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Customer Expectations as a Leadership Challenge Essay

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Updated: Dec 15th, 2020

Customer expectations denote the convictions regarding service providers that act as principles or reference points used to rate performance. Since clients compare their performance or insights with the standards while assessing the excellence of service, comprehensive knowledge of customer expectations is vital for enhanced success (Fay & Lee, 2015). Understanding the anticipations of customers should be the first and perhaps the most crucial approach towards the delivery of quality service. The failure to understand the expectations of customers may result in a company making poor sales for not satisfying its clients. Moreover, such failure may lead to an organization spending its time, money, and other resources on practices that are not in line with the expectations of clients hence making it difficult to succeed in an aggressively competitive market. There are different aspects of customer expectations that leaders should explore to guarantee successful marketing (Calabrese, Costa, & Rosati, 2016). Such factors include the desired standards that consumers hold, the facets that influence the creation of customer’s anticipations, and the best means of meeting or exceeding the expectations of clients.

Meaning and Types of Expectations

The degree of customer expectations may differ broadly with respect to the reference standards that the client holds. Though every leader has an instinctive sense of the anticipations of customers, professional marketers should seek a clearer and more comprehensive meaning of expectations to understand, assess, and manage them excellently (Saeidi, Sofian, Saeidi, Saeidi, & Saaeidi, 2015). Customer expectations are based on what they desire from the services or goods for which they are paying. Most successful leaders ought to strive to satisfy or surpass customer expectations through first-rate services or goods. Once a company understands the expectations of its customers, they should become entrenched in its marketing approaches. Such expectations influence decision-making concerning the choice of products or services, which may be extremely hard to change. For instance, clients anticipate renowned companies to offer high-quality products and services when compared to new or generic ones. Products from less known companies are not deliberated upon even when they are of higher quality than the ones from famous corporations.

Virgin Trains is a company that experienced numerous challenges when attempting to advance the rail sector in the United Kingdom. The firm had the task of connecting cities and urban centers all over the country with more than 30 million passenger journeys per year. In this aspect, the company carried out a considerable rate of marketing study to discover what passengers anticipate from train travel. Most passengers have had the experience of using airlines and railways abroad, which boost their anticipations of long-distance train travel. Studies underscore the considerable and greatly diverse anticipations that passengers have of train travel. Having a seat, toilet access, and essential refreshments are no longer appealing; customers now desire, and even demand, a range of onboard meals, health-mindful munchies, entertainment, and striking books. Business and leisure travelers desire to have internet access and the chance to use or charge their mobile phones and laptops. This evidently shows that customer expectations of value are not stable (Shaon & Rahman, 2015). On this note, leaders should be conscious of the manner in which the expectations of their customers are varying and adjust their service offering consequently.

The difference between the degrees of expectation explains the reason behind two companies in the same industry offering very different forms of services yet ensuring customer satisfaction (Pizam, Shapoval, & Ellis, 2016). For instance, some consumers might feel that McDonald’s extends outstanding service with just a few workers while a more luxurious restaurant that has many tuxedoed attendants fails to realize such customer satisfaction. Clients characteristically hold comparable desired anticipations across service levels although such classes are not as extensive as entire industries. Amid the sublevels of restaurants are fast-food, luxurious, and airport to mention a few. Studies affirm that for customers who prefer fast-food restaurants, their expectations are quick service, convenience, and tasty foods in a sparkling setting.

Customer expectations in a luxurious hotel often entail stylish settings, gracious workers, and candlelit dinner. Fundamentally, desired service anticipations appear similar for service providers in industry categories or sublevels perceived comparable by consumers (Verleye, 2015). The sufficient service anticipation level, in contrast, might differ for different companies within a sublevel or category. With respect to fast-food restaurants, for example, customers might hold a greater expectation for McDonald’s over Burger King. This could be attributed to the consistent experience of outstanding service at McDonald’s with time and, to some extent, unpredictable service at Burger King. Therefore, it is likely that a consumer could be more dissatisfied with the reduced quality of services at McDonald’s when compared to Burger King despite it being much better than that of Burger King.

The Zone of Tolerance

The level to which clients identify and are ready to permit variation of their expectations is referred to as the zone of tolerance. When the quality of service falls lower than the satisfactory level, the lowest extent deemed acceptable, consumers become aggravated and their satisfaction with the firm is undermined (Ho, Sharma, & Hosie, 2015). On the contrary, when performance goes beyond the customers’ expectations, surpasses the desired quality, clients are extremely pleased and perhaps somewhat surprised as well. The zone of tolerance may be taken to be the scope in which clients do not easily recognize the change in performance or quality of service offered. It is only when performance or quality of products or services drop below the zone of tolerance or rise above it that the customer’s attention is elicited either negatively or positively.

An example of the zone of tolerance is a checkout queue at a given grocery store. The majority of customers may take the acceptable queuing time to be between five and ten minutes. When the service takes the expected period, clients are not likely to pay much attention to the waiting time (Palawatta, 2015). On the other hand, if customers get into the line and find extra checkout staff to serve them within one to two minutes, they might notice a positive change in the service and rate it as praiseworthy. However, if they find that there are insufficient personnel and have to wait for fifteen to twenty minutes, they might start to complain and criticize the poor service offered at the store. A longer wait that goes lower than the zone of tolerance makes customers frustrated.

