Setting And Meeting Experience Expectations

One of my favorite customer experience graphics here at Forrester speaks to companies “making promises” through marketing and branding channels, while “keeping promises” by delivering value through other channels. However, there are external forces at play that raise people’s expectations. Companies like Google make us wonder why we can’t have good search when looking on a manufacturer’s site for a product; Trader Joe’s makes us wonder why floor staff at other stores isn’t as friendly and helpful; and Zappos makes us wonder why products don’t always arrive ahead of schedule.

I’ve taken liberties and updated the graphic to reflect that the “promises” companies make are really “expectations” that they set, and those are influenced by lots of external factors. In order to meet customer expectations — thus delivering a good experience — companies have to account for those factors that may lay outside of the firm or even the industry.


Why Does It Matter?

About 67% of companies that we surveyed describe their customer experience goal as simply trying to differentiate from competitors in their industry. But, they must also factor in the expectations set from outside of their firm or industry. Does this mean that every company needs to deliver a Zappos-like experience? Absolutely not! But it does mean that companies need to understand clearly what their customers really expect from them.



Great post Paul. This comparison is something we do innately as a customer yet it is commonly overlooked as a leader. I agree with your advice with one additional suggestion, that the 67% of companies making differentiation a customer experience priority, STOP. They should remain mindful of differentiation and expand that to be aware of other companies that influence expectations as you have recommended. However their primary goal should be knowing their customer's needs and wants and meeting or where possible exceeding expectations. If companies expended half the energy they do on competitive differentiation into connecting with their customers, their competitive advantage would grow exponentially.