Your customers are logging into websites more frequently, signing up for new online services, and trying new apps every day. The well-documented consumerization of business product users is putting increasing pressure on companies. In many cases, companies can't keep up with the evolving expectations of their customer base.
Searches for customer engagement and community resources hit fever pitch in 2015 and interest in improving relationships with customers is expected to continue to rise over the next decade.
The team at Higher Logic follows trends in customer relationship management very closely. The following guide outlines 20 things that your customers expect from you and your company in 2016.
Many of these trends have been bubbling under the surface for years. However, companies that excel in 2016 will put a premium on these acute areas of their customers' relationships.
Customers Expect the Basics
Expectation #1) Simplicity
As more of your customers use the awesome mobile apps and consumer-focused online services available to them â€“ from Amazon and Twitter to Airbnb and Uber - they expect similar ease of use and real-time task accomplishment from your products and interactions.
Expectation #2) Measurable and Explainable Value
It has been over 6 and half years since the last recession in the United States. One of the lingering effects of the Great Recession is that decisions made by people up and down the org chart are scrutinized against their measurable impact on the business. Customers expect you to give them the tools, metrics, and language to report on the business outcomes that your products and services deliver.
Expectation #3) Risk Reduction
With increasing accountability for decisions and their impact on business performance comes increased risk of changing the status quo. This perceived risk comes in two interconnected forms - risk to the company and risk to the personal brands of the individual making the change. Your customers are counting on you to highlight how your solution, content, and programs help them reduce both forms of risk.
Expectation #4) Mobile
Check your Google Analytics account for the past 365 days. You may be surprised by how many people visit your website through a mobile browser. According to the Pew Research Center, Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners, and for many these devices are a key entry point to the online world.â€ Providing a seamless mobile experience for prospective and current customers to interact with your company and products is no longer a luxury for some. It is an expectation of all companies.
Expectation #5) Smarts
Customers are more savvy and informed than they have been at any point in history. They know good and bad products, support, and customer experiences when the see them. Customers expect your organization to be the smartest people in the room when it comes to your solutions and industries. Your customers don't have time for people in your company who they feel they need to educate about your products or services and how they are using them.
Customers Expect a Community
Expectation #6) Consistent Communication
Your customers, like most people, spend a significant amount of time online using social networks. When your customers access Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, all of their favorite people and brands are there â€“ every time! This consistent presence extends to their email inbox as well. If you don't consistently communicate with your customers, your brand will be the outlier and will likely lose share of mind given all of the other messages that your community receives.
Expectation #7) Access to a Network of Peers
It is no longer enough to limit customer engagement to customer-to-company interactions. Customers increasingly expect to be able to share ideas, get advice, and learn best practices from other customers and partners. Make access to your community ubiquitous and ongoing participation easy.
Expectation #8) Opportunities to Advocate
If your customers love your products, agree with what you stand for, or like what you are doing, it is in their online DNA to want to share their experience with people who care. Giving them clear opportunities to help them spread positive experiences with your company or products, so that they don't feel like they are advocating in a vacuum.
Expectation #9) Recognition for Participation in the Community
One of the reasons that customers participate in your community â€“ whether it is co-creating new product features, helping other customers solve a problem, or sharing their best tips in a blog post â€“ is to strengthen their personal brand. Your customers will spend a lot of time and energy helping you build a stronger community with no expectation of monetary compensation. However, with more and more companies building active customer communities, your customers that engage your company do expect some small form of recognition to your company and their peers.
Expectation #10) Ongoing Education
Customers expect you to have great products and services. However, in an age where content marketing strategies flood the internet with useful insight and helpful tips, your customers expect your company to couple amazing products and services with ongoing education about how to excel in their market and how to get the most from you solution.
Expectation #11) Feedback Opportunities
Your customers have invested time and budget in you. And you have in turn demonstrated how you are investing in their success. With that type of relationship comes an expectation that your customers will have a voice in how to make your products and services even more useful.
Customers Expect to Be Treated Like an Audience of One
Expectation #12) Personalization
Your customers expect every touch with your company to involve more than a token â€œHi fill in the first nameâ€ email or phone call. Today's customers expect you to know their goals, interests, challenges, and plans for your product or service.
Expectation #13) Self-Service Options
The rise of online portals and easy-to-use mobile apps has increased people's reliance on getting stuff done right here, right now. As much as your customers might love you, there are things that they want to accomplish that they simply want to do themselves.
Expectation #14) The Right Message at the Right Time
Though you might think that any communication with customers is a positive step forward, customers can smell a disengaged company a mile away. If your customers receive an email, phone, call, or direct mail piece that is not relevant to them, they'll likely toss you into their mental junk mail pile along with all of the other companies that they no longer need to pay attention to because their messages are not relevant.
Customers Expect a Partner
Expectation #15) Access to Resources
If you have a more complex set of products or services where there is any size learning curve, your customers expect your company to be the leading provider of resources to help them find success with your solution.
Expectation #16) Speed to Answers
According to Parature's 2015 Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report, â€œgetting my issue resolved quicklyâ€ was the most important aspect to a satisfying customer experience in every region worldwide. Whether it is through your customer community, online knowledgebase, chat, or support tickets, your customers expect not to have to wait to get answer to their question or overcome roadblocks.
Expectation #17) Alignment With Their Best Interests
This may sound simple, but it will be increasingly important in 2016. Customers know that ultimately your company's interests are your top priority. However, they also expect you to demonstrate through your actions and messages that you are constantly working for their interests.
Expectation #18) Acknowledgement of Their Goals
You are no longer just selling a product or service. You are selling an outcome. Customers expect you to understand what they are trying to achieve and for you to communicate that understanding at every turn.
Expectation #19) Transparency
Gone are the days when you controlled all of the information about your product or industry. Customers have access to all kinds for information and rumors. They seek this information because they are not only investing in what your company does. They are investing in how you do it, who is doing it, and why you do it. Customers expect a great deal of trust to come with their relationships. Being transparent to a high degree with customers bakes trust into your relationship.
Expectation #20) Agility to Solve Market Problems
As markets evolve and priorities shift, your customers expect your organization to adapt rapidly to support new opportunities. Their ability to capitalize on these market problems depends on it.
Customer Expectations Takeaway
Keeping your eye on customer expectations and building your products, services, and customer programs around those elements can have a significant impact on both customer retention and new customer acquisition. This includes:
- What results do customers expect from their purchase?
- How do customers want to interact with you?
- What kind of community do customers expect around your solution?
- What role do customers expect in influencing the direction of you product?
You probably won't be able to address all of these trends this year, but this list gives you a foundation for evaluating how you manage customer relationships, so that you can prioritize your customer engagement plans for 2016.