Changes in what society recognises as acceptable behaviour also influence customers’ expectations. In the UK, customers used to find it difficult to complain. They sometimes make excuses for organisations and put up with what they got.
This is now changing. Once it is acceptable to complain, customers start to demand that organisations act on their complaints and make changes to their products.
Other changes will also affect customers. For example, in many countries it is becoming increasing unacceptable to throw rubbish away. Recycling is important and in some countries obligatory.
Paper, cans, bottles, clothes, books and so on can all be recycled.
Customers are increasingly demanding the same type of responsible behaviour from organisations, and are likely, if they have the choice, to change their supplier if the one they use does not respond.
New generations have always expected different things from products and organisations. However, the scale and speed of change in expectations seems to grow faster all the time.
How can we find out about the changing expectations?
The obvious answer - ask them - is unfortunately not as easy, or sometimes as effective, as we might hope. Customers may know they are dissatisfied, but they often do not know exactly what an organisation needs to do to help them become satisfied.
Customers' dissatisfaction is not the only reason that organisations make changes to products. Most companies are constantly trying to improve and develop their products, because they know that if they do not their competitors will, and they will be left behind; or they will be exposed in the league tables or effectiveness audits that increasingly apply to public and not-for-profit organisations.
Some of the changes that organisations introduce are surely not attempts to make products better, but rather attempts to make them stand out from the other options available. This type of change is really a short-term solution to the problem of attracting customers, as it is unlikely to retain them for very long.
Organisations make other changes because their internal systems have been changed, and this has affected what can be offered to their customers. Unless these changes are made with an understanding of the probable impact on the customers, they are likely to create dissatisfied customers, and the organisations will need to think again.
Customers do not always know what they want. It’s up to organisations to interpret what their customers say and develop their products and services to respond to their needs. The difficulty inherent in doing this is one of reasons why organisations try to develop relationships with their customers.
For many organisations, particularly those producing what are called fast-moving consumer goods, the relationship that exists is really of a them-and-us type.
Manufacturers concentrate on producing high-quality goods at the cheapest price and communicate to consumers through advertising. Consumers are on the receiving end of this.
Feedback to producers is generally through complaints and through their tracking the sales of individual products.
Other organisations try to develop a mutual benefit for themselves and their customers. In this way customers see the value of interacting with an organisation, and in return the organisation is likely to learn more about the customers and what they want. This learning is done through continuing interaction rather than through questionnaires and surveys carried out periodically.
These examples show that developing relationships through close contact with customers, and involving them in the design and development of products, will help an organisation respond to their demands.
It is also likely to create loyal customers who are enthusiastic about the organisation.
Even if your ultimate aim is not to encourage your customers to return to use your organisation again, involving them is likely to create services that respond to their needs and to make them satisfied customers who have no need to return because their problems have been solved.
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