Organizations must value their customers in a significant manner. This is because customers determine the survival chances and success of these firms. Customers buy goods and services that firms produce or offer in the market. Firms must understand their customers comprehensively. This is concerning the customers’ tastes and preferences regarding the products purchased from the company. Customers have their expectations for the quality of goods. Therefore, the organization must address these expectations effectively.
Failure to adhere to this may make the firms lose on customers. This hurts the sales thus the performance of the firm will be jeopardized. However, there exist numerous constraints concerning managing customer expectations. This is especially when these expectations touch on quality. Quality improvement often comes with a big cost to the company. When customer expectations are properly managed, the business will flow smoothly, and the firm will make profits. Customer expectations are embedded in the vision of the customer on the future state of services and products and the results and actions of the firm (Rosenthal, para. 1-5).
All business firms in the market today talk about customer expectations. Firms also do claim to exercise customer expectation management. However, in managing customer expectations, numerous misunderstandings are encountered. Each firm in each industry has its problems in managing the expectations of customers. The needs, expectations, and motives of customers differ from a customer to the other. This is especially when the company is dealing with a wide range of products and services. What may be considered as relevant for a certain customer may be irrelevant to another customer.
For instance, about firms in the information technology industry, some customers may need to be constantly updated on product change and development while others will only come for developed or improved products. The customers’ needs and expectations also change when new products are constantly developed [especially in the information technology industry]. A quick change in the customers’ quality needs and expectations have proven to challenge the customer expectation management function of many firms (Goldschmidt, p. 15).
The management of customer expectations can be hindered by several factors. Many business firms have not coined a formal process of identifying customer expectations. They leave this to come out during spontaneous interactions with customers. This is quite risky as these expectations may be discovered when already there has been a long time breach on them (Goldschmidt, p. 18).
The perception of performance mostly differs between customers and the firm. The differences in perceptions are in most cases unusual. The organization might be making efforts to meet the expectations of the customers. On the other hand, customers could be seeing the firm as being unresponsive to their expectations and needs. The satisfaction of customer expectations is mostly determined by the customers on their own.
The satisfaction of customers depends on their perceptions about the actions of the company. Therefore, organizations continue to work on satisfying the expectation of their customers by banking on wishful thinking that the customer will positively perceive their service delivery. However, in doing this, the organization must keep an eye on the customers as their consumption patterns will be a reliable indicator of their perceptions (Karten, para. 9).
Other customers do not only focus on the technical aspect of the products or services that a firm offers. They may look deep into the process and derive satisfaction more from the process than the product or service itself. The treatment of customers is a component of the process. The customers should feel that they are being appreciated by the organization.
However, the treatment of customers is a complicated exercise as it involves dealing with human behavior. Customers would react differently to the treatment that they receive from the firm. This is common in service-oriented firms. Dealing with customers’ emotions is quite difficult and calls for careful communication tactics. It is only when customers feel that they have been treated well that they will be highly satisfied by the service or product of a given firm (Karten, para. 1-12).
Customer expectations can be managed properly through the designation of a formal customer expectations management process. Formalization of customer expectations management will give the organization a chance to monitor their customers through interactions. This will facilitate easy identification of customer needs (Karten, para. 1-3).
Companies must be realistic when making promises to customers about a product or service. Customers will set their expectations by looking at the promises that the companies make. Companies must ensure that they meet the feature of reliability in the market by consistently providing goods and services. This is easily achieved through the standardization of processes based on the expectations of customers.
The other factor that can help improve customer expectation management is transparency and accountability. Customers should be briefed on the happenings that take place in the firm. Nowadays, customers expect to access data concerning self-service with ease. They also expect to get customer information when they inquire about it from the employees of the firm. Accountability is done through the availing of company records. Organizations should be prepared to accept failure when it occurs in customer service (Karten, Naomi, para. 7-8).
