Managing Customer Expectations

I wrote a few weeks ago that the one question to ask customers is: “What are your expectations of us and how well are we meeting those expectations?”

Well, here’s a little more fodder for that discussion. In the March issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers found that:

People take notice when they feel worse than they thought they would, but—oddly—not when they feel better than expected. The message for marketers is that too much hype can hurt a company when people realize that their expectations haven’t been met.”

The article noted that people make predictions about how they’ll feel in the future, but often predict wrong. The researchers coined the term “affective misforecasting” to describe the gap between anticipated and actual feelings. The authors concluded that marketers shouldn’t overhype their products.

My take: You probably think I’m going to say “Told ya so! You have to understand your customers’ expectations.” But I won’t — I’m above that.

Instead, I want to refer you to a discussion on the Open Source CU site. Trey quoted from the blog of a credit union customer, who really ripped into his credit union regarding some errors they made with his account, and the firm’s subsequent handling of the problem.

I’d like to suggest something counter-intuitive: That this bad “review” was actually good for the credit union. And that, in general, bad reviews (of your firm or your product) could actually be good for your marketing efforts.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Cranky — I just want the firms I do business with to NOT make mistakes, be easy to deal with, and to stay out of my face.

But not all consumers are like me (you don’t all have to say “thank god” at once). Some consumers — especially in the world of financial services consumers — want help making the decisions they have to make. Even for seemingly simple products like checking and savings accounts.

What these consumers need — and want and value — is objective advice, guidance, and information to help them make their decisions. But when all they see and hear are the positive raves of the “net promoters” and the hype from the firms themselves, two things happen:

1) They’re expectations are artificially raised, and
2) They don’t get the pros and cons they need to help them make an informed decision

For a certain segment of financial services consumers, the most important job that marketing has is not to communicate the superiority of its firm’s products and services. It’s to help its customers and prospects make the right decision for them. And to set and manage their expectations appropriately.

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One thought on “Managing Customer Expectations

  1. So true! And Vancity (the CU in question) helped the situation by adding their voice to the bad review. They admitted mistakes – and even discussed the internal conflict that a company faces when responding to a negative review on a blog.

    Ultimately they responded, and among the things they did right – which made it “real” – they admitted, a la JetBlue, that mistakes were made and they were listening so to improve. Also, a real person from within the organization became the voice for the organization.

    How many companies would’ve responded with silence – or even better a cease and desist notice?

    I’m with you. Companies can’t act like their you-know-what don’t stink, pardon my term. We all know better. Nice to see an honest response from a company I believe to be constantly working to improve.

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