Recently two highly-publicized customer expectations lawsuits have been in the news; one for Anheuser-Busch misrepresenting the alcohol content in a variety of its beers and the other with Subway’s foot-long sandwiches for coming up short. In both cases the customer expectations were clearly set and advertised (Subway’s $5 foot-long sandwich deal and Anheuser-Busch light beers with the alcohol content of higher calorie brands). In both cases, expectations were so blatantly under-served that customer dissatisfaction went through the roof, the customer experience went in the toilet, and now both brands are dealing with multimillion dollar lawsuits and a serious image problem.
When we normally talk about the customer expectation gap it’s from the perspective that the customer is technically in the wrong after the company openly set the expectation with the customer and then the customer demands something else, something unreasonable, and a gap is created between the two perspectives. The expectation rift causes high customer effort, yields dissatisfied customers and more customer complaints than your company wants. Through analytics, this gap can be proactively identified and corrective action can be employed to more effectively address the unrealistic customer expectations.
But these lawsuits are the opposite of what we normally deal with in our contact centers. Here, the company set unreasonable expectations which are wrong and now we, the customers, are upset and are within reason. Now the customers beg the question, did the company mislead us willingly, thinking that the difference was just slight enough for us not to notice or slight enough to be an acceptable margin of gray area? Or worse, was the company cutting corners to save a few bucks and charge a higher premium to line their pockets? As a customer, I am left on my own to interpret this organization’s behavior that was once held in high regard. Trust in a brand goes a long way for call center agents responsible for delivering a positive customer experience, so this issue is detrimental to the agents taking customer calls about these problems as well.
In the end, will it matter to the customers the why or how each company ended up with this self-created customer expectation gap because the outcome is the same? The negative customer sentiment each has incurred as a result has only served to damage each brand and erode the trust that had been built with its customers. How will we trust Anheuser-Busch labels? Will we stop short of carrying rulers with us to Subway? Or has each company lost customers permanently for introducing mistrust into the customer relationship? I know I’ll think twice about supporting these brands in the future.
Your business and your products vary from this current events example but the impact of misaligned customer expectations is universal. Your contact center is responsible for the customer experience that is significantly affected by brand trust and business processes. Customer Experience analytics ring an early alarm about misaligned expectations. If your CX VoC program is robust (and valid) you have a chance to close the gaps before they become such a devastating brand trust killer.
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