Focus on the Negative Experiences to Get Positive Results

by Jeannie Walters

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negative customer experiences

Recent data from InMoment revealed how missing expectations for customers has a greater impact than meeting or even exceeding those expectations.

So while you might be doing your best to provide those wow moments for your customers, your competitors might win by simply not disappointing them with negative customer experiences in the first place.

What does this mean for Customer Experience leaders?

First, let’s talk about the term expectations.

When I’ve asked leaders of organizations what they believe customers want, leaders often describe emotions or values.

A bank executive might say “they want a secure place to put their assets.” But really? That’s the baseline for being a bank, isn’t it? We wouldn’t even consider putting our money into an institution that isn’t secure. So that’s not really an expectation, that’s the rock-bottom, bare minimum for doing business together.

Customers, in a more likely scenario, will say things like “I need a convenient bank.” We’ve seen how many banks offer mobile check deposits and no ATM fees. Those are now the reasons we would even select a bank.

Our expectations are that those moments of convenience promised work seamlessly and easily. Our disappointment occurs when the mobile functionality is down or we see mystery fees on our online statements.

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While I’m picking on banks a bit, it’s an obvious example of how assumptions on what the customer wants may be quite a ways off.

On the inside of that bank, there is an understanding of how complicated that technology is. There might be frustration when it breaks because we’re hearing from frustrated customers, but there may not be real empathy. We might say to our coworkers “It’s not like the money’s not there! Everyone needs to calm down.” (I overheard this in real life not that long ago.)

Image via Imgur

Not meeting a customer’s expectations is what leads to negative emotions…

…like feeling disappointed, frustrated or disrespected. These are the emotions InMoment identified as the most customer reported when expectations are not met. Brands underestimated how these negative emotions impacted the customer experience.

Brands surveyed ranked “disappointed” as the number one negative emotion experienced by customers, and ranked “disrespected” much lower than customers. Disappointed is a weaker emotion, and sounds like something that can be overcome. Disrespected, on the other hand, is a strong, personal reaction which may take a lot more to overcome.

182: (Tip) Advocating for Customers

How Can We Meet In The Middle?

Brands and customer experience leaders need to accept that negative customer experiences will have a greater impact on the overall customer sentiment than positive ones. They need to make sure they are really understanding what customer expectations are, not just assuming delivering on the bare minimum is enough. Give customers plenty of opportunities to express if each experience with a brand actually lived up to their experiences.

So is it worthless to focus on exceeding expectations?

No, absolutely not. Customers will feel that much better if they are seeing their expectations met consistently and exceeded occasionally. They will appreciate the bigger moments of wow, but those fall short if the original expectations are not met.

Keep reaching for ways to wow them, but make sure you know what their expectations really are first.

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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