By Rowan Jackson
You may have seen many references that the pandemic has radically altered customer expectations. Here is an example from a 2021 report by Capgemini¹:
“Client expectations from advisers have evolved from expecting specific investment recommendations to looking to advisers for comprehensive advice across their entire financial lives.”
– Stacey Gaine – Managing Director, Wealth Management of Bank of America US
From time to time, you read journalist interviews with chief executives who proudly say something along the lines of: “Our goal is to exceed our clients’ expectations.”
If one of them says this to me, my response is usually: “Terrific, well done. What are those expectations?” And 90% of the time I get a blank look in reply. The chief executive concerned doesn’t know!
Now it would be, as RAF pilots used to say, a BGO ² , that if you are going to exceed your clients’ expectations, then probably a good place to start would be knowing what they are!
And by the way, needs are not the same as expectations. Frequently we see companies mixing up the two, when they are very different.
The challenge here is understanding expectations with precision. Imagine your world without expectations. You can’t. Expectations are a fundamental aspect of human transactions. Suppose you enter a shop to purchase something. You will have expectations about the item you intend to buy, and expectations about the sales experience you are about to have. These expectations have two flavours.
- One is called predictive. This is what you think the experience will be based on your previous experience or that of others.
- The other flavour is called ideal. This concerns your desired experience.
The secret is to focus on ideal expectations. Once the ideal expectations of a group of customers (or employees) have been gathered and sorted, a one-page map emerges: the groups’ collective desired experience. Please note that this is valid for employees and the employee experience as well.
If you are planning on meeting clients’ expectations, then your focus needs to be on the ideal variety. And, if you are going to exceed them, it helps to know, precisely, where you are today in meeting them. This is like the captain of a ship or an aeroplane setting off on a long journey. The exact location of their start point is critical to navigating the journey, they cannot do the journey without it.
Companies need a navigational fix on where they are now to start their journey to exceeding expectations. Like the captain, you need a map of those expectations to start you off on your journey. The nice thing about this map is that your clients tell you precisely what the ideal experience they are looking for looks like. They tell you where to head.
As clients generally have at least 15 key expectations of a given provider, it is essential to understand which ones you’re doing well at and which ones you are not. Clients tell you where to prioritise and focus investment on those areas for improvement that matter to them. No guessing, no theory, just simple insight, from the people that drive your profits. How do you do this? You ask your clients to score your organisation against their expectations.
As in any competitive environment, it is pretty fundamental to understand how your performance compares with your competitors. That will also tell you where you need to improve and prioritise your improvement investment. As none of us work in isolation how do you do this? You ask your clients of course! And yes, they do know how well your competitors perform in most cases.
Finally, you may say that you are measuring your clients’ satisfaction today. Unfortunately, it has been known for over 25 years that satisfaction is not a reliable predictor of loyalty and, unless the method you use is diagnostic, it won’t tell you where to improve. You need that to exceed expectations.
1. If you want to exceed expectations, ask your clients first what they are.
2. If you want to improve what you deliver to your clients, get the clients to score your performance against their expectations.
3. If you want to beat your competitors, ask your clients to score them as well.
If you would like to know more about how this is done, please get in touch.
¹ Capgemini World Wealth report 2021
² Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious