MANAGING CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS ONE EXPERIENCE AT A TIME

September 21, 2018 | Customer Service | 4 min read

In the hospitality sector, managing customer expectations is the daily moment of truth. Customer expectations have morphed and changed in the last decade but the pace of change has accelerated recently.

The information explosion driven by the rapid adoption of digital technology – particularly social media – is reshaping our customers’ newly-evolved expectations. The sheer volume of information available at the swipe of a finger has changed the very nature of customer expectations.

THEORY COLLIDES WITH REALITY

The importance accorded to customer service was highlighted by recent Forrester research, where 95 per cent of leaders indicated ensuring a great customer experience is their number one strategic priority. Moreover, 75 per cent of respondents wanted to exploit customer experience as their point of competitive advantage.

However, according to Forrester implementation is proving to be a challenge, with just 37 per cent of leaders having an allocated budget to support improvement to their customer experience initiatives.

Clearly, hospitality leaders need to understand their customers’ expectations and the implications posed for subsequent customer satisfaction and brand loyalty levels.

Here are three key customer expectations that are shaping how they view their overall customer experience.

  1. DIAL UP THE PERSONALIZATION

One of the major trends powered by the emergence of the Internet and an ever-present social media is our customers’ desire for deeply personalized experiences.

Today, service organisations simply must provide extensive information on their brand and their products in formats and channels that are easy to discover and equally easy to navigate.

Many online customers especially will abandon their online shopping cart if they can’t locate speedy answers to their queries. They also still very much expect a one-on-one experience.

The solution to the mismatch between online communication channels and a personalized service experience is to curate online orders, questions and requests from long-time or repeat customers to ensure they receive a swift and personal response.

  1. MORE OPTIONS, PLEASE!

In addition to a personal service experience, customers are increasingly expecting more options around how they consume the service.

Customers increasingly demand self-service options together with digital, social or voice communication channels to interact with a brand or a company.

In recent years we have witnessed the emergence of high growth channels:

  • Website self-service
  • Online communities
  • Live chat.

While offering multiple communication channels to customers, it’s probably equally vital to ensure that communication remains agile and completely seamless.

If you see customers contacting you via one channel, then opt for a different channel to follow up, you need to understand the context around what occurred during prior interactions, the status of the query and the customer’s satisfaction levels.

  1. LISTEN CLOSELY AND RESPOND FAST!

Happily, most customers don’t find surveys and feedback requests annoying. Customers’ biggest expectation of the feedback loop is that companies action the feedback they receive.

Companies need to not only respond to feedback, they need to be seen to be responding to that feedback! Customers expect to be advised about what changes have been implemented to enhance their experience, otherwise, customers quickly cease giving their feedback.

FINAL OBSERVATION

Excellent customer service is critically important in the hospitality industry. It’s inevitably the initial point of contact between the customer and the representative of the brand. It is, therefore, the first opportunity an establishment gets to impress and create a lasting great impression as well as a personalized experience. Surrounding this physical point of interaction is a plethora of online communication channels and a seemingly insatiable demand by prospects and customers for information. In exchange for keeping its customers engaged and happy, a business has the prospect of repeat visits and the increasingly important brand ambassadors’ word of mouth recommendations.

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