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What Is the Connection Between Customer Expectations and Satisfaction?

In order to attract and retain loyal customers, a business should first assess consumer needs and expectations.
Not misleading customers is important to managing expectations and satisfaction.
A customer wants to feel valued, but won't be satisfied if their complaints are not heard and dealt with properly.
Superior service can help meet customer expectations and foster long-term customer loyalty.
Article Details
  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2014
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Customer expectations and satisfaction are closely related. Customers feel less satisfied when they expect something from a company but do not get what they expected. On the other hand, if they have low expectations of a company and are pleasantly surprised, they may feel more satisfied than if they had high expectations and feel they have been let down. Interestingly, companies are not always able to accurately predict what customers will expect from them, and systems of gathering and analyzing feedback are typically important.

Often, a customer's level of satisfaction is dependent on the expectations he has for a company. For example, if he expects a company to offer prompt service, but he encounters delays in the processing of his order, he may feel unsatisfied. Likewise, if he believes a company will provide a quality product and his purchase seems cheaply made, he may feel unhappy. Additionally, a customer may feel dissatisfied with a company if he believes his business is valued, but a company proves otherwise by allowing its employees to ignore him, behave rudely, or fail to respond appropriately to complaints.

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In many cases, customer expectations and satisfaction are influenced by the advertisements a company uses to sell its products or services. For example, if a company advertises that it processes orders within a certain time frame but then fails to live up to this, its customers are likely to feel misled by the advertisement and dissatisfied. Likewise, if a company advertises itself as putting customer service first, but then shows only an average level of concern in this area, its customers are likely to be less satisfied. In such cases, the connection between customer expectations and satisfaction is one the company influenced with its advertising claims.

Sometimes a customer's own preconceived ideas about a company — unrelated to advertising — can also affect the relationship between customer expectations and satisfaction. For example, if a customer believes a company has the expertise to quickly and accurately diagnose an equipment issue, but the company is unable to provide a diagnosis right away, the customer may feel let down. The same may hold true if the customer expects a company to accept special orders but it refuses to do so.

Many companies make the mistake of trying to meet assumed expectations rather than learning what the customers' expectations really are. If the expectations are assumed, the company's priorities may seem off kilter due to the fact that is does not really understand what its customers want or consider most critical. In such cases and in light of the relationship between customer expectations and satisfaction, finding effective methods of gauging customer needs may prove critical for the company's success.

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Discuss this Article

burcinc
Post 3

We studied this in psychology class. The phenomenon of not being satisfied due to higher expectations is called relative deprivation. It's a proven thing.

stoneMason
Post 2

@SarahGen-- That's a good point about customer satisfaction.

The issue with that is that a company doesn't have any control over what their customers experience with other companies and how they form their expectations.

But a lot of these issues can be avoided if a company is straightforward and clarifies their policies. For example, in your case, if the store had clarified on their site about how long shipping usually takes and that they do not provide samples, you wouldn't have those expectations. And naturally, you would have been more satisfied.

SarahGen
Post 1

I think that competition is an important factor that contributes to expectations and customer service satisfaction. For example, when I have a good experience with one store, I might have similar expectations from another store.

This happened to me actually. I shopped with an online store which had excellent service. The prices were good, they shipped the items quickly and gave free samples with my order. So when I shopped with a similar online store at a later time, I had similar expectations. I was disappointed because shipping took longer and there were no free samples.

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