Mind the Gap
Think back to your own last two purchases online? How was your experience? What were your expectations? Were you satisfied? Of my last two purchases, I bought some office supplies on Amazon and marvelled at how I could order something on Sunday evening and have it delivered to the office on Monday. The other purchase was a pair of shoes from a specialist website (not available in my size on Amazon) – the product was great, but it came wrapped in basic wrapping paper (shoes not in a box but in a bag) that was damaged. Not so great.
Recently I found some statistics that suggested that Customer Experience often falls short of Customer Expectation - in other words that there is an Expectation Gap. The statistics below relate to one ‘Moment of Truth’, the delivery, suggesting what consumers want to be delivered same-day and what products they actually receive same-day:
Literature, academic and popular, is full of references to the importance of the Customer Experience, with a positive satisfaction being linked to all kinds of benefits (positive word of mouth, increase loyalty, more sales) and dis-satisfaction bringing the reverse, but to a larger degree.
So, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Experience and Customer Expectations do matter. However, for most of the companies I talk to, these concepts remain a fussy concept and its benefits hard to firmly grasp. So in this mini-series of blogs I am going to try to address this - I promise I will keep it short and practical!
What are you talking about?
First of all, let me try to create some clarity on terminology so we all start on the same page:
Customer experience (CX) is how customers perceive their interactions with your company. (Forrester Research quoted by ameyo)
Customer expectations (CE) are any set of behaviours or actions that individuals anticipate when interacting with a company.
Customer satisfaction (CSAT) is a measure of how the purchases from and interaction with your company meet or surpass the expectations of their customers (adapted from Wikipedia). (In other words how the Customer Experience differs from the Customer Expectations).
CE, CX and CSAT span the whole length, width and dynamics of the customer journey - not only at moment of purchase but right from first till last point of contact, including search, shopping, buying, delivery and unwrapping, returns and re-purchasing. CE, CX and CSAT is about the ongoing engagement with your brand.
Expectations develop over time. Historically customers have expected basics like quality service and fair pricing – but modern customers have higher expectations such as pro-active service, personalized interactions, connected experience across channels. It will also be clear that touch points between customer and organisation differ per company, as does the importance of each touch point. On top of this the expectations and responses will differ per type of customers, e.g. millennials are far more likely to write a review than baby boomers (source: the entrepreneur.com 300634).
Does it really matter?
Yes it does! There is a clear relationship between customer satisfaction and the performance of brands, products and companies. And the impact is felt in many different ways. Here are two examples.
Word of mouth.
Customer satisfaction is directly related to loyalty. Loyal customers not only stay with you longer, but they also tend to spend more, as the graphs below show.
Next time we will look at how to make all this operational for your company and how practical solutions for e.g. website content, customer service and fulfilment can contribute to your own performance.