Customer Expectations: What They Are and How To Improve Them

Updated March 10, 2023

A person looks inside a red car in a showroom of new cars.

For sales professionals, it's important to understand how a customer's point of view about a product can influence their spending habits. Customers create their expectations of products and professional brands in a variety of ways. Knowing the factors that affect customer expectations can allow you to engage with your target audiences more effectively.

In this article, we define customer expectations, explain why they're important, discuss how they're formed and provide guidelines for how to improve customer expectations.

What are customer expectations?

Customer expectations involve anything a customer predicts could happen if they use a particular product or service. These expectations often inform someone's decision to purchase something.

Before they decide to make a purchase, customers gather and interpret information about the product, which influences how they view the product and its quality. This information is what fuels their expectations. For example, they may have high expectations for a product because a friend they trust recommended it to them.

Related: Guide to Customer Service

Why are customer expectations important?

For marketing professionals and salespeople, it's crucial to understand the target audience, which includes current and potential customers. Knowing a customer's expectations is important because it provides more information about a target audience. Additionally, customer expectations matter because they:

  • Affect brand reputation: Customers who perceive your products or services as high performing may also have positive thoughts about your professional brand altogether.

  • Increase brand loyalty: Exceeding your customers' expectations can inspire them to make future purchases from the brand.

  • Influence product sales: Customers who have high expectations about your products or services may choose to shop with the brand, helping you increase profits and meet sales goals.

  • Stand out against competitors: With satisfaction and loyalty to the brand, customers may recommend your products or services to other customers, which allows you to stand out against competitors in a dynamic market.

Related: Retaining Customers vs. New Customers: Differences and Benefits

How customers form expectations

Customers may form their expectations about your product, company or brand in a variety of ways. Understanding how customers form expectations can help you tailor your approach to marketing and sales to better connect with your target audience.

Many customers have high expectations and high standards, so it's critical to have a broad scope when assessing your potential customer's expectations. Here are a few ways customers form their expectations:

Customer experience

A previous experience with the brand can influence current customer expectations. If a customer has a positive experience with the company, they may return to make another purchase.

However, a customer may have a negative experience as well. For example, if a customer bought the company's leather furniture six years ago and still uses it, then they may have high expectations of the current leather furniture the company sells.

Customers create expectations about products based on their interactions with the brand that sells the product. This is a form of brand loyalty, where a customer returns to make several purchases because of past experiences or interactions.

For example, a fast-food chain promotes the upcoming launch of a new chicken sandwich. The customer has experienced excellent customer service and quality food at the restaurant, so they believe they may enjoy the chicken sandwich.

Related: Customer Experience vs. User Experience: What's the Difference?

Customer knowledge

Customers may have knowledge of products or services that are similar to what the company offers. Then, they use this knowledge to predict the quality of what you're offering. For example, imagine that an esthetician considers buying a skincare product from a prominent beauty brand. As an esthetician, the customer knows what ingredients hydrate the skin, so they review the ingredients list before they buy.

External communications

Customers may form their expectations about products or services based on how the company communicates with them. Companies communicate with their target audiences in several ways, so it's important to create external communications materials that increase interest in your product or build a positive brand reputation. Here are a few examples of external communication methods:

  • Blog posts: Before customers decide to shop, they may read blog articles that discuss the product and what they should expect from using the product, which helps them form their own opinions. For example, if customers want to receive a wax treatment, they may read a blog article about the benefits of sugar waxing and how it's most effective at hair removal, which heightens their expectations of how sugar waxing could benefit them.

  • Online customer reviews: Customers may read product reviews from other customers before deciding to invest. If prospective customers see patterns of positive reviews from fellow buyers, then they may perceive the product as quality.

  • Social media commentary: Products and services that trend on social media can impact how customers comprehend its quality. For example, if multiple social media users express excitement about a new mobile application, prospective customers may have high expectations.

  • Celebrity endorsements: Celebrities who endorse products or services use their fame and likeness to influence their fans to make a purchase. For example, customers may have high expectations about how good a perfume smells because a famous pop star named the perfume as their favorite in an interview.

