One in a Million: Understanding Evolving Customer Expectations for Service that Goes Above and Beyond

 

Before the advent of the internet, buyers’ options were limited to the brick-and-mortar retail locations available in their area. Now, the average buyer enjoys the ability to shop virtually anywhere in the world, without ever leaving their home. As such, 1 in every 10 retail purchases is conducted online. Limited options previously meant limited competition between businesses, which meant lower customer expectations. When there’s no place else for clients to go, businesses have no reason to go above and beyond.

The internet changed all of that. There are now millions of options available, and as a result, modern businesses find themselves vying for consumer attention against a nearly limitless number of competitors. According to the Salesforce 2017 “State of IT” report, 70% of consumers say technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere. At the same time, the rise of social media has given buyers a number of easily accessible platforms from which to share their buying experiences.

These factors have helped businesses recognize something that should always have been obvious: In order to provide a positive consumer experience, you need to manage, meet, and exceed customer expectations.

 
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Consumer expectations set the standard.

Every time you engage a customer, your business is being judged. Clients are constantly evaluating your company’s performance, either privately or — much more commonly thanks to social media and online reviews — publicly. As of 2017, at least 46% of consumers had used social media to publicly call out brands for poor service.

Your customers build these opinions by comparing them to their own expectations. When the reality meets or exceeds expectations, consumers can be said to have had a positive experience. Conversely, when the reality fails to meet expectations, unsatisfied clients are the natural result.

This is all relatively straightforward. However, consumer expectations are like the universe — they’re always expanding. The retail market is constantly evolving, and even as retailers hasten to better understand what their consumers expect, those expectations are changing, thanks in part to emergent tech trends. For example, 58% of consumers note that technology has significantly changed their expectations of how a business should interact with them.

This transformation is ongoing. This means that though organizations may take a snapshot of consumer wants and then work to build an experience around it, they may still find themselves falling short as the wants continue to grow.

To keep up with evolving consumer expectations, businesses need access to the right data, accurate up to the moment, and they need the tools to put that data to work.

Data demands direction.

In this digital age, data is not hard to come by. In fact, it’s been predicted that in 2018, the volume of data carried via global internet traffic will grow to reach 50,000 GB per second — roughly equivalent to the data contained in 100,000 45-minute standard-definition television programs.

For businesses, this relentless current of information is a potential gold mine. Client data, in the form of interactions, transactions, preferences, purchase history, and behavior across channels, can be used to help businesses better understand and deliver on consumer expectations. However, this process isn’t as simple as opening the floodgates and letting the data do the work for you.

Without reliable digital tools and the right professional talent, all the client data in the world is little more than virtual chaff. Worse still, unreliable or incorrectly handled data can actually end up causing businesses serious harm. Gartner estimates that bad data is responsible for approximately $9.7 million in lost revenue per year. Similarly, 84% of CEOs have concerns about the quality of data that guides their business decisions.

To help turn raw data into reliable conclusions, successful businesses rely on data science.
 

Understand your clients better with data science and marketing intelligence.

Data science is the term used to describe big-data management, particularly for business use. Data science incorporates data mining and data analysis, with the goal of extracting usable insights from large amounts of unstructured data. More importantly, data science gives you the opportunity to understand the clients that support your business — defining and managing client expectations in real time, for improved consumer experience that evolves along with growing consumer needs.

Of similar yet distinct purpose is marketing intelligence. Marketing intelligence puts data science into context, with its primarily focus on how the data relates to specific clients. Superior marketing intelligence provides actionable conclusions about past, current, and future consumers, business competitors, and even internal processes.

But how is it that data science and marketing intelligence are able to convert so much raw information into something useful, and to do so in real time? They rely on advanced tools.

Effective consumer relationship management (CRM) systems are capable of handling the greater portion of the data load. These specialized systems automatically capture relevant client data for analysis, track issues, and help businesses keep track of the expectations and experiences of every individual lead and client. Additionally, the best CRM systems are entirely cloud-based and include real-time analytics options, meaning that no matter where or when you decide to check up on your data, you’ll have access to the most up-to-date conclusions available. Combine these capabilities with artificial intelligence-powered predictive insights, and you have the power to understand and meet consumer expectations, even as they continue to evolve.

Evolve.

It is estimated that as many as 49% of consumers will switch companies after a single experience in which service fails to meet expectations. That’s approximately half of your clients, and if you don’t understand their needs, they likely won’t be giving you a second chance. Equally disheartening is the fact that many businesses don’t even realize that they aren’t meeting consumer expectations. According to a recent Forrester study, 52% of businesses identify themselves as best in class in their industries, when in fact only 7% are actually exceeding consumers’ expectations.

Your consumers are the heart of your business. Work with them. Understand them. Identify what they expect from you, and then give them even more. Above all, never get complacent. Consumer expectations are evolving, and that means your business needs to evolve right along with them — always improving, and always going above and beyond. The right data-science technologies can make this possible.

When it comes to doing business, modern shoppers have millions of options, but so what? With the ability to understand and surpass growing consumer expectations, those million other options will never be more than second best.

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