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A Guide To Customer Expectations Regarding Customer Service and Customer Experience In Various Industries and Niches

A Guide To Customer Expectations Regarding Customer Service and Customer Experience In Various Industries and Niches

Your comments, criticisms, agreements and disagreements highly welcome.

In an article entitled Customer Service and Why We MUST Get More Find Grained In Our Discussions To Improve It – Five Guidelines it was suggested that we can’t treat customers as being all the same. The customers that patronize McDonald’s expect something different than those that visit very expensive restaurants. Confuse one with the other, or treat them as if they are the same, and you may annoy them, and worse, waste money and resources on things your customers do NOT want.

Below is a first draft of a chart that maps out some of the differences among customers, and their expectations, related to type of business. It would be great to do this based on good data, but we’ll have to make do.

The first column describes the type of business, while the second provides some additional information in terms of the “level” of business. The third column contains some key words to describe customer expectations in the particular category.

Customer Service Expectations By Type of Business
Business Niche Characteristics/ Expectations Keys
Restaurants – Fast Food
  • Often arrive with children in tow.
    Price important, particularly with families.
  • Speed of service, short lines.
  • Expect consistency from location to location.
  • Prefer fast and convenient over slower and fancier.
  • Convenience
  • Price
  • Suitability For Children
  • FAST
Restaurants – Luxury
  • HIGH Expectations about food and servicer quality.
  • More leisurely, less concerned about getting in and getting out, BUT intolerant of lines and delays.
  • Atmosphere, decor, more important — the whole experience.
  • The WHOLE experience.
  • Customer expects to be treated as if s/he is right.
  • Little room for error, but recovery when things go wrong critical.
  • Will go elsewhere, loyalty less stable.
Restaurants – Mid-Range
  • Probably characteristics closer to fast food restaurants than luxury establishments.
  • Convenience still important, but must experience and food quality must be good.
  • Mid range restaurants often cater to families, so must be family friendly and pricing must be appropriate to families, or to working people who are not affluent.
  • Quality food at reasonable prices
  • Good service but NOT luxury level service.
  • Menu choices and prices suitable for families or working people with more limited means.
Hotels – High End – 4-5 Stars
  • Whether affluent frequent visitors, or less affluent on a special holiday, WOW is important.
  • Details important.
  • Service and amenities as flawless as can be.
  • WOW Them.
  • Every detail counts, and must be as perfect as possible.
  • High cost, lower amenities a problem when hotel is priced with respect to location rather than features/service.
  • Invest in service.
Hotels – Lower End But Not Fleabag
  • Price, VALUE important.
  • Visitors expect basics, not necessarily luxury.
  • Convenience important and ease of basic services (restaurants close by, etc.)
  • May tolerate problems due to less competition in the low end space that is acceptable to most visitors.
  • Cleanliness.
  • Quiet.
  • Basic amenities.
  • Politeness, courteous service and advice from staff.
  • May be harder to “lose” a customer due to less competition, but lack of courtesy, sloppy cleaning, slowness combined will drive people away.
Hotels – Mid-Level (Most chains EXCLUDING Motel 6’s type places)
  • Toughest to describe because even within this group of visitors, huge diversity, business travelers, families are frequent visitors, and they have different needs.
  • Expectations can be unreasonably high, and because there are many options for visitors, if even a bit dissatisfied will try elsewhere next time.
  • Location, access to shopping, airport often important in customer choices.
  • Cleanliness.
  • Quiet.
  • Helpful and friendly staff.
  • Will go elsewhere quickly.
  • WOW can help retain customers who might otherwise not return. Providing a few amenities normally only in high end hotels works.
  • Thinks like hassle free Internet access important, particularly for mid level business travellers.
Trades People – Short term Services Like Car Repair, Plumbers, Tow Trucks
  • Customers need help often due to semi-emergency situations (car broke down, water leak).
  • Help must take into account stress levels in situations, be supportive, fast.
  • TRUST and consistency absolutely critical.
  • Reputation also important.
  • Prices need to be fair.
  • Trust often determines who gets called and used.
  • In semi-emergencies, will go from one to another “service provider” within minutes to find one that will act IMMEDIATELY.
  • Courtesy, support, understanding.
  • Be fast or die.
Trades People – Longer term – Contractors, Builders, Lawn Care, House clearing
  • Consistency, reliability and trustworthy important to this group.
  • Cost is issue, particularly in tough times and when service is not essential.
  • Reputation often determines initial choices.
  • Results/value often determines choice.
  • The more money spent, the more exacting.
  • Word of mouth REALLY important here.
Retail – Convenience Stores
  • Uh. Duh. Convenience is IT.
  • Customers pay more to buy at convenience stores for the convenience.
  • Expect speed over chatting (usually), and want efficiency.
  • Location often dictates where customers go in this niche.
  • Fast, convenient
  • Friendly, but in a way not to slow process down.
  • Location will sometimes compensate for slowness but not for ever.
  • Product selection important.
    Competition from all night opening hours makes location important.
Retail – Big Box or Chains (Walmart, Zellers, Staples)
  • Customers want deals, price is important, but so is location, convenience.
  • Customers WANT less waiting, cleaner more organized shelving, less hassles, but aren’t getting it, so are used to inconvenience.
  • Shoppers will go to a number of competing store chains before buying, so pre-sales behavior becomes very important — once they leave chances are they’ll buy elsewhere.
  • Price
  • Convenience
  • While customers want more, they are used to not getting it at big boxes.
Local Retail – Small chains or one off retailers.
  • Customers want convenience, particularly when retailer customers come from local area.
  • Friendliness more important than in big boxes and large chains.
  • Warmth, friendliness
  • A place where everyone knows your name – sense of connection.
Personal Services – Hair dresser, personal shopper, personal trainer (multiple contacts over time)
  • Customers want expertise and skill.
    Customers require that they be listened to, and their requests both honored and followed but will accept suggestions.
  • Expect personalized advice
  • Personality, friendliness, and good conversation important.
  • Warmth, friendliness and good listeners, but tailored to the specific customer.
  • Advice also tailored to individual customer.
  • Often personal service providers seen as friends.
  • As with other niches, range of expectations is large, and subject to “level” of service provided.
  • Trust WILL be a big issue.
Online Retail Businesses (e-commerce companies big and small e.g. amazon.com, Travelocity)
  • Due to discomfort ordering online for some, TRUST is critical.
  • Customers easily frustrated when browsing or ordering is a hassle.
    Customers want the information they need to base buying decisions on, NOW.
  • Once established, at least in some niches, customers will exhibit some loyalty or preference but price and reputation will still win.
  • Customers DO shop around on price and factors such as free shipping.
    Tracking of orders important.
  • TRUST important.
  • Ease of access to information and support.
  • No hassle buying. Customers abandon shopping carts at first sign of problem.
Your comments, criticisms, agreements and disagreements highly welcome. Click here to go to our discussion forum for this particular article.

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