Customer expectations are typified by a range of levels depending on the desired and sufficient service, which mark the tolerance zone. This scope may contract or expand depending on the customer. In this aspect, airline passengers’ zone of tolerance at a grocery store will contract the moment that they are running late and have to make it in time for their flight. At such a time, even one minute seems exceedingly long to wait, and the customers’ sufficient service level rises. However, customers who find that they will arrive at the airport early might have a broader zone of tolerance, which may make even a longer wait at the queue go unnoticed (Palawatta, 2015). This demonstrates that leaders have to comprehend and not merely adjust the range and border levels for the zone of tolerance. Moreover, they have to understand when and the manner in which their customers’ tolerance zone changes.

A different facet of change in the scope of practical services is that different consumers have varying zones of tolerance. A high proportion of customers have narrow tolerance zones, which necessitates a tighter choice of services or products (Ho et al., 2015). For instance, exceedingly busy clients have a likelihood of being pressed for time always, desiring quick services, and holding a contacted tolerance for the span of bearable wait time. A customer’s tolerance zone may decrease or increase depending on different factors that encompass customer regulated facets and firm-controlled aspects such as price. The moment that the price rises, consumers have a tendency of being less tolerant of poor quality products or services due to a decrease in the zone of tolerance.

Clients’ zones of tolerance also differ for different service characteristics and dimensions. A more imperative factor results in a contracted tolerance zone. Customers are usually less tolerant of unreliable services or products (for instance, minor errors or unfulfilled promises) when compared to service insufficiencies, which signifies that they have greater anticipations for this aspect. Over and above greater expectations for significant product attributes and elements, consumers have a likelihood of being less ready to loosen the anticipations when compared to the less essential aspects (Lee & Shea, 2015). This makes the tolerance zone for the significant service attributes smaller and the desired/sufficient service levels bigger.

The variation in the individual consumer’s tolerance zone is because of the alterations in the rate of sufficient service that goes up and down readily attributable to situational conditions. This is contrary to the fluctuation of the desired service level, which has a probability of going up incrementally due to continued occurrences. The desired service is comparatively distinctive and steady than the sufficient one, which changes in reaction to competition and other forces (Lee & Shea, 2015). The changes in the tolerance zone may be compared to an accordion’s progress, but with the greatest influence emanating from one side (the sufficient service level) instead of the other (the desired service point). On this note, the extents of consumer expectations of service may be articulated in the form of two different rates of anticipation: sufficient and desired service. The sufficient service level is highly subject to change when compared to the desired service level. In this regard, a tolerance zone occurs between the two levels, differs across clients, and contracts or expands with the same consumer.

Meeting and Exceeding Customers’ Expectations

Effective communication is the best strategy that companies can apply to satisfy and exceed the expectations of customers. Effective communication denotes the sharing of ideas between two or more parties where the intended information is efficiently conveyed, received, and understood. Through effective communication with customers on Facebook and other platforms, General Motors understands their expectations and seeks to satisfy them to uphold the company’s success (Islam & Rahman, 2016). The management of customer expectations is difficult. It is a professional skill, which necessitates mastery and expertise. Customer expectations from a given brand influence the company’s success in different ways. Failure to satisfy the standards set by consumers may lead to poor sales, in addition to low client retention levels.

A crucial aspect of managing customer expectations entails comprehending the facets that may influence their perceptions. Understanding customer expectations will assist leaders in an organization to recognize what clients want and make them know the best means of satisfying consumers’ needs (Gopaldas, 2015). When customers have an interest in purchasing a product or service, they may receive information from numerous sources. For instance, they could ask friends, intentionally look for newspaper ads, or compare prices and quality from different stores. Customers may also obtain information through watching TV or from social media conversations. Some of the factors that control customer expectations include consumers’ needs and inclinations, location or culture, experience with other companies, feedback from others, implicit service promises, word-of-mouth communication, explicit service promises, and earlier experience.

Consumers’ Needs and Inclinations

As a natural occurrence, clients anticipate that the products or services they purchase will satisfy their needs. In exchange for their continued support, consumers desire quick resolution of issues and stress-free dealings. Such preferences may strongly influence customer anticipations. Additionally, purchasing behavior may considerably impact customers’ expectations (Shin, 2015). For example, millennial shoppers, who are connected to the internet for a long time, might have a great preference for online shopping. On this note, leaders ought to mull over such an aspect while generating or launching their business strategies.

Location or Culture

The expectations of customers differ significantly across locations or cultures. In a given country, a company may find that customers do not want excessively friendly or jolly customer service representatives. On the contrary, in another location, customers may find it awful to talk to agents who appear too serious or businesslike (Gopaldas, 2015). Therefore, for effective interrelations with diverse customers, leaders should seek an excellent comprehension of their rules of decorum and feelings towards businesses, particularly new marketplace players. Other features, for instance, timeliness and styles of communication ought to be excellently understood.

