Customer disappointment: How to track it and prevent it

Sara Yonker

August 22, 2022

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Disappointed customers? Here’s how to know if you aren’t delivering what your customers expect and 3 areas to focus on to stop it.

Imagine you buy a new luxury vehicle. Within a year, the engine rattles when you accelerate and the once buttery-soft leather seats look worn and cracked in one place. 

Now imagine you buy a second-hand economy car. A year later, you hear a clicking noise  you can’t place and the seat fabric hems are unraveling. 

What disappoints you more? Which are you likely to complain about to anyone who will listen? Which would you be more likely to vow to never buy again?

The answer - which should be obvious - is tied to expectations. When you splurged on a new luxury car, you thought you were getting the best on the market. You expected quality and had higher expectations. Your bargain car you bought just to get you from Point A to Point B doesn’t damage your trust in an auto company or dealership because you knew what you were getting yourself into.

We’ve realized after analyzing millions of customer service calls this reality: Few things frustrate customers more than when they expect one thing, and get another.

Those missed expectations can be anything from basic business services or product claims to implied promises that they inferred from a carefully crafted advertisement.

If you want to prevent frustrated customers, you want to prevent misleading them on their expectations. We also saw that top-performing companies almost never have customers who say the company didn’t deliver. When you achieve that level, you cultivate customer loyalty and customers feel confident buying from you again.

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Do your customers expect something you can’t deliver? 

How do you know when you fall short of your customers’ expectations? It’s one metric Tethr measures with our conversation analytics platform. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Tethr listens to every conversation you have with your customers and analyzes it for hundreds of different elements, including when customers express frustration because reality didn't match what you promised.
  • When you log in to Tethr, you’ll see dashboards of your metrics, including CustomerRX, which shows you important information about your customer journey.
  • You can monitor “Missed Expectations” and see what specific issues caused customers to say that you missed their expectations. You can also read transcripts of those calls or listen to audio recordings.

Once you do this, you’ll be able to see how often your customers say you missed their expectations. 

Do you disappoint customers more than normal?

Once you have measured how often customers complain of missed expectations, you can compare yourself to other companies.

We analyzed 4.1 million calls to customer support centers and ranked them on dozens of metrics. The top-performing companies had just 0.4% customers with missed expectations or missed promises. Yet, average and low performing companies struggled with these issues more than other types of customer frustration.

Here’s how we defined these two things: 

Missed expectations: In these calls, customers say you didn't meet their expectations due to an agent who gave misleading information or promises, say they never received a call back or follow-up, or you didn't share essential information.

Missed promises: In these calls, customers say the company promised an action that did not occur.

In the top performing companies, these things almost never happen. (Both came in at 0.4% of all calls in a 6-month period)

How to prevent disappointed customers

Whether you’ve noticed an uptick in missed expectations or just want to avoid creating one, we’ve identified how to prevent common sources of disappointment. The key lies in expectation setting. If you want to exceed customer expectations, you need to manage performance expectations and customer-facing communication.

Clear product descriptions

Whether you’re selling a microwave or a software platform, you need to be sure that your website and sales materials accurately describe your product or service. Make sure that features listings are accurate and updated. If you notice any particular issue creating a problem with missed expectations, create an FAQ page to address the issue so that customers know what to expect. While it may be tempting to use enticing language in marketing and advertising, make sure you aren’t creating a situation that will later breed unsatisfied customers. Take customer feedback on key features that caused disappointment and rework your messaging to make sure it's accurate.

Clear terms of service that meet industry norms 

It’s common for customers to breeze through terms of service when signing up for a new subscription service or making a purchase without considering what may happen. As a business, don’t take advantage of that tendency. Communicate clearly with your customers, several times, if you have a specific caveat to a contract that they need to pay special attention to, such as a nonrefundable contract. 

Check out your competitive landscape and make sure you’re not an outlier regarding your terms and conditions. After all, most shoppers would expect to be able to return clothes that don’t fit to a retail clothing store, and one that doesn’t accept returns would be so outside of the norm, they would need extra notice.  Customers expect companies to follow norms of their competitive market, so if you decide to deviate from that, you need to make it very clear. 

Detailed company communications

Experiencing a shipping delay, reducing hours during holidays, or changing another policy? It’s best to communicate with your customers more rather than less on these issues. For example, don’t wait for them to ask you why their shipment never arrived. Tell them in advance so they know what to expect. Setting expectations for how soon they should get a refund, what will show up on their bank account statement, or how company policies work saves you from future headaches.

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