Customer Expectations Haven’t Changed

In the electronics supply chain, just about everybody is somebody's customer: Raw materials foundries supply component makers; component makers sell to distributors, EMS providers, and OEMs; OEMs sell to their end-customers. So it's not surprising that all customers aren't happy all the time.

In electronics distribution, Rob Rodin, former CEO of Marshall Industries (which was acquired by {complink 577|Avnet Inc.} in late 1999) summed up customer expectations in a book entitled Free, Perfect, and Now, published in 1999. Those expectations haven't changed much in 10 years.

“Many companies find it easy to delight customers — if they give everything away for free and provide 24×7 personal attention,” reports Frost & Sullivan in a recent whitepaper. Despite commitments by companies to put “customers first,” most organizations find it challenging to reconcile the needs of the customer with the demands of the business.

To implement change, businesses must:

  • Recognize the customer's intent
  • Understand what is actually going on inside customer interactions
  • Implement best practices that improve every interaction to the mutual benefit of the customer and the business

Frost & Sullivan refers to this process as “Customer Dynamics Optimization.” Customer dynamics is a way of understanding customer relationships as a series of interactions, and managing these interactions to improve customer experience and business results. However, only a fraction of companies achieve this today.

The problem for most is not a lack of ability (or even lack of vision), but limited access to technology that allows them to implement a fully rounded service vision. The complexity of today's customer dynamics has exceeded the capability of even the most committed organizations to turn interactions into value, according to the whitepaper. Businesses must have the proper tools to get control of the overload of customer and interaction data, analyze it, and pinpoint how and where to apply the insight that flows from it. These tools include cross-channel analytics — in particular, speech analytics, Web analytics, and text mining.

Pushing customers toward self-service is not the best option, Frost and Sullivan notes — something that I found interesting. On one hand, tech companies provide everything from data sheets to purchasing tools to allow their customers 24/7 access to information and inventory. On the other hand, this doesn't engage customers or qualify as customer interaction. Self-service was largely implemented as a cost-cutting measure to save on sales overhead.

Companies “must have focus and clarity into how their high-level strategies relate to and intersect with specific, day-to-day operations,” says Frost & Sullivan principal analyst Keith Dawson. When properly implemented, companies with this holistic view of service delivery can have it all: outstanding service, high customer retention rates, and lower costs. Businesses must look at service delivery as a dynamic process in which individual interactions and contacts combine to paint a vivid, usable picture of customer intent.

How does your company measure up to customer expectations?

20 comments on “Customer Expectations Haven’t Changed

  1. eemom
    December 22, 2010

    You raise very interesting points.  We have a crossroad between companies trying to provide good or maybe excellent service while continuously competing to lower cost and be the first to market with new technology.  Customers not only want it now at a cheap price with excellent customer service, to some extent we've started to feel entitled to it.  It's the entitlement issue that causes this disconnect.  It is OK for customers to shop for the best price product, it is not ok to expect free technical support and for the product to last a lifetime with no issues when they've paid hardly anything for it.  The phrase “you get what you pay for” doesn't exist anymore, people feel entitled to get the best for less. 

    Companies now have the arduous task of creating cheap products that satisfy the competitive market while dealing with angry customers later when the product fails.  I think companies need to create high end and low end and make sure people understand exactly what they are getting in the end.  I don't think there is anything wrong with creating a high end product (look at Apple for example) and still demanding more money for it.

  2. SP
    December 22, 2010

    Customer just want the product they buy to work well and in case there is an issue it get addressed. But many companies forget that as soon as they sell their products. Actually after sales service should be the most important in any business.

  3. Clairvoyant
    December 22, 2010

    Very good point. I have seen examples in the area I work in, where customers have changed the manufacturer they buy from, not because of the product differences, but because of having good customer service.

  4. kumar1863
    December 22, 2010

    Instead of stating it as a customer expectations haven't changed we can really say it as a customers expectations haven't reached and not satisfied. Every time when a customer buy a product he will look at the future support for that product. A company's future market will always depends on it's past and present customer support.

  5. prabhakar_deosthali
    December 23, 2010

    I agree totally with you 'eemom'  that the real issue is how much the customer is entiltled to demand in service for a given product. I think here again the responsibility lies with the supplier to clearly mention the terms and conditions of the service upfront at the time of delivery of the product.  So if a cheap product has limited service & warranty, the company should not hesitate to mention so to the customer.  It is actually the over enthisiasm of the sales people that they , just to achieve their sales target, overcommit something to the customers which the service department is not equipped to fulfill.

  6. mfbertozzi
    December 23, 2010

    Gents, in order to provide best support services (or improve in customer care also to deliver in professional way deep instructions on self-service), several companies working in the field of electronic or telcos, have started to provide support by social media (i.e. Twitter); from your point of view, could be the path to step ahead in the direction of customers' expectations?


  7. Ariella
    December 23, 2010

    mfbertozzi, you bring up the idea of offering support through social media.  Business that use it effectively can use their Facebook pages and Twitter interactions to listen to what customers are less than happy about and ask them what they would like changed.  That is usually more effective in strengthening the customer relationship than simply broadcasting without also listening.

