Are Expectations for Customer Service Getting Higher?

Question - Are Expectations for Customer Service Getting Higher?

What do you think?

Here’s a simple question I’m curious about answering: are customer service expectations getting higher? It certainly seems like people are much more demanding when it comes to customer service in present times. Customers expect to have complementary items, surprise upgrades, and things done 2 seconds ago. They expect something beyond satisfaction–they expect delight.

Perhaps it’s a consequence of advancing technology, methodologies, and prosperous times. As our society becomes more capable with new technologies, so too do our expectations of what is normal rise. In addition, new customer-centric mantras and bodies of knowledge have gained widespread acceptance. Finally, with peaceful and prosperous times come increasing numbers of successful small businesses. However, with more people going into business, competition becomes more fierce. Small businesses begin to compete against each other to attract customers–who can offer a better deal or better benefits–raising the bar of expectations for all.
That’s the theory anyway. Let’s look at some facts.

The Tech Craze

Technology has played a big role in the way expectations have changed. With the Internet and computer technology speeding up our lives and providing instantaneous access to information, we now expect things to happen faster then ever. We don’t want to wait days for something. We measure our time in seconds and minutes–always in a rush. The Web has also opened access to a mass of music, videos, games, services, and other functions that no one could have imagined or predicted would be free. These have permeated every aspect of our society, training consumers to expect more, faster. It’s hard to notice because we live in the middle of the innovation as it happens.

We can look to the developing societies of Asia as somewhat of a mirror into how our customer service expectations have changed. A report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit titled “Greater Expectations: Keeping Pace with Customer Service Demands in Asia Pacific” found that:

  • 75% of business executives say greater demands for service are due to consumers having more information
  • 52% say increased online connectivity
  • Almost 70% say it is because of increased competition.
Relating this to American changes in society, it’s definitely true that we have a greater access to information than ever. We can access reviews from our computers, our tablets, our smartphones, everywhere and anywhere. Companies like Google have increased consumers’ ability to inform themselves, pushing companies to provide more complex and engaged services for a well-informed audience. New communication channels like Twitter and Facebook have normalized instantaneous responses. In addition, more firms equals more competition. Small business dominates the American landscape, forming about 97% of all employer firms. That doesn’t event count the small microventures that aren’t officially registered.

All of these new information based technologies have created completely new businesses and business models. Can you remember how big the market for mobile phone applications was before Apple debuted the iPhone? How did the social gaming market look before Facebook? New technologies enabled people to build their companies. With increased competition, each company tries harder to have the best product and offer better service. Consumers acclimate to people trying hard for their attention and consequently have their expectations inflated.

So are customer service expectations rising? I believe so. 50 years ago we accepted mass produced products that were pushed onto us by grinning salesmen. We didn’t know better. We had to trust the companies to tell the truth. Nowadays we have Yelp, Cnet, Facebook, Twitter, and more all feeding us information from experts or friends. Trust comes much harder in a transparent world.

Can you share some more statistics about the trends in consumer expectations? Are they rising? Is there a reason for the rise I’m missing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

This post originally appeared on a former blog of mine.

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