about great service or great food. Ideally, you’re over-delivering in a way that spurs the right conversations.Some even think Boondoggle’s KLM Surprise case is an example of over-the-top-delivery. KLM might have tried too hard to surprise customers. I do not agree, I still think it is a great campaign, but it raises an interesting dilemma: balancing over-delivery.”It starts from the idea that trying too hard will actually backfire at you: there has to be a balance between expectations and delivery.Furthermore, think your personal investment: when you’re already over-delivering there is no extra added value in taking over-delivery to a next level. It’s just a waste of time and resources. 

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