Sentiment is a make-or-break predictor of success
Customer expectations are at an all-time high, and service levels across industries can’t keep up. Over the last two years, consumer patience has steadily declined, with 44% of consumers saying they would be unwilling to shop with a business again after a poor experience.
Prioritizing a customer’s experience is becoming an increasingly important way to ensure your business’s future growth. With this, companies must now determine how to meet customer expectations alongside our current reality of supply chain delays, worker shortages and reduced consumer patience.
Manage customer expectations ahead of engagement
Many moments of frustration derive from a mismatch between customer expectations for interactions and a company’s ability to deliver. Case in point, 75% percent of consumers expect businesses to offer support within five minutes of an inquiry. This is why managing customer expectations before the initial connection can dramatically impact the moment itself and, even more importantly, the customer’s lasting impression of your business.
A good strategy is to give consumers the opportunity to opt-in to the next phase of your brand journey or move on after the initial engagement. For example, if calls to your business aren’t answered in a timely manner, give customers an estimated wait time as soon as they get into the queue. When you’re short-staffed, communicate with customers, letting them know how this may affect your ability to serve them. If shipping times are slower than usual, communicate that early and often and ensure customers have easy access to the information.
When you’re open with consumers at every stage of the buyer’s journey, you’re creating the opportunity to align their expectations with your realities. Though they may still come with their preconceived notions for the experience, over-communicating existing truths de-escalates moments of potential frustration. Ultimately, managing customer expectations is the most critical tool to negate problems that do not need to exist and can actually win you more customers.
Create feedback opportunities
The best way to understand your customers’ expectations and how you’re delivering on those is to create feedback opportunities.
When customers have a poor experience, they tell people both publicly and privately. As the pandemic reduced private interactions, frustrated customers took to social media to air their grievances and seek validation for their experiences. And, unfortunately, those reviews can have a magnifying effect on your brand's reputation. But, on the flip side, customer experiences that exceed expectations are also shared, creating opportunities for your business.
You can avoid complaints reaching the public stage by creating feedback opportunities throughout your customer journey. As positive reviews influence 90% of customers, ask loyal customers for social media reviews and encourage company tags so others can easily find the reviews when they search. For new customers, ask what they do or don't like about their experience through brief surveys and questionnaires (either in person or online).
All of this data maps your brand reputation throughout the customer journey while providing insight into adjustments you need to make to have the “exceeded expectations” word-of-mouth story that every brand desires. For small businesses, in particular, this type of feedback is even more invaluable. Since a small business may service only a handful of customers in a day or week, even one negative review can have a more drastic impact on a company’s brand. Therefore, negativity needs to be mitigated by proactively identifying those mismatched expectations and grounding them in reality.
For customers, the information, reviews and opinions they find on your business either validate or invalidate their decision to move forward with you. This is why collecting and addressing feedback is crucial; your public reviews build confidence in your perspective customers' decision to choose you.
Put purpose before profit
Consumers will pay 17% more to do business with companies that have excellent customer service reputations. They are also likely to understand existing service limitations when they buy into your mission too.
As mentioned, customer interactions—good and bad—can be a magnifying glass on your business. Customers need a reason to choose you in a competitive landscape. When they understand your brand purpose, it accelerates the journey from consideration to conversion. More than that, if a customer feels like they are part of what you’re doing, they will continue to choose you even throughout potential service disruptions.
This purpose can’t be something that you say; it has to be something that you do. Then, as customers experience that purpose, they will encourage others to be part of what you’re building by sharing their experience with others.
These past two years, businesses have faced hurdle after hurdle. Consumers, too, are fatigued by life’s interruptions and are seeking companies that can help.
As consumers struggle with countless decisions around whom they want to do business with, they will continue to seek validation through others who have already lived those experiences. As a result, experience has become the critical metric, illuminating how you can support the growth of your business. Customer sentiment is one of the most critical leading indicators of your potential revenue, whether via referral, retention, or potential future business so make sure you’re asking for and paying attention to all feedback.