Seven ways to meet customer expectations

Paul Aladenika
5 min readJul 16, 2023
Image courtesy of Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The extent to which a business achieves the level of success that it hopes for, depends on whether that business can meet the varied and multi-dimensional expectations of its customers.

Yet, understanding customer expectation is far from straightforward and can be quite challenging. On the one hand, there are those fundamental or non-negotiable expectations that derive from the ‘promise’ between the supplier and the customer (eg: that a product or service says what it does and does what it says). Then there are the implicit expectations that customers have, which reflect their insatiable wants and desires for something better (eg: a phone that doesn’t just tell the time, but also reads my pulse, monitors my heart rate and scans my brain).

Just how well a business can operate across and between each of the above boundaries will determine whether the needs of customers are being met as well as how quickly and sustainably it is able to attract and build a loyal customer base. With all this in mind, set out below are seven ways to meet customer expectations.

1. Stimulate customer appetite

When I think of brands that have mastered the art of stimulating customer appetite, I immediately think of Apple and Star Wars. Whether or not you are an Apple product user or Star Wars aficionado (I am neither), one must acknowledge the skill and craft with which both brands have been marketed. The art of appetite stimulation is that far from tickling the customer palate, it focuses on heightening discernment, so much so that the customer no longer thinks they are being sold a product, they believe they are buying into a relationship. Never forget that your customers don’t just want to buy from you, they want to believe in you.

2. Over-sell and over-deliver

Two of the most effective ways to get noticed by your customers is to over-sell and over-deliver. The commitment to over-sell and over-deliver speaks to a desire to return not just value but added value (something that customers often hope for but cannot reasonably expect). To the extent that a supplier makes the principle and practice of returning added-value part of their product or service offer, then that will become the customer’s expectation. The key learning point here is that in some circumstances, suppliers may need to think out of the box to incentivise customers to look at them, when they would ordinarily be inclined to look at others.

3. Cultivate a customer entitlement culture

Customers will always expect what they think they are entitled to. To the extent that the realisation of these entitlement-driven expectations sits within the capacity of the supplier to deliver, then considerable influence can be exerted over the marketplace. This in turn will give the supplier a potential advantage over their competitors. But there is more; entitlement also creates a different kind of supplier-client relationship, one which is predicated as much on ‘culture’ (ie: custom, practice and convention) than the quality of the product or service itself. This type of relationship is also much more likely to produce customer loyalty and dependency, where customers do not so much need products because they want them, they want them because they need them.

4. Recognise where the wind of customer sentiment is blowing and adjust your sails

From time to time the weight of customer sentiment clearly and unequivocally points in a particular direction. At such a time, there really is nothing to debate about. When the customer has spoken, suppliers either fall into line or fall out of favour. As a case in point, look at the instant messaging app market, which over the years has been saturated with products. During that period, some products have emerged as market-leaders, with everyone using them one minute and then migrating to a completely different product, the next. Trying to remain competitive in an environment where customer sentiment has clearly shifted away from you is the market-place equivalent of circling a drain. Better to redefine your product to capture a ‘boutique’ market or get out altogether and try something completely new.

5. Be mindful that, often, the customer does not know what they really want

Human wants are insatiable. That insight, shared by my former economics lecturer, has forever shaped my understanding of customer expectations. Customers cannot get enough of the things that they want and whilst doing so, will likely be on a perpetual search for something even better. Part science and part art, even the most well-funded and experienced marketing teams cannot predict with absolute certainty what products will succeed and or fail. At a fundamental level, customers want products and services that represent excellent value for money. However, beyond that, the lives of customers are so multi-faceted and diverse, that the scope for meeting their expectations is largely up for grabs. The key learning point here is that once you get the basics right, most customers are ready to be impressed and more than happy to be surprised.

6. Stop thinking that the customer is always right

Every business or supplier has heard of the phrase: “the customer is always right”. However, the presumed rightness of the customer is actually a crude, unsophisticated and dare I say, patronising way of framing the supplier- client relationship. The fact is that customers are not always right and neither do they expect to be. Rather, customers want to be understood, treated with dignity and not have their rights trampled upon by suppliers looking to engage in sharp and questionable practice for profit. Treat your customers as rational, sensible and reasonable individuals. Put yourself in their shoes, respect their right to an experience. Not only that; give them straight answers, offer them alternatives and don’t keep them waiting whilst you’re at it.

7. Raise expectation

A great way to meet the expectation of your customer is to raise it. Once you have reached the promised benchmark or delivered on the agreed guarantee, go further, do something different or prepare to do something more. Raised expectation is also important because, by adopting this is a principle, it becomes difficult to slip into complacency. A commitment to raise expectation speaks to the continual growth, development and enhancement of a product or service. With continual and consequential growth, the overall experience of the customer is also likely to improve.

In conclusion, a customer is a highly complex entity and therefore, a business should never be passive in the face of customer expectation. Not only are there numerous active steps that could and should be taken to meet the needs and wants of customers, but there are also specific actions that a business can take to influence and create customer expectation as well.

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Paul Aladenika

Believer, TEDx speaker, host of The 11th Thing Podcast, blogger, mentor, student of leadership, social economist & thinker. Creator of www.believernomics.com .