Many organizations have difficulty keeping pace with changing customer expectations brought by digital. Still, complacency should not be an option when customers are dissatisfied.

A woman recently ordered four items through a retail website, carefully selecting only items that were marked as available for immediate delivery. Six days later, the package arrived with only three items and a note on the packing slip that the fourth was on backorder to be shipped as soon as it arrived at the retailer. In the past, she would have accepted the situation with disappointment, but this time she was angry, vowed to shop another retailer’s website in the future and immediately canceled the undelivered item.

People have been ordering merchandise by mail or phone for generations, usually accepting the occasional delay or error as an unwelcome, but acceptable, occurrence. However, the digital marketplace with its interactive features and promises of up-to-the-minute package tracking has changed those expectations. Now, an unanticipated delay becomes a breach in the contract the woman presumed she had with the retailer. The retailer has failed her, and she feels no loyalty to remain a customer.

This is not an isolated case.

Customer Expectations

As the research we commissioned from Forrester Consulting demonstrates, a business’ service levels needn’t fall for customers to become disenchanted with a company; customer expectations simply are outpacing brand experience.

Most organizations – 67 percent across all industries and 51 percent of insurers – believe they are meeting customer expectations­­––and just 7% across the industries and 8% of insurers believe they are actually exceeding those expectations. So far, so good. The problem is that 25% across the industries and 42% of insurers report they fail to meet those expectations, but almost all of them believe it is still “good enough.”

Accenture’s research indicates that executives are satisfied with incremental improvement because they benchmark against the wrong objectives. Across industries, 44% report they were on par or slightly behind competitors, slightly higher than responses from the insurance industry. As one insurance executive explained:

Against the competition, we are right in line. Relative to our customers’ expectations (CX), we are absolutely behind.

Organizations see the value of CX and may have high goals to try to achieve this, but resources are less available and only about 2/3 believe they have the wherewithal to actually deliver on their CX agenda. In fact 69% of companies report their technology resources are adequate for this job, down by 9% from 2015; 66% have the needed processes, down 12%; and 59% have the organizational resources, down by 5%.

So what do customers want? In a word, more.

  • Customers are underwhelmed and want big improvements in customer experience – fast.
  • Customers benchmark against their best experiences across industries, not the middle of the pack experiences within an industry as brands do.
  • Competition is stiff and it is global. Customers will move business if their experience and price fail to align with their expectations.

In the last part of this series, we’ll discuss “So many opportunities, so little time.”

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