  8. eemom
    December 23, 2010

    That is very true, sometimes the sales people overcommitt and therefore the company underdelivers.  I do agree with those that noted the importance of customer service.  In general, it is one of the best ways to retain customer loyalty.  With a lot of corporations' cutting cost measures, few offer exceptional service that retains customer loyalty.

  9. Ms. Daisy
    December 23, 2010

    You are right sbout the over commitment and under delivery of companies, all in the name of meeting sales numbers. This especially compromises customer satisfaction.

  10. mfbertozzi
    December 23, 2010

    Ariella, Eemom, in principle, we could say apps such as Twitter for example, hold extensive features and APIs (if needed) to track any conversations with customer, step by step. It's free of charge. You can also customize any interaction with your logo and so on. It's free of charge too. Customer's perception is your Care is always on line  and it provides support any time. You can do that quite easily; a smartphone as tool is enough.

    Basically you could improve a lot the support saving costs in parallel.

  11. eemom
    December 23, 2010

    Although what you say is true and online support is always available, sometimes, there is just no replacing taking to a live person.  For me, that is where the “care” comes in.

  12. Taimoor Zubar
    December 24, 2010

    When you happen to be in the distribution section of your organization, you are faced with lots of challenges from your customers. Majority of them are related with the delivery of goods on time and in the right condition. The situation gets more complex if these are custom-made goods where you are procuring parts from several other organizations. It becomes very difficult to manage customer expectations in such scenarios.

    From what I have seen, customers are interested in knowing about the state of their order and the time it would take for the goods to reach them. A lot of companies,  who have information systems controlling their supply chain, have started to publish their real-time supply chain data on the internet. This data is available to the customer through secured login. The customers are able to see about the state of their order at any time. They themselves can track the shipping and delivery of the goods. I think when the customers have so much information on their end, it does make a significant role in managing their expectations. That's one way many companies are able to achieve the 'customer delight' by providing real-time updates 24×7.

  13. mfbertozzi
    December 25, 2010

    Real-time systems dispatching info on supply-chain help a lot customers in feeling good “care” support. In general track-updates are available via Web or secure-Web through https connection. The sensitive point is sometimes customers (or key people within customers interested in how shipment is going on) haven't a web connection just in time. It could be strange, I experienced across the globe several times restrictions due to lack of data (fixed-xdsl or mobile-gprs/umts) connectivity. Then social media could fill this gap for the fact you can receive/provides tracking updates simply by poor sms/gsm connection. Benn Parr, editor and entrepeneur highlighted several advanteges ( in social-media as real-time dispatcher.

  14. Ariella
    December 27, 2010

    I agree with eemom.  If I have a problem, my first instinct is to call on the phone.  I find the supposed connection to a live person through a web site's chat frustrating b/c that person is usually following a script and not really responding to the problem at hand.  Also a number of times, issues have to be escalated to someone higher up, and the fastest way to get there is through the phone. Pointing out an issue via email usually only brings a response in 24 hours, and that often just states the lines of the script that are supposed to let you know they are working on it without actually resolving it.

  15. Taimoor Zubar
    December 28, 2010

    You mentioned a good point about how social media can be used to circulate real-time information about supply chain data. I think it may be a good idea to use Twitter to inform your customers about updates related to goods movement and delivery. What do you say?

  16. mfbertozzi
    December 29, 2010

    Several customers services have been arranged by providing H24 devoted consultant to support individually each customer. The result is you can call any time Support Centre all you receive info/support/ticket track by speaking with same person. It is something in consolidation especially in the area of financial or assurance services, my opinion is in supply chain on which there are several actors in place (manufactures, suppliers, distributors and so on) it could be not easy to setup similar services.

  17. Himanshugupta
    December 31, 2010

    the problem of customer expectation and satisfaction is more pronounced to service based industry such as aviation, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) etc. where customer dynamics change in weeks and months. These industries spend hugh amounts on surveys and research to find ways to keep their customer happy. One such survey found out that providing too much and too little support is not conducive to customer satisfaction. That was kind of surprising as i thought the more support i get from a sales team the better.

  18. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 4, 2011

    I think there is a difference between outgoing customer service (someone calling on you) vs incoming customer service (you reaching out to them.) For example, pesky salespeople drive me crazy when I am browsing for something, but I want someone on the phone the minute I have a problem. The problem for anyone in the middle–let's say a distributor or a retail chain–is striking the right balance. How many salespeople are too much before they become pesky, but how many folks have to man call-in centers 24/7? It's all about deployment, and I don't envy the middlemen. Customers are unpredictable creatures.

  19. Clairvoyant
    January 9, 2011

    I agree, Barbara. I also don't like being bothered by sales people when I'm browsing in a store, however I like customer service to be available when I need to call them about something. I think each customer is different, whether they like sales people coming up to them or not, and whether they care about having easy access to customer service. It will always be hard to balance this out, as each customer is different.

  20. electronics862
    January 18, 2011

    Success in customer service is essential to the success of any business. In order to give the best possible customer service , it is important to understand the key issues that will make the difference between great customer service and inadequate customer service. One of the most important keys to great customer service is knowing how to set expectations. Understanding what you should expect of yourself as well as what you should expect of your customers will help set the stage for exemplary behavior as a customer service employee.If you treat the customer with great care, they will generally respond likewise

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