Evolving Customer Expectations: Will Your Company Adapt Or Perish?

Do you remember – before online shopping – when you had to buy from local stores? You had limited choices as to which company you bought from. They had no reason to offer a better experience – they knew you had no other options.

Fast forward 10 years and customers now have hundreds of choices. They can even buy from companies on the other side of the world.

Your customers’ expectations have changed a lot in the last 10 years. With the rise of online shopping and the fast adoption of social media, there are a lot of external factors that have altered the expectations of your customers.


Why are customer expectations changing?

Online shopping has increased competition, driven down prices and created a super-competitive environment. Social media has put the spotlight on customer service. Consumers now have the power to share their opinions and experiences with thousands of people – including the negative ones. As a result, businesses are investing in improving the customer experience and using it to create a competitive advantage.

The combination of these two external factors has created a customer experience gold rush. Companies realize they can no longer compete on price alone.

One company that has struggled with the rise of online shopping and social media is Harvey Norman. Gerry Harvey, executive chairman of Harvey Norman, declared online retailing dead in 2008 and reluctantly opened an online offering in 2011. Gerry was certainly late to the party. This has left the company on the back foot ever since. Innovative companies – like Kogan – have stolen market share and built million dollar businesses off the back of understanding how customer expectations have changed.


Your competitors have improved their customer experience

Do you want to lose market share like Harvey Norman?

Your competitors are improving their customer experience and using it as a strategy to steal your customers. This push to improve the experience means customers expect different things. For example, Kogan started offering fast online shipping and a 14-day return policy.

As a company, if you don’t have a return policy, you are at risk of not meeting expectations because your customers have come to expect that as a standard.

The harsh reality is that if Harvey Norman doesn’t offer a similar level of service, customer expectations will not be met. This will create a bad experience and result in low customer satisfaction, which means no repeat business and the possibility of bad word of mouth that will affect future business. That’s why all this is so important! Your customers have the power now! You need to be monitoring customer expectations to ensure you are constantly meeting and exceeding them.

Harvey Norman doesn’t accept returns. As a company, the only way Harvey Norman can ensure that they meet customer expectations is to make sure the customer is well-informed of the no-returns policy at the point of purchase to avoid any confusion and dissatisfaction.


Adapt to the new expectations of your customers

These changing expectations are putting pressure on your company. If you want to stay competitive and continue to win new business, you need to improve the customer experience to meet these new expectations.

Think about it. If your customers expect a free returns policy and they buy from you under the assumption that you are meeting their expectations, what will they think about your company when you tell them they can’t return something after they’ve already made the purchase?

They’ll be fuming!

The idea here is you need put systems in place to ensure you adapt to the changing expectations. Harvey Norman needs to monitor changes in expectations or else they risk annoying a lot of customers and losing more market share to companies like Kogan.

What you can learn from this:

  • You must monitor your competitors’ customer experiences – what are they offering that you aren’t?
  • Focus on managing your customers’ expectations better – ensure they know what to expect from your product and service.
  • Listen to customer feedback – your customers will tell you their expectations. If you find your company not meeting these new expectations, make sure you listen and improve the experience to bring things back into line.


Listen to your customers or risk losing everything

Today’s business world is volatile. You have a lot more competitive pressure attacking your business than you did 10 years ago. Barriers to entry are reduced making it easy for competitors to pop up within days with nearly no upfront costs.

If that competitor can deliver the same product and a better service than you, they will potentially steal your market share.

What will you do? Will you stick with your old ways and risk not meeting expectations? Or will you be proactive, listen to customer feedback and change the experience to meet and exceed your customers’ new expectations.

The companies that can adapt to these changing expectations will be the ones that flourish and win new business. The companies that are too stuck in their ways will perish. Which will you be?

Your thoughts?

What have you done to adapt to your customers’ new expectations? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Gordon Tan

Gordon Tan is an entrepreneur based in Australia who has started and sold multiple technology companies with a combined value of $150m. This included a client satisfaction benchmarking platform which gave him first hand insight into the best practices of over 6,000 businesses. After retiring at 35 he is now a recognised thought leader on winning and retaining clients - His two passions: making clients the heartbeat of a business no matter what the product or service and this blog.

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