The Importance Of Setting — And Understanding — Customer Expectations

A while back I wrote about how understanding customers’ expectations and how well those expectations are met are among the most important things marketers can know.

The importance of customer expectations has reared it’s head again. Listen to what my Twitter-buddy Mike Templeton had to say on his blog recently in a post titled Twitter Is Taking Too Long To Respond:

It sounds like more and more people are getting frustrated these days. I’ve been spending more time on Plurk as a result. I’ve given up on using twhirl right now because the limit on requests is so low it just takes too long to stay up to date.”

My take: First off, I think Mike’s hunch that he’s not alone in his “frustration” is right on. But, based on the rest of his comment, I can’t help but think: My, how quickly we forget!

Do we not remember what is was like before Twitter? When we didn’t have any way of conducting real-time group communication?

But now, Mike — and presumably many other people — aren’t satisfied because, as Mike puts it, “twhirl threw off their auto-leveling requests to the Twitter API.” What’s really driving their frustration is that Twitter isn’t working as they expect it to.

Expectations have changed. If we had never experienced near real-time updates, 60 second updates might seem like a miracle.

And this is why I get skeptical when I see marketing campaigns like Berkshire Bancorp’s “most exciting bank” and WaMu’s “Whoo hoo!”

They set expectations that those firms might not be able to live up to. And I can’t think of a worse marketing sin than not living up to the expectations set by your advertising and marketing efforts.

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5 thoughts on “The Importance Of Setting — And Understanding — Customer Expectations

  1. As always, rockin’ good post. Yes, expectations have changed. My absolute favorite observation:

    “I can’t think of a worse marketing sin than not living up to the expectations set by your advertising and marketing efforts.”

    Damn straight!

    Ron, you give good blog.

  2. Doesn’t this mean that the marketer’s promises must continually be tweaked? Twitter, to me, hasn’t broken any promises (mainly because they haven’t made any). What they’ve not done is evolve with customer expectations.

  3. @Warrior: I’m not putting Twitter in the “they set high expectations and missed” camp. But the reality is, they did deliver a great experience — for a while, and to a few — and now some people (like Mike) don’t think they still deliver that great experience.

    But they couldn’t scale. And isn’t this true of many firms? It’s a lot easier to provide knock-your-socks-off service at your credit union when you’re at 1000 members, but what happens if you’re successful and you grow to 10,000?

    The first 1000 may be very disappointed when service levels decline, and the other 9000 — whose decision to join may have been influenced by the word of mouth referrals of the first 1000 — won’t get the service they heard about.

    All I’m saying is what I said in my blog post from a year ago — know your customers’ expectations, and manage the hell out of those expectations (to the extent that that is even possible, that is).

  4. @Ron Agreed. Twitter’s biggest mistake was simply that they underestimated their appeal. They weren’t prepared for success, and became overwhelmed. I still consider Twitter a great tool…but have resigned myself to believing that its value has less to do with their service than it does the people I have met/conversed with there. I believe that is totally portable.

    Many firms crave success, but precious few prepare to deal with it.

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