Monday, February 9, 2009

Marketers vs Consumer Expectations

There are two sides to satisfaction. The first is, of course, the quality of the product or service being marketed. The second is the level of quality the consumer expects. When the former exceeds the latter we win a crucial marketing battle.

As marketers we are continually reminded that we must exceed expectations. We are rarely warned, however, that these expectations are fluid and forever changing.

It is a difficult lesson for most organizations to accept. A US bank once spent £1.3m halving the amount of time that its customers had to spend in line waiting for a bank teller. With waiting time reduced to under two minutes, the bank anticipated an enormous leap in customer satisfaction and were depressed to discover no such increase in their next satisfaction survey. Research later explained that customers expected to wait between one and four minutes for a teller. It needed to exceed expectations, not just improve the bank's existing performance.

Customer expectations are notoriously slippery. They often temporarily change.

On a more long-term basis a competitor's tactics can quickly influence the expectations of a target market. Most economy airline passengers were happy with a single movie choice on long-haul flights until Virgin started offering a selection of movies. Suddenly one movie was not good enough.

What can marketers do in the face of such capricious consumers? First, avoid the product-oriented trap of viewing internal incremental improvements as victories. Start with an understanding of what customers expect and center your strategy around exceeding it.

Second, don't get cocky. A good marketer is a nervous marketer because they realize that a satisfied customer only represents a temporary victory.

Third, keep busy. Last year's market research revealed historical data on customer needs and it grows more irrelevant by the day. Be one of the few firms that conduct year-round research.


Post a Comment