Gap analysis is an extremely efficient tool of marketing and can be used in determining customer quality problems. The products’ and services’ quality can be tampered with due to leakages in the quality management systems of the company. Gap analysis is utilized by marketing directors in crafting marketing tactics and strategies. The gaps that exist in quality can be identified through the analysis steps. The gap analysis follows a linear structure. To start with, there is a need to decide on how the gaps will be identified. This could be through the sales; the size or share of products in the market; and the profits made from sales among others.
The assessment of these customer-centered practices will help the organization or managers in charge of marketing to identify the shortfalls that exist in the product quality. The quality goals of the company will be assessed. The quality goals are then compared with the marketing response from the customers. The major goal of conducting a gap analysis on the quality of the product is to identify the weakness of products in the market to form a basis for product improvement. The current performance of the products and services will be compared to the previous performance and the desired performance. All these shall then be compared to the organizational quality goals. Through this, it will be easy to determine the status of quality as to whether it has been maintained or deteriorated.
When quality problems are detected, there has to be a quick response from the managers concerned to save the image of the product. The service managers must know where the problem emanated from and set the process of quality improvement. Service managers will adopt an incident management approach that involves quick actions and measures of restoring quality before it harms the business. The focus will be on areas of weakness as identified through the gap analysis. The operations in the areas of weakness can be readjusted so that they move according to the strategic goals that carry the success factor for quality improvement. Service managers can adopt different methods depending on the type and intensity of the quality problem. This is because they work to improve the quality and credibility of the company’s services (Hill and Jones, p. 130).
SERVQUAL is one of the tools that are used to measure service quality in organizations. It has both benefits and shortcomings that arise from its use in measuring service quality. The advantages of using this approach in measuring service quality include the fact that it provides detailed information on service quality. This is because it employs a comprehensive examination of service quality and needs in the organization.
The information that is given out when this approach is used includes the perception of performance levels as seen by the customers; the perceptions of customers concerning the service of the company; the comments and suggestions that are put forward by customers; and the employee impression on the expectations and satisfaction of customers. The model bases on the results of comprehensive market surveys that contain detailed information about the customers and product quality issues (Martin, Ruyter, Lemmink, and Koelemeijer, pp. 50-54).
One of the criticisms regarding this tool is that the five dimensions of service quality measurement used in the method cannot be applied universally. The method contextualizes the dimensions that comprise service quality. Items in service quality do not often base on factors that can be expected earlier. The method limits itself to the existing products.
It fails to take into account the experience as in performance records. Therefore, it becomes hard to measure the products’ quality of innovations that have been utilized in the service. The approach also implies additive interaction between the dimensions of services. This assumption is unrealistic to some extent. This is because trade-offs that usually exist between the service mix elements do play a big role. This is especially when it comes to the international channels of marketing (Martin, Ruyter, Lemmink and Koelemeijer, pp. 55-57).
The other demerit of using the service quality tool is that it does not pay the necessary attention to the expectations of customers. Other scholars argue that this method does not address the issue of customer expectations. In the method, the quality service that is perceived is only determined by the internal gaps that exist between the expectations of customers and perceptions of management (Martin, Ruyter, Lemmink and Koelemeijer, p. 58).
The service quality model is most efficient when it is only used in the local marketing levels. This is applied after the marketing surveys have been conducted and reports compiled. It mostly bases on marketing surveys and assumptions that these surveys bring out accurate results. Also, market survey results give a lot of information about customers and thus the model will get customer information from the surveys and utilize it.
Goldschmidt, Nadav. Managing Customer Expectations. London: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2009. Print.
Hill, Charles W.L, and Gareth R. Jones. Strategic Management: An Integrated Approach. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. Print.
Karten, Naomi. Managing Customer Expectations. 2006. Web.
Martin, Wetzels, Ko de Ruyter, Jos Lemmink, and Kitty Koelemeijer. Measuring customer service quality in international marketing channels: a multi-method approach, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing. Vol. 10 Iss: 5 (1995), pp.50 – 59. Print.
Rosenthal, Beth Ellyn. Companies Need Customer Expectation Management Because Successful Customers Create Profitable Businesses. 2009. Web.