The emotional gap between customer expectations and company’s perceptions can lead to ineffective strategies. Find out exactly what your customers expect!
In a digital era customers are more and more connected and interaction between company and customer is easier than ever before. There are so many ways to reach customers – advertising, social media, word of mouth, etc – that it can be difficult finding out what works (and what doesn’t).
One of the biggest mistakes many companies make is assuming they know what their customers want, but often they have little concrete evidence to back it up. This gap between customer expectations and a company’s perceptions of what’s required can lead to ineffective business strategies that fail to deliver for customers – and your bottom line.
In international arenas like banking, which have seen large-scale automation take place over the last 20 years to move customers away from shopfronts and towards telephone and internet banking, the gap between customer expectations and a company’s perceptions of those expectations can be quite stark. Closing this gap is key to your business success. And the key to closing the gap is to nurture your relationship with your customers. Asking them what they do – and don’t – like about their customer experience with your business is a simple concept that can yield highly effective results.
Henry Ford is often quoted as saying that if he’d asked customers what they’d wanted, they’d have said ‘faster horses’. But Ford is the exception to the rule: in general, if you don’t ask, you don’t find out.
But you need to know what questions to ask (and how to interpret the results).
Finding the gaps
Marketing Professor Dwayne D Gremler and others argue that there are in fact five gaps a business needs to close in order to operate efficiently.
- The Customer Gap: The difference between customer expectations and customer perceptions.
- The Listening Gap: When companies do not have an accurate idea of what their customers expect.
- The Design and Standards Gap: When a company does not have the correct service designs and standards to deliver for customers.
- The Service Performance Gap: When a company cannot deliver its expected standards.
- The Communication Gap: When a company fails to match its performance to its promises.
Each of these gaps impacts on the others, and combines to create one ‘emotional gap’ that needs closing in order to maximize business potential.
Closing the emotional gap
The emotional gap is cumulative. It occurs when a company doesn’t understand what its customers want, and therefore doesn’t create the right services or products for that market. As a result, the standards of performance and the products offered fall short of customer expectations – expectations largely set by over-promising in communications and marketing strategies.
This gaps model is not new. First published in the Journal of Marketing in 1985, it was designed to help businesses better understand and meet customer expectations. Yet studies – such as that by Bain & Company – continue to highlight the massive gap between consumer expectations and company perceptions. In that study, a survey of 362 firms found that 80% believed they were delivering “superior service”, when only 8% of customers agreed.
If there is an emotional gap between you and your customers, there are ways you can bridge this gap. The most effective way is to create value by making emotional connections with your customers. With effective market research it’s possible to pinpoint what’s driving their purchasing decisions, measure their customer satisfaction and get feedback on their customer experience. This can help to gauge their initial expectations as well as their post-service perceptions of your business. Only once you have this data should you then develop a perception in relation to what your customers want, and devise business and marketing strategies to match.
Closing the customer gap
Tried and tested techniques for looking after your customers still hold true. Service is key to exceeding customer expectations. Customer service forms the benchmark of customer expectations, and can have a huge impact on customer experience and satisfaction.
Finding the answers to the following questions can help you to close your emotional gap with your customers.
- Value for money: Does the customer get what they paid for? Does the product deliver for its price bracket?
- Reliability: Do you deliver the products or services you promise your customers? Can you match and manage customer perceptions?
- Tangibles: Can customers relate to your business, either by way of the shopfront or your online marketing? Are you accessible?
- Responsiveness: Do you deliver a fast and efficient service? Do you answer customer queries on time and with diligence?
- Assurances: Do you and your employees have a good understanding of your products and services? Can you convey trust and reassurance?
- Empathy: Do you offer a caring, individualized service? Can your customers communicate well with you? Do you prioritize developing good business relationships with your customers?
If you can’t answer these questions, or if your answers reflect poorly on the service you’re providing, it’s important to act quickly and decisively to address any issues.
- Identify the problems
- Develop a strategy for addressing them
- Ensure you have the team and logistical framework in place to properly manage improvements
Tracking customer satisfaction can help give you the answers to some of these questions, and an insight into where you might be going wrong. Customer experience is key. Studying both individual user experience as well as brand experience is important. Being customer-centric and drawing knowledge from your customer base – and potential customer base – can be a highly effective strategy.
Why closing the emotional gap matters
The marketplace is a highly competitive environment – businesses need to use every advantage to capture and retain an active customer base. With brand loyalty in decline, now more than ever companies need to work harder to keep customers happy. Closing your emotional gap should be a key goal of your business and marketing strategy to help make this happen.
It’s important to understand the importance of your own emotional intelligence in reading want your customers want – and knowing how to deliver it. The role that emotions play in customer behavior is not a trend – it’s something that should lead strategic decisions for companies of all sizes. To do this, you need to get to know your customers and your market – and its expectations. You need to stop guessing or assuming and instead do some solid market research into what your customers expect – and get – from your business.
Start closing your emotional gap
The Emoscore from Emolytics can help you track customer expectations as well as customer satisfaction. By comparing what your customers expect with what they actually think and feel after interacting with your business, you can gauge how closely what you customers want matches what you’re trying to deliver. You can then develop strategies to close this gap between your business and your customers.
Find out exactly what your customers expect of your business and start developing strategies to deliver on those expectations. Contact Emolytics to find out how our customer-centric tools can help you close your emotional gap. Get in touch for a free consultation with our digital experts today.
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