6 Must-Have Elements to Exceed Customer Expectations

By: ITA Group
customer feedback on mobile device

New entrants to the market, social pressures, savvier advertising, and changes with in-store and e-commerce are converging. A few years ago, the ability to track customers’ purchase history revolutionized online retail. Now, customer-centric brands are catching on to a whole new level of connectivity between customer attitudes and buying behavior. 

Shifts in how, when and why consumers interact with brands have evolved rapidly: 

  • Huge technological advances facilitating machine learning, automation, mobile and app-based interactions have enabled 24/7 on-demand access and set immediacy as the standard. 
  • Global events are prompting customers to increase their focus on safety and sustainability, and make more sophisticated purchase choices aligned with their values. 
  • Disruption in financial markets and employer volatility have led to more customer attention on costs. 

Every industry has been affected. In fact, 95% of B2C and B2B executives think their customers are changing faster than their businesses can keep up.

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What Are Customer Expectations?

Customers increasingly view brand loyalty as a shortcut to signify and reflect not just their social status, but their values and world view. Approaching the sales journey from a relationship-building vs. purely transactional perspective will help organizations stay relevant. 

Focus on forging and leveraging emotional connections with customers. Identify critical moments in their journey to spark emotion that leaves a lasting memory. (Think like the online pet retailer famous for sending memorial gifts when customers cancel a recurring order after the death of a pet.) 

Emotions drive behaviors. The key is investing in data-driven engagement and loyalty tools that can help you understand customers as multi-dimensional people.

Brands can prioritize customer relationships by focusing on the six following growth opportunities.

1. Personalization

Customers know brands are collecting their data and insights, and expect organizations to use the information to address their needs. They crave made-to-order opportunities and value curated selections that save time. A streaming service suggesting their next favorite show. A grocery delivery app remembering their most-ordered items. A shoe company mapping their insoles for a perfect fit. The more information a brand collects, the closer to custom its offerings should become.

Tailoring products and services and crafting relevant marketing messages is essential. By personalizing interactions with customers on their terms, you prove you “get” them. Your products or services are positioned as an extension of your customer’s image and lifestyle.  

According to McKinsey, 76% of consumers said that receiving personalized communications was a key factor in prompting their consideration of a brand, while 78% said personalized content made them more likely to repurchase.

Related: How to collect and leverage zero-party data for personalized customer experiences.

2. Customer Experience

Brands must consider all avenues of the customer journey, building thoughtful connectivity across every touchpoint. The reality is: Consumers aren’t choosing your brand once. They’re constantly comparing their experience against other options. Oftentimes, customers are researching price points and reviews online, even when they make a purchase in store. Imagine if you could alert your sales team when a valuable customer walks in, building a picture of their preferences using data from their past purchases, wish list items and previous engagement with the brand’s communication platforms. 

Related: Learn how to improve your customer engagement program with breakthrough touchpoints.

It’s possible to use data-driven insights to transform the customer experience and ensure each interaction is positive. Remember: A great customer experience extends well beyond intuitive app design. This includes investing in customer service, providing personalized support and streamlining how  customers to access information and make purchases. 

chart showing the top elements of the customer experience

3. Brand Reputation

Delivering on a brand promise is only the beginning. Intangible purchasing factors like social responsibility are gaining ground alongside quality and pricing.

Reputation formation is tied to brand trust—a key component to earning customer loyalty. Consumers are looking to businesses to deliver competent and ethical solutions on critical issues related to climate, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and skill training. 

Most US adults stop purchasing online from a brand due to gaps in product quality and customer service. Some even stop buying from a brand or store if they disagree with that organization’s values. Brands can win back their business with the right strategic approach, including offering incentives and a personalized reengagement campaign. 

chart showing US adult's brand purchase decision factors

4. Social influences

For the past two decades, net promotor scores have been the gold standard of customer experience metrics. While word-of-mouth recommendations continue to happen among friends, family and colleagues, the rise of social media has had an exponential effect.  

With influencers (and now the trending de-influencer movement) monetizing the platform, brands must pay even more attention to their share of voice and customer sentiment. According to a Meta study, brands producing original content on Instagram are being judged on popularity, creativity, entertainment, relevance and commitment to community building.

5. Seamless Interactions

Whether a brand engagement happens in person, over the phone, in a mobile app or via desktop, customers increasingly expect frictionless and convenient experiences across all channels. 

Wearable and synced household tech can (sometimes literally) check the pulse of consumer needs. But beware of how advances in technology and data collection capabilities can create complexity. Brands must strive to understand customer pain points by building relationships that shape the approach to data analytics—and simplify the buying journey while rewarding customers for their continued engagement 

6. Transparency

Communication authenticity also has a significant impact on building brand loyalty. Creating open, transparent lines of communication and value-aligned investments in charitable causes are two strategies that help organizations stand out.

Brands can meet this expectation by providing clear and honest information about their products, pricing and policies, as well as being transparent about their social and environmental impact.

Monitoring Customer Sentiment Across Channels 

Loyalty marketers must keep pace with their customers’ changing needs and preferences. Brands that fall behind lose relevance in their customers’ minds—and their overall hold on market share. 

Take a proactive approach by investing in a platform that enables data-driven insights to evaluate customer loyalty based on their behavior across transactional (sales) and non-transactional (emotional) brand engagement. Brands that look beyond purchase frequency and seek to understand behaviors deliver personalized experiences customers value. 

Agile, adaptable organizations develop frameworks that innovate around customer sentiment. It’s essential to anticipate and design experiences that satisfy evolving customer expectations. Otherwise, formerly loyal clients and consumers will explore competing brands. 

Exceed your customer expectations. Explore tools to build stronger relationships at every point in the customer journey.

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ITA Group

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