How to Anticipate and Adapt to Changing Customer Expectations

Delivering an exceptional customer experience is critical to modern business success. But with customer expectations changing at a rapid pace, how can companies keep up? This article breaks down what it takes to stay ahead and give customers the experiences they want, when they want them.

Digitization has made it easier for companies to connect with customers in real time. This development is beneficial for businesses, but it’s especially valuable for customers who have more buying power now than ever before. If a buyer isn’t happy with the experience they receive, they can easily find and choose an alternative.

It’s not enough for a business to offer quality products or services. In order to attract and retain modern customers who control their own buying journeys, businesses need to deliver personalized, connected experiences that rise above the competition.

If customer behavior and expectations remained the same, this would be relatively easy. Once a business figured out what its customers wanted, it could develop the appropriate strategy, implement it, and then just sit back and watch it succeed. In reality, however, customer expectations change over time, and sometimes that time span is surprisingly short.

Real-world events and circumstances can have a dramatic impact on changing customer expectations, and the past few years make it clear just how dramatic those changes can be. Regardless, customers still expect businesses to deliver valuable experiences that cater to their engagement needs. So, how can company leaders hit a continuously moving target? By renewing their focus on the customer and prioritizing adaptability.

Adapting to Changing Customer Expectations By Rethinking Operations

Ideally, a business should anticipate changes and proactively prepare for them. However, getting to this point requires leaders to change the way that their organization operates and aligns around customers.

First, organizations need to break down internal operational silos. Disparate tools and data affect how well team can communicate and initiate improvements. These are major obstacles to creating an agile company, which prevents a business from meeting modern customer expectations.

Although advanced technology can enable collaboration and visibility despite silos, it’s easier to create connected experiences for customers when departments are working together. Automated marketing, sales, and customer service engagement platforms offer customer insight and personalization capabilities. These capabilities make it possible to deliver the nurtured messaging, sales enablement, and customer experiences that buyers expect both online and off.

However, technology is only useful if it’s pointed in the right direction. Companies have to ensure that customer centricity is integral to their culture and renew their focus on differentiating their customer service. In order to confirm they’re delivering the excellence they set out to achieve, they must also create an action plan around value measurement. It is critical to account for key performance indicators that measure a business’s ability to deliver satisfying connected experiences.

Once a business has aligned operations, adopted advanced technology, and renewed its focus on customers, it can begin to deliver the experiences that today’s customers expect. The companies that accomplish this will drive growth.

How Businesses Can Anticipate Customer Trends

It can be difficult to keep up with changing customer expectations. Here’s what companies can do to overcome the obstacles and reap business success:

  1. Acquire customer feedback on an ongoing basis.
    About 85% of small-to-medium-sized businesses say that customer feedback has benefited their organizations. Companies need to regularly check in with customers to evaluate whether the experiences they provide meet expectations. This will help companies improve their products and services as well as their ability to adjust to customers’ changing needs.
    It’s important to keep in mind that feedback is only useful if it can be put to use. Proactive customer surveys, A/B messaging, and channel testing are actionable ways to acquire critical feedback and discover new customer-engagement strategies.
  2. Perform market research.
    Customer feedback isn’t the only way companies can keep up with changing expectations. Market research is valuable for following trends and understanding how they foreshadow changes in related industries. Outsourcing, online reviews, and artificial intelligence are just a few examples of trends that have crossed over from different industries and changed the game entirely.

    By gaining insight into other industries, it’s also possible to tap into audiences that might have gone unnoticed before and discover what channels are most effective for other organizations with similar audiences. Even if those businesses operate in a different industry, there are still lessons to be learned.

  3. Utilize a common customer-engagement technology platform.
    Leveraging a common customer-engagement technology platform allows companies to track each customer’s journey from start to finish and review a single, consolidated view of their customer profiles. For instance, Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 makes it possible to analyze customer data and develop actionable insights relevant to each company’s unique goals. This gives organizations the opportunity to segment customers and predict expectations based upon past behavior.

Consistency is critical to success when employing these strategies. Starting a “voice of the customer” survey program and not continuing it over time, for instance, greatly limits a company’s ability to spot trends. By following these steps and sticking with them for the long haul, it’s possible for organizations to truly set themselves up for success no matter what comes their way.

Written by Jeff Mikula.
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