Customer expectations

How to surface and use customer performance expectations to steer your CX


Customer-facing work processes and the employees that support them need to be guided by a customer-specified standard of performance and not abstract internal measurement goals.

14th Feb 2022

Great customer experience (CX) is not the same experience for every customer. I grew up in a small town in Minnesota and delivered newspapers to homes and small businesses. One of the key requirements to being a great paperboy was memorising where each person wanted their daily papers. Newspapers were delivered to one door in the morning and a separate location for the evening paper. Customer preferences ranged from the front porch to underneath the doormat. In Northfield, Minnesota, each customer’s preference was vital to delivering a great customer experience.    

Today’s business environment is not very different from my newspaper environment. In B2B, B2C and all business combinations in between, customers have readily available options to meet their product and service requirements. Understanding and fulfilling a customer’s CX preferences is not an option, it’s a competitive differentiator. 

Employees must understand that different customers have different requirements with the same customer-facing functions. Customer-facing functions from delivery, billing, customer service, sales, bid response, contracting, and ordering must understand that different customer preferences are opportunities to grow customer retention and build customers that are passionate about your brand.

Integrating Voice of the Customer (VoC) performance expectations is a critical opportunity to enable employees to better serve customers. Employees want to serve customers well. If an employee does not know what a customer wants or worse, must guess what a customer needs, then a poor or at best a mediocre CX interaction is close to follow.  

In B2B businesses, for example, the contracting process is oftentimes a consistent customer pain point. This is due to inconsistent processing time, different legal requirements and poor coordination between legal teams. When an organisation discovers that customers want a contract returned between three to five days for a new contract and ten days for an existing contract, it inspires the organisation’s legal team to create new work processes that deliver to the customer’s expectations. 

Customer-facing work processes and the employees that support them need to be guided by a customer-specified standard of performance and not abstract internal measurement goals. To successfully implement this, Gartner recommends that CX leaders consider the following:

  • Conduct VoC listening sessions and journey mapping activities to identify precise customer performance expectations. Customer journey mapping sessions provide greater value than understanding how the customer interacts with the organisation. Critical customer insight occurs when the VoC journey interaction illustrates specific examples of poor, mediocre and excellent customer touchpoints with the organisation. When the customer clearly defines what made a journey stage or a journey activity successful that experience is a step closer to universal replication by the organisation. 

  • Understand that different personas may and often have different performance expectations for the same customer-facing activity. Personas are fictional representations of customer archetypes designed to help an organisation understand how the brand can best meet interaction needs. Defining specific standards of performance through VoC insight surrounding unique persona requirements will further strengthen delivered CX.

  • Incorporate customer performance expectations to improve the employee experience. One of the greatest challenges for employees occurs when leaders encourage them to “work harder for the customer” or “improve customer experience.” Employees want to deliver great CX but struggle with “how” to deliver great CX when they do not know the customer’s expectations. Capturing customer performance standards by persona along salient stages of the customer journey creates a rich, available and immediate data source to guide employees on how to deliver great CX.

  • Share CX performance reports with customers. VoC sessions, customer forums and journey mapping sessions are difficult and often exhausting work for customers. Yet, customers constantly volunteer, guide and aid organisations in their CX insight efforts. In return, organisations must regularly report back on their performance against the precise standards discovered in the VoC sessions. 

  • Continue to listen to VoC feedback – because expectations change. VoC is an ongoing, vital and never-ending process. Some organisations have discovered immense success with semi-annual customer forums that consistently track and discuss where CX can be improved. 

Great CX begins and ends with listening to the customer. Organisations that listen and define customer expectations for customer-facing processes are taking a critical step in elevating their delivered customer experience.  


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