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The Key to a Lifelong Customer? Meet Their Four Expectations

The Key to a Lifelong Customer? Meet Their Four Expectations

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 3.09.03 PMAcross industries, you know that on the most basic level, providing good customer service is all about meeting customer expectations. But do you know what makes for excellent customer service? New research reveals that meeting customer expectations goes way beyond delivering products on time with a smile. (Tweet this.)

For their book First, Break All the Rules, the Gallup Organization’s Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman undertook an extensive survey of businesses–supposedly the largest ever conducted–and learned:

Not only do successful businesses build relationships with their customers–these relationships are founded on four types of customer expectations that need to be nurtured (and develop over time).

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According to Buckingham and Coffman, the four levels of customer expectation are accuracy, availability, partnership, and advice. And the book’s authors say that companies that measure these sequential levels will have a better understanding of what their customers really want beyond a mere product or service transaction. Here’s a breakdown of the four expectations:

Gallup’s Four Levels of Customer Expectation

1. Accuracy: The bedrock of your business is accuracy–no surprise to any entrepreneur. If you can’t get your customer what they want when they want it, you won’t be in business for very long. Nail down this one first before going any further.

2. Availability: After the transaction, your customer wants to know you’re still there. Do you have a quick and efficient follow-up service system in place for returns, product questions, or other matters? Accuracy and availability are a solid foundation, but they’re not the whole pyramid.

3. Partnership: Beyond delivery and service, customers want to feel like you understand their needs. How is your business helping theirs? Are you proactively reaching out to see how you can help them succeed in life or business? In other words, show you care for your customer and they’ll consider the relationship less one-sided (and more of a collaboration).

4. Advice:  Once the above expectations have been met, your customers want to learn from you. Do you have materials in place to educate and inform your customers? Are you able to provide recommendations that can help them or improve their lives? This is the final level of expectation, and it can create the closest bond with your client base.

How to Meet Customer Expectations

Now that you know the path to customer satisfaction, how do you get there?

Most likely, your customers have no idea that they seek partnership and advice from you–at least, not on a conscious level. So it’s a good idea to nurture your relationship with them on each level–and find out how you can keep them engaged–by sending them follow-up customer feedback surveys. Formulate questions based on each customer expectation level to see where you stand in the customer’s mind.

Example customer expectation survey questions:

Accuracy: “Was your product delivered on time and as expected?”

Availability: “How quickly and successfully were we able to respond to your follow-up questions?”

Partnership: “Do you feel our business is working proactively with your organization?”

Advice: “Has our organization been able to provide advice or recommendation that’s been a benefit to you?”

Once you gather this information, you can make improvements in how your company is delivering in the four expectation levels and, with luck, create happy customers who keep coming back for more. Especially if you identify your customer touchpoints and monitor the customer journey.

If you’d like to gather a little feedback from your customer base, check out our customer satisfaction survey templates to use expert-certified survey questions and customer satisfaction templates across industries.

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