Feedback from Other Customers

In the modern times, customers talk about the experience of different brands through the internet. Some customers prefer posting their concerns on review websites while others choose to praise or criticize a brand on social media. These practices can highly influence a product or company’s preference and reputation. What customers say concerning a given company can go a long way toward eliciting or attracting consumers’ views regarding its products or services (Minnema, Bijmolt, Gensler, & Wiesel, 2016). Consequently, apart from guaranteeing consistent, first-rate performance, leaders ought to take their online status management seriously. This will enable organizations to create a positive identity, which is vital for enhanced success.

Experience with Other Companies

When managing the expectations of customers, leaders ought to mull over the existing competition. For instance, they should seek to understand what their worthy competitors do to ensure the satisfaction of their customers. Following such an understanding, leaders should think of ways of either matching or outshining the competitors’ performance. To succeed, companies must come up with unique ways through which they can impress their clients (Minnema et al., 2016). The experience of customers with other products or services, particularly the ones from a competitor, may influence their expectations. This happens because customers create their preferences based on what the other company offers. If a given company that manages to convince such customers to try its products does not outdo the competitor, it cannot win the clientele over.

Explicit Service Promises

This represents both individualistic and non-personal affirmations concerning the service articulated by a company to its customers. Such affirmations are personal in cases where they are communicated by salespersons, leaders, or employees (Gopaldas, 2015). On the contrary, they are non-personal if they emanate from advertisements, magazines, and other publications. These forms of promises mark amid the few impacts on anticipations that lie entirely in the hands of service providers. Promising precisely what will eventually be offered appears to be a logical and suitable means of controlling customer expectations and making sure that fulfillment comes after assurances. Nonetheless, some companies and their leaders may purposely overpromise with the aim of attracting customers and their assurances concerning service/product delivery in the future are never fulfilled.

Explicit service promises control both the extents of the desired service and forecasted performance. They influence the anticipations and predictions of clients. The manner in which leaders communicate influences the customer service and marketing strategies. The choice of the channel to employ, the style of communication, language, and tone is paramount. The way leaders communicate to clients, be it over the cellphone, online, or in person, offers them a notion of the brand’s qualities. On this note, leaders have to ensure that how marketers communicate is reflective of their ideals and distinctiveness (Shin, 2015). There is a need to maintain constant communication with clients irrespective of the channel being utilized while always making sure to offer accurate information. If a company has made any promises, it should ensure their fulfillment as deceptive and inaccurate information may have catastrophic impacts that could spoil corporate reputation.

Implicit Service Promises

These promises mark service-linked prompts that result in influences of the preferred performance. In most instances, the quality signals are controlled by prices and materials related to performance. On this note, high prices and more striking tangibles will create increased expectations from customers (Gopaldas, 2015). For example, customers could be looking for the best insurance firm and come across two companies charging totally different prices. They may develop the expectations that the company offering a higher charge ought to and will ensure better quality service and a more enhanced coverage than the firm with a lower cost. On the same note, clients who prefer a posh hotel have a likelihood of expecting and desiring a higher level of service quality when compared to consumers who choose hotels with less striking facilities.

Word-of-Mouth Communication

Spoken communication is significant in controlling the anticipations of service. The use of personal and at times non-personal communication by either the leader, organizational personnel, or people outside the company express to customers the level of service to expect while influencing both predicted and preferred service (Shin, 2015). Spoken communication has a propensity of being exceedingly important in services that are hard to assess prior to buying and direct experience. Experiences (encompassing reports from friends, customers, and family members) are forms of word-of-mouth communication that may influence the rate of predicted and desired service.

Past Experience

Earlier experiences are arguably the most powerful forecasters of customer expectations. Customers’ experiences or transactions may highly control what they believe concerning a given brand (Minnema et al., 2016). In this aspect, just a single instance of poor service or low quality product is sufficient to make a huge number of consumers believe that a company is undependable. For every chance and touchstone, leaders should strive to ensure customer satisfaction as this leads to a positive customer experience. Consumers’ previous use of a product or service is a strong force in controlling their predictions and preferences. The service relevant for prediction may be an earlier encounter with a crucial company’s service. For instance, customers may possibly compare their stay in two different hotels and the services offered. Clients may also make comparisons across sectors. In this sense, customers’ experiences might integrate an earlier use of a focal brand, characteristic performance of a preferred company, application of a previously purchased or esteemed product, in addition to their beliefs concerning a range of similar items or services.


Customer expectations signify the assurances regarding service provision that function as reference points for gauging performance. There are diverse aspects of customer expectations that leaders ought to identify and comprehend for successful operations. They include the desired standards that customers hold, the factors that influence the formation of customer’s anticipations, and the best way of satisfying or surpassing the expectations of clients. The extent to which clients recognize and are ready to allow variation of their anticipations is referred to as the zone of tolerance. Leaders have to understand how the expectations of customers change and not just attempt to alter the scope and border levels for the zone of tolerance. Understanding customer expectations will help leaders to know what clients desire and make them discern the best means of satisfying and even exceeding consumers’ expectations.


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