Customer expectation – Are you listening to your customers?

Heres a bit of a personal tale for you, that may highlight something that you as a business owner should be taking into account… customer expectation and satisfaction

A story of not meeting customer expectations

Over the past couple of months now, I have been having a number of issues with my iPhone 3GS. With frankly annoying regularity the phone takes it upon itself to crash and reboot during telephone calls, since I upgraded to the IOS 4.xx operating system. Not great is it, when the key feature of an iPhone is to be a phone! There is a clue in the title. I can get all of the other gizmos and apps on an iPod Touch right at less than half the RRP?

Having been plagued with this for a while, I decided to do some of research to see if I was suffering this alone, if there was a fix or what the advice there was. I was suprised at what I found; I was one of literally thousands of people who have the same issue. On a number of forums, the tone of the posts spoke volumes for the annoyance that people had with this issue. It was clear to see that the longer the forums get and thus the longer this issue goes on unfixed the more vitriolic the posts are becoming. It would seem Apple are either unaware of the issue or are not doing anything about it. I for one would seriously consider any further purchase from Apple given the perceived lack of response on this ‘hygeine’ issue.

Customer expectation not being met

However, it did make me think about the whole area of customer service, customer expectation and quality of products/services.

Customer expectation – First the theory bit?

In talking about customer expectations, I will make reference to the Kano Model. I have already mentioned ‘hygiene’ above.

In Kano terminology the ‘hygiene’ functions or attributes are the most basic things that a customer expects to be present. Generally referred to as basic or threshold attributes. In my case that is a phone that is actually able to make and maintain a phone call. These things offer little opportunity to obtain customer satisfaction, they are expected after all, but if they are not present or do not meet the expectation they can lead to high levels of dissatisfaction.

Next up on the Kano Model are performance functions or attributes. Things if done better, produce better satisfaction or done badly produce more dissatisfaction. Selling price and satisfaction will be closely linked to the ability of your product or service to deliver these attributes. You can use these to differentiate your product or service. An example here might be the fuel economy of a car or the speed to deliver your product.

Finally are what are often referred to as the excitement or surprise & delight features or attributes. These are things that the customer is likely to be unaware of any need for, if you can identify any “unknown” needs you are likely to get very high levels of satisfaction. If you cannot, well, it is likely to have little impact as the customer is not aware of wanting them. These really do provide an excellent opportunity to gain competitive advantage, if you can identify them.

So what does it mean to you?

A few questions for you to consider.

  • What are the expectations of your customer or target customer for you product or service?
  • How well does your product meet those basic expectations?
  • What attributes or features of your product or service differentiate you from your competition?
  • What attributes or features, if you could deliver them better would increase customer satisfaction?
  • What is not meeting the customers expectation of your product/service?

To answer these you will certainly need to know your target customer, their needs and wants. How will you do that? You also need to monitor the feedback that you get to adapt or change your product where it does not meet expectation. Remember, it is often stated that one disatisfied customer typically tells ten to twelve others about their ‘experience’.

More questions than answers here then. However, I hope that in asking them I have given you some food for thought.