How technology is changing customer expectations.

Great experiences enabled by technology quickly turn into the status quo.

Deborah Nas
Dec 29, 2019 · 6 min read

Startups often blow us away with effortless, smooth customer journeys. As a result, they quickly take market share away from traditional market players. They disrupt markets and, along the way, change customer expectations. But what initially wows consumers, quickly becomes the minimum that consumers expect.

In this article, I will explain this phenomenon and present you with five design strategies to level-up your customers’ experiences.

Customer experience and customer expectations are not the same thing.

A great customer experience is the result of a useful, easy, and enjoyable customer journey.

When your customers interact with your company, they continuously evaluate their experience on usefulness, ease of use, and enjoyability. However, in practice, they don’t remember every step in their customer journey. Two key moments define their customer experience, also referred to as the peak-end rule:

People judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak (i.e., its most intense point) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience. The effect occurs regardless of whether the experience is pleasant or unpleasant.

Customer expectations are the feelings and ideas that (potential) customers have towards your products and services.

Before the digital revolution, basic experiences like quality service and fair pricing met customer expectations. Nowadays, customers expect personalized, simple and engaging experiences, seamless transition between channels, and instant results — to name a few. Customer expectations are increasing all the time, informed by previous experiences, experiences with other products and services, and information received from friends and media.

There’s only one direction that customer expectations go: UP.

Today, customers have more choices than ever. According to a Salesforce Research 76% of customers now report that it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere — switching from brand to brand to find an experience that matches their expectations.

Whether they’re navigating your website, chatting with your customer service representative, buying or using your products or services — you need to live up to your customers’ expectations to earn their loyalty.

From great experience to status quo

Your customer’s perception of great experiences changes over time, meaning their definition of what is enjoyable, easy and useful changes, and expectations increase.

For instance, when webshops introduced next day delivery some years ago, I was delighted by the experience. Today it has turned into the status quo, and I am dissatisfied if delivery takes any longer than a day. In Europe, same-day delivery is still a delighter. In China, Freshippo — Alibaba’s supermarket chain — has raised the bar to 30-minute delivery if you live within a 3km radius from the nearest Freshippo supermarket. Wow!

A great experience has a limited lifespan. You continuously need to innovate as other companies keep raising the bar.

How technology can help you meet — and exceed — increasing customer expectations

Over the last decade, digital technologies enabled completely new customer journeys. Especially big tech companies and startups deploy these technologies such that they change consumer behavior and continuously increase customer expectations. The Amazon Effect is a shining example of how Amazon.com takes advantage of technology to create high customer expectations for any retailer hoping to compete. The online retailer’s vast selection, fast shipping, easy returns, low prices, and premium subscription all serve Amazon’s goal to exceed customer expectations.

“Our customers are loyal to us right up until the second somebody offers them a better service,” - Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Customers may expect more from brands than they did before, but with the right technology and good design strategies, any business can meet (and exceed) rising customer expectations.

Here are 5 design strategies to get you on track to exceed your customers’ expectations:

1. Personalization
Offer the best mix of personalization and automation, to provide the best possible experiences both online and offline.

Luxury online retailer Net-A-Porter exceeds customer expectations by adopting a personalized approach. Besides data-based personalization of their webshop, the company gives away gift products to its high-end customers based on previous purchases to add a personal and premium touch to the standard online shopping experience. This new service helps the company retain customer loyalty as they feel valued and understood by the retailer.

75% of customers admit being more likely to buy from a company that recognizes them by their name, knows their purchase history, and recommends products based on their past purchases.

2. Simplicity
Less is more. Remove any unnecessary steps in the customer journey and make the customer journey as simple as possible. As the world around us increasingly becomes more complicated, customers are craving simplicity, and you can make that happen.

“Instant Everything: Maya, our charming artificial intelligence bot, will craft the perfect coverage for you. It couldn’t be easier, or faster.” This is the slogan used by Lemonade Insurance Company in their website. By making intelligent use of AI, the innovative insurance company makes it possible to create and sign a personalized home insurance policy almost instantly. And in case of an event, they offer incredibly fast claims decisions — as fast as 3 seconds! Everything is designed mobile-first, enabling customers to register, submit claims, upload photos, store files, and more — using nothing more than a smartphone. Lemonade touts the benefits of technology and automation to bring simplicity and convenience to a marketplace where most customer journeys are still old school.

3. Anytime, anywhere
Make your service available anytime, anywhere, and seamlessly across devices. We live in an interconnected world, and customers expect to have the same customer experience 24/7 wherever they go.

Until a few years ago, we were willing to wait for up to 30 minutes after calling a taxi, while, today, Uber completely changed customer expectations by significantly reducing the average waiting time. Still, customer expectations might differ across different geographic areas. In some cities, users expect an Uber to arrive within 3 minutes; in others, the general accepted waiting time is 10 minutes.

“The longer Uber exists in a city, the less patient consumers become.”

4. Performance
Deliver value through product and service performance, enabling your customers to achieve better results, faster.

People are getting used to products and services that are increasingly getting faster, more precise, more intelligent, and more powerful than before. This evolution is continuously changing expectations. Once someone is used to having their Fitbit measure the steps taken, floors climbed, distance traveled, and calories burned, their next smart wearable needs to do at least the same. Otherwise, it feels like a downgrade.

5. New functionalities
Provide new functionality to exceed — and change — customer expectations. You can offer solutions to problems your customers never envisioned possible, or even problems they didn’t know needed to be solved. If you get it right, they will never want to do without your solution anymore.

Providing new functionality is not the easiest design strategy; it can take quite some time to achieve commercial success since you might be addressing latent needs and need to educate the market. Retailers or company management might not be patient enough and pull the plug too soon.

The key to developing new functionality is deep customer insight. Unfortunately, customers often cannot express what they need nor envision your proposed solution to be something great. When the first camera phone was sold 20 years ago, people could not see the value. Who needs a crappy camera integrated a phone? It increased the size of your phone and delivered low-resolution images. Mind you that at this time, phone manufacturers were in a race to deliver the smallest phone possible, and social media didn’t really exist yet. Nowadays, the idea of a mobile phone without a camera seems to be absurd, and almost nobody would buy a phone without it. The camera has become one of the key performance metrics in a smartphone. At first, brands competed on the number of pixels; now, it is about the number of cameras and using AI to create the perfect picture. Only a few months ago, Apple released the iPhone 11 Pro with a total of three cameras on the rear and one on the front.

Key takeaways

  • A great customer experience is the result of a useful, easy, and enjoyable customer journey.
  • Customer expectations are the feelings and ideas that customers have towards your products and services, and they are largely built by experiences from the past.
  • A great customer experience has a limited lifespan. You continuously need to innovate to meet — or exceed — customer expectations. Digital capabilities are key to making this happen.
  • These five design strategies can get your company on track to exceed your customers’ expectations: personalization, simplicity, anytime & anywhere, performance, new functionalities.

Make customer experience a priority, and you’ll soon see huge rewards.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +731K people. Follow to join our community.

Deborah Nas

Written by

Professor, Entrepreneur & Tech enthusiast. Focusing on the crossroads of Technology, Business, and Psychology. www.linkedin.com/in/deborahnas/

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +731K people. Follow to join our community.

Deborah Nas

Written by

Professor, Entrepreneur & Tech enthusiast. Focusing on the crossroads of Technology, Business, and Psychology. www.linkedin.com/in/deborahnas/

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +731K people. Follow to join our community.

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