Manage expectations and get loyal customers

Af Betina Munkholm Johansson, Loyalty Group

"A network with a Difference", "Broadband at the Speed of light" and "Customers First" are just some of the slogans that one encounters when you dive into markets for mobile and internet providers. The promises are queuing up, but what are the consequences if companies fail to meet them, and how can they become better at managing customer expectations?
Whatever the industry, it is a classic challenge that marketing promises more than a company can provide. Consumers have gradually built up a scepticism about marketing messages when they look for market opportunities. Yet it is not without consequences when companies promise more than they can deliver.

Cheated by empty promises

Imagine the following scenario: The customer sees an ad online that promise cheap broadband and fast delivery and strikes without much reflection. A week later, the money is deducted from customer's account, but the installer has still not emerged. An irritated call to customer service to get be told that the installation has unfortunately been delayed due to technical problems..
An explanation  that the customer may understand, but that comes at a completely wrong time. The client has not been informed about the risks in advance and therefore feels tricked and cheated by misleading marketing messages. Customer service excuse and say sorry many times, but the damage is done: The customer has lost confidence in the company and is already considering other alternatives.

Keep what you promise!

The example shows that Marketing's promises often seems clear for the customer at the moment the company fails. At the worst, the customer ends up leaving the company and spreading negative publicity to friends and acquaintances. The negative publicity could make it difficult for the company to attract new customers while getting more customers complaining. It affects the employees who have to try to sort the problems out. Dissatisfied customers are therefore typically accompanied by frustrated and dissatisfied employees.
Does this mean that Marketing must stuck only to hard facts about the product? Not necessarily, but there is definitely a need for Marketing to become better at communicating with the departments who deliver to the customer. Marketing have to on one sid, focus on what customers want, and on the other ensure that the company can deliver.

The Road to loyal customers

Waoo! is a good example of an ISP that does not promise more than they can deliver when it comes to internet speed. While other providers advertise an "up to" speed, the Waoo! customers get the speed they are paying for.
This is also reflected in our study Internet Sector Survey 2013 when Waoo! peaks as the Internet company that is best to live up to customer expectations. Waoo! Also have the most satisfied and loyal customers in the study. It emphasizes that there is a direct correlation between control of expectations and customer loyalty to the company.
But what can the company actually do to manage the client's expectations? In addition to give the marketing messages a reality check, the company should have a greater focus on communication with the customer in the first phase of the customer relationship. Here, the customer have to get his choice confirmed, and if the company can even surprise positively, will be giving it extra points on the "relation account".

This means that Marketing can benefit from promising a little less than the company can deliver. Imagine if the customer from the previous example had the internet installed  two days earlier than he had been promised - and on top of this by a friendly and service-minded technician. The customer had not just been happy with his choice but was also pleasantly surprised. He had most likely shared his positive experience with others and perhaps even would like to buy more.

Timing is crucial 

But it's not always that the company has the opportunity to surprise positively. In the example, the company was unable to deliver on time because of technical problems. In that case, communication and timing is crucial. The company should be in front of the challenges that may arise in connection with the delivery and inform the customer about them as soon as possible. This could be via a welcome email which informs the customer that the delivery may be delayed and how he should deal with this.
The company should also consider how it can compensate for a possible delay. Maybe the customer shall get the first month free or be offered an interim solution to get on the Internet? The most important thing is that the customer don't feel forgotten as soon as the supplier has got the order in house. Most customers can accept minor challenges if the company is keeping them updated as early as possible and make an effort to meet their needs.

Reveal the customer's expectations 

The company should structure their efforts to gather knowledge about the customer's expectations at the beginning of the relationship. This could be by asking the customer to answer a series of questions about their expectations already when ordering the product. In this way, the company has the possibility to align expectations with the client and correct any misunderstandings before the complaints end up at Customer Service.

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