Related: A Complete Guide to Internal and External Communication

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How to improve customer expectations

Customer expectations change regularly based on market trends and new methods for marketing and sales. It's beneficial to consistently review your approach to understanding your customers' expectations. Consider these guidelines to learn how to improve the expectations of your customers:

1. Research your target market

Before you devise a strategy to promote your product or service, learn what expectations your target audiences already have. One method is to review online conversations about field.

For instance, perhaps there's social media commentary about the benefits of similar products, which offers insight into your prospective customers' feelings. You can also look at reviews of products your employer's competitors sell to learn from their errors. When researching your target market, try asking these questions:

  • What was the overall customer reaction to my competitors' product launch?

  • Were customers satisfied or disappointed?

  • What product features did customers frequently praise or complain about?

  • How well did the product perform on the market?

  • Who bought the product?

  • What areas experienced the highest sales?

Read more: Target Audience vs. Target Market: What's the Difference?

2. Use personalized marketing strategies

Because customers have high expectations, many expect to receive personalized treatment when interacting with the company for which you work. With your market research, you can develop personalized marketing strategies that customers interpret as more authentic and human. Build a brand presence on the platforms that your target audiences frequently use and interact with them.

You can also monitor the ways your customers use the platform and create content that's easy for them to understand. As you improve features in your products or services, you can announce that the brand has considered customer feedback.

Initiate open discussions where customers can share their thoughts about your products. Creating personalized experiences makes the brand more recognizable, which can increase brand loyalty and boost your sales.

Related: Understanding Customer Retention With Strategies

3. Promptly respond to customers

Timely responses are essential components of quality customer service. Customers may express their grievances on social media or by email, and they may share their experiences with other customers. To show customers that you value their support, you can monitor your channels and respond quickly to customers.

When you answer their questions, try to direct them to resources that can solve the problem. If you encounter a widespread concern, you can take a transparent approach and acknowledge the problem, while also offering a solution. This demonstrates to your audience that you value customers' input and experience.

Read more: Customer Complaints: How To Write an Effective Response

4. Use clear communication

Customers may form expectations based on the information that you deliver to them, which is why it's important that your external communication is clear. For example, if you're promoting an outdoor grill, you need to be clear about the grill's heat capability and mobility.

It's also important that your communication is consistent. For instance, your instructions for using products should be the same on your website and when responding to customers on social media. You can use simple language that your target audiences can easily understand, regardless if they have experience using your products.

Related: Client Communication: Its Elements and 5 Ways To Improve It

5. Protect data and privacy

Because many customers purchase products and services online, it's crucial to protect people's data and privacy. It's important to give customers control over how much data they share. It's best for a company to be transparent about what data you collect, how you use customer data and how you plan to protect that data.

6. Anticipate potential challenges

One of the best ways to serve customers and understand their expectations is by anticipating potential challenges for customers. For example, you might create a webpage for purchasing your new product.

You anticipate that your website could receive a high amount of traffic on the first day after you launch the new item. After anticipating a challenge, you can prepare your web development team for this increased traffic to ensure the website runs efficiently for your customers.

7. Simplify the buying process

A simple buying process can improve customers' experience with the brand you represent. Customers can remain engaged as they complete their purchases, and they may choose to make investments in the future. You can use several methods to simplify the process for your customer, such as:

  • Stating prices clearly: Customers who can find information about the prices of your products may make purchases more quickly than customers who are unsure of the costs. Include a list of your prices and features in a convenient location for the customers.

  • Using a compatible format: Your customers may access your webpage using mobile devices and desktop computers, so it's necessary that your webpage is compatible with both formats.

  • Offering updates about the product or service: Once customers make a purchase, you can implement a system that updates them about shipping times or new product launches.

  • Providing helpful customer support: Since many business transactions occur online, it's beneficial to implement a method for providing virtual customer support. This ensures that you can promptly address any issues a customer may have.

  • Innovating consistently: Another method for simplifying the process is by consistently innovating your tools and resources. This creates a modern, quick and efficient environment for your customers to enjoy.

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