Bridging the Gap Between Customer Expectations and Reality
The first lesson we learn in sales 101 is – The customer is always right. Great customer experience is all about perception, so while brands may think they’re delivering what people want, at the end of the day, the customer’s perception is the only thing that matters. According to Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Brendan Witcher, there’s a huge gap between how well brands think they’re doing and the reality from their customers’ perspective. Forrester reports that 89% of the brands say they’re investing in personalizing the customer experience, yet only 40% of the consumers say the information they get from brands is relevant to their tastes and interests. Brands need to find effective ways to close this gap in order to strengthen the brand-customer bond, improve retention, and increase brand loyalty.
The GAP Model
Broadly speaking, the customer expectation gap can be categorized into five categories according to the GAP Model. Designed by Parasuraman, Zeithalm and Berry in 1985, the GAP Model gives a clear understanding of customer expectations and satisfaction. It’s an industry-recognized and widely used method to analyze and point out flaws in management that are causing a drift between customer expectation and reality. Let’s look into the five categories of the GAP Model.
- The Knowledge Gap – The biggest disruption can be caused because of the knowledge gap, where the brand is simply not aware of what the customer needs and expects from the brand. The gap is further widened due to misleading advertisements.
- The Communication Gap – Another common disruption is caused because of the communication gap. This is when the advertisements or marketing campaigns are either misleading or projecting false ideas and notions. The communication gap severely hampers the brand’s image and credibility.
- The Policy Gap – This gap is the result of misunderstanding or mistranslation of the company’s policy by the customer. If the management team is unsuccessful in communicating the company policy or intentionally misinterprets it in order to win the customer’s favor, it causes a drift.
- The Customer Gap – This gap refers to the difference between customer expectations and customer perception. The gap is caused by the expectation a customer has from a brand which could be triggered by marketing and advertisement campaigns, cultural and political notions, and how the customer perceives the brand after the transaction.
- The Delivery Gap – This gap occurs when the company promises or sets expectations for certain customer service and product quality and is unable to justify it. The delivery gap can also be a result of performance issues.
Closing the Gap
Not only does closing the expectation gap directly impact revenue, but it’s also essential to improve business sustainability. Here are some important strategies to help you close the customer expectation and reality gap.
- Think Like Your Customers – Let’s get back to basics. Know what your customers really want. Loyalty programs collect first-party data at scale based on a mutual value exchange that gives the customers good reasons to share specifics about their preferences and needs. This data can provide a framework for your marketing strategies, customer service, and sales processes. A/B testing can also be quite helpful in understanding what works and what doesn’t.
- Make Data and Analytics Your Top Priority – The best way to understand customers is through data and analytics. Thanks to the advancements in technology, customer data can be easily accumulated and analyzed. Your data and analytics will not only point out flaws in your strategy but also show your strengths.
- Monitor All Customer Touchpoints – Your brick-and-mortar store is not your primary touchpoint anymore. Customers now connect with brands via desktops, kiosks, mobile, apps—the list goes on. Simply understanding which platforms customers prefer, and communicating with them through those platforms, can go a long way to increasing their satisfaction. Loyalty technology pushes robust first-party data across your tech stack to help you individualize the customer experience across your ecommerce, CRM, email, customer service, POS and other channels.
- Concentrate on Adding Value – According to Microsoft, 59% of consumers have higher expectations for customer service than they did just one year ago. These 2020 statistics show us that customer expectations are consistently rising. Keeping customers engaged between transactions in meaningful ways builds emotional bonds. Loyalty programs provide a range of effective ways to engage with customers throughout their journey.
- Deliver Individualized and Empathic Messages – Marketers and brands are so caught up with numbers they overlook the power of connecting with customers in ways that really matter to them. The global lockdown brought to the forefront the power of empathy and the significant role it plays in strengthening the brand-customer equation. According to Salesforce’s second edition of the “State of the Connected Customer” report, 84 percent of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business. Leveraging loyalty data to deliver relevant, timely messages that create a lasting emotional connect.
Brands can no longer get away with a one-size-fits-all approach. Today’s consumers want more, and the companies that move toward becoming data-led brands aimed to deliver unique value-based experiences will thrive while growing a loyal base of fans.
Contact Annex Cloud to explore how loyalty can help you close your customer expectation gap.