Even five years ago, businesses were staggered by skyrocketing consumer expectations. And if you think those expectations have leveled off, think again. What consumers want from the brands with which they engage has only become more complex. 

Take customer service, for example. While consumers gave brands some grace at the beginning of the pandemic, they quickly got back to expecting not just the same level of service, but more. The vast majority of customers — 80% of them — said they wanted better customer service during COVID-19.  

Plus, the shift to an increasingly digital landscape — underscored by the massive move to work-from-home models over the last year — puts pressure on brands. With countless resources at their fingertips to compare the competition, customers are much more likely to consider swapping to a new brand. In fact, 75% of consumers shopped differently than normal during the last year. 

Where does that leave your organization? In most cases, you’re probably feeling like you’re playing a major, never-ending game of catchup. 

Get used to it. 

As customer expectations change and scale faster than ever before, this is almost definitely the new normal.

The good news? Every other brand is in the same boat. The better news? By understanding the biggest shapers of customer expectation now, you can act on them, helping your organization stay on pace with your consumers. 

Here are four changes in customer expectation worth watching, and what your brand can do about them. 

#1: Full-scale personalization 

Personalization is certainly not a new customer expectation. But the scale of personalization continues to grow.

An email with their name in it won’t cut it anymore. Customers are willing to share their data — but they expect something in return. Specifically, they expect you to be able to track with them on their customer journey. That means that if they just called into your customer service line with a complaint, they’ll run for the hills if they get an email marketing the product that gave them the trouble. 

Deeper, fully-integrated personalization matters. 58% of customers would quickly switch to a new brand that they felt did a better job of delivering personalized experiences while taking good care of their data. 

What it means for your brand

To deliver a truly personalized experience to your customers, you need to break down your silos. If a customer’s data is trapped in marketing and doesn’t reach the sales team, you’re setting your salespeople up for failure. 

For the full-scale personalization that consumers expect today, you need to have a single, integrated data pond.

#2: Social responsibility 

Sustainability and social justice resonate with more and more consumers. 70% of consumers say they prefer to support brands that make it clear what they’re doing to address both social and environmental issues. 

This isn’t just true for global companies, either. 73% of survey respondents said they have the same social responsibility expectations for both large and small companies. 

Brands can no longer play it safe on the sidelines. It’s time to get clear on your brand values and transparent about what you’re doing to move toward them. 

What this means for your brand

Your organization can’t be all things to all people. To meet customer expectations for social responsibility with the best outcome for your brand, you need to figure out which values matter most to your consumers. 

Don’t stop there, though. Poll your employees, too. If your brand can align with what matters to the people who power it, your social responsibility efforts will seem more authentic — because they will be. And that matters more and more to consumers. 

Don’t be afraid to ask your customers and your team what they want. Then, don’t be afraid to act on it. 

After you figure out what you care about, you need to create your strategy for sharing your values. Your social responsibility activity needs to both successfully reach your audience and align consistently with your brand. This can’t be a one-off project. It requires careful planning and thoughtful deployment. Moving forward, work to integrate your social responsibility efforts with your marketing strategy. 

Contact our CX experts today.

#3: A seamless experience

We’ve already touched on the way customers expect personalization across the board. This ties into an overarching customer desire for a single, integrated experience with your organization. 

In fact, 70% of customers say they’ll give their business to brands that can deliver a connected process for them. That means that your touchpoints with them are contextualized based on past interactions and, as we’ve mentioned before, they’re getting the same communication from your staff no matter which department they connect with. 

At the same time, consumers want to be able to interact with your brand in real-time at whatever touchpoint they prefer. 

What this means for your brand

The traditional customer lifecycle — with its emphasis on separate channels — doesn’t work anymore. You need to focus on creating a holistic, omnichannel customer journey. 

And in order to deliver that, you need to be able to deploy consistent assets and messaging across all of your channels. Your martech stack can power this, provided you have an integrated DAM and CMS from which you can serve all your channels. 

With a solid martech stack and a journey orchestration mentality, you can meet your customers’ desire for a seamless experience.  

#4: Continuous improvement

Gone are the days when a brand could make a name for itself, then rest on its laurels. As customer expectations grow at an exponential rate, you need to keep up. With 24/7 customer service, one-day (or even one-hour) delivery, hyperpersonalization, etc. becoming the norm, continuous improvement serves you well.

In fact, 56% of customers say they seek out companies that are regularly innovating by delivering new products and services and capitalizing on new technologies. 

What this means for your brand

Marketers have been feeling overwhelmed for a while. And part of that stems from the fact that things have been moving faster and faster year after year. 

It’s time for a mentality shift. Continual change isn’t a burden marketers need to bear for a while. It’s a key component of their success moving forward. Start thinking of opportunities to launch new engagements and deploy new solutions as the core of your work, not side projects you need to squeeze in. 

Customer expectations continue to change. The upside-down year of 2020 certainly sped things along, but rapidly evolving expectations are nothing new. Get proactive about building an infrastructure that allows you to innovate, pivot, improve, and personalize quickly. That way, you can meet customer’s expectations today — and be prepared for the new expectations of tomorrow, too.