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Customer Expectation


Disciplines > MarketingUnderstanding Customers > Customer Expectation

Expectation is... | Satisfaction | Emotion | Requirement | Promise | Possibility | Wanting | Needs | See also


What is customer expectation? How does the expectation get created? What can you do about it? All important questions...

Customer expectation is a critical word in business although many companies pay little attention to it, perhaps focusing more on

Expectation is...

Expectation is the result of forecasting, where a person predicts what will happen in the future and consequently expects this prediction to come true.

Expectation and satisfaction

Customer have expectation of the products and services they buy. There are three levels of satisfaction, based on how well expectations are met:

  • Meeting: When expectations are met, they are satisfied.
  • Exceeding: When expectations are exceeded, they are delighted
  • Not meeting: When expectations are not met, they are dissatisfied

Just how satisfied or dissatisfied the customer is depends on how important the item is. For example a customer has many expectations about a car. If the car fails to start, then they will be extremely dissatisfied. If the seat is not quite as soft as expected, then they will probably be slightly dissatisfied.

Expectation and emotion

Expectation is a feeling that is perhaps related to hope. When expectations are not met, then the first reaction may well be surprise. This typically is followed by anger.

When expectations are exceeded, then customers will likely experience delight, which is an extreme form of happiness.

Expectation and requirement

Customer requirement is what they will tell you that they want. When agreed, this is the foundation for a rational expectation as you have agreed to deliver to this.

A problem occurs where they do not tell you the full requirement. Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory suggests that hygiene' needs are so fundamental that customers expect these without request (for example they would expect a car to come with a steering wheel).

Expectation and promise

If you tell a customer that you will deliver something, then whether or not it is written down, they will expect you to deliver it.

This can be hazardous when sales people make extra promises in order to get the sale, and where either this is not communicated within the company or where the company is unable to fulfil the promise. The result is of course dissatisfaction.

Expectation and possibility

Customers also base their expectations on what they believe is possible. For example if they have received deliveries in two days often in the past, then they will believe this is perfectly possible, whether or not you can do this.

Another problem is where competitors have promised something in their sales pitch or have certain features in their products. If competitors do it, then surely, you can do it?

Expectation and wanting

Wanting is not the same as expecting, although they are often related. Wanting is based on desire. Expectation should be based on rational prediction (although sometimes it is not).

Customers often expect what they want, even if your products do not provide this, which can be rather perplexing and lead to some difficult conversations.

Expectation and needs

Needs are basic human pressures that often appear as wants. They may also be translated into expectations.

Kano's needs shows that fulfilling basic needs (which are not expressed as a requirement) does not lead to satisfaction, though non-fulfilment will lead to dissatisfaction. The more explicit performance needs can lead to dissatisfaction or satisfaction.

See also



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