Customer Service / Customer Experience

What Customers Expect and What Customers Actually Get: Closing the Gap in Customer Experience

Mark Nicholson

Updated: Dec 22, 2021 · 8 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

businessman looking at the gap

Almost five years ago, JD Powers found that 67 percent of American consumers use a company’s social media pages and profiles for customer services. In the years since 2013, social media has continued to lead the way in closing the gap between marketing and customer service.

A modern business shouldn’t have a marketing department down the hall from a customer service department. Thanks to the demands of modern consumers, marketing essentially boils down to customer experiences. And customer experiences don’t always live up to the expectations set by marketing.

Social media and customer service

Consider the modern customer. He is reading reviews and doing some price comparisons. He’s using his device in the store and wants information now. The customer might have questions before committing to your product. Or he might run into trouble after buying it and type up a complaint.

At this point, you have one hour.

Fifty-three percent of customers expect you to engage with them via Twitter in less than one hour. Did that customer leave a very public complaint? Seventy-two percent of frustrated customers are waiting anxiously for a reply in less than 60 minutes.

If the customer asks you a question via Twitter or Facebook and you ignore it or take too long to answer, you’ve disappointed that customer and potentially lost a sale. Unfortunately, you’ve also disappointed all of your other followers who are keeping a close eye on your level of customer service as they consider repeat buys and recommendations.

Customer service matters. Bad customer service is currently costing American businesses up to $41 billion every year, but social media can help close that gap.

The key is not just closely monitoring social media, but aligning your marketing so that customers know what to expect and have confidence that you will make good on delivery.

Closing the gap between marketing and customers experiences

The only way to know what your customers want is to ask them. You don’t need focus groups and long-term studies (although those are viable options). There are ways to start gathering data and making improvements immediately.

Combine marketing and customer service

Many departments operate independently, and some in silos. Have your marketing and customer service work together more closely, to get all on the same page. Promises from marketing should match customer experience or there may be a disconnect that can cause churn.

Monitor social media channels

Conversocial reported that only 3 percent of tweets about your business will include a “@yourbusiness” tag. That means 97 percent of the posts would-be and current customers are making about you and your product aren’t going to show up on your social media accounts. Additionally, you have customers waiting for answers in less than an hour—do you have someone poised to respond when necessary?

Solicit customer reviews

Using review management software you can get almost 100 percent of customers to tell you about their experiences in the months following a sale. Who better to tell you about any customer service gaps in your promises and delivery than the customers?

Related Article:

Turning Bad into Good: Handling Bad Reviews

A/B testing

You likely did some split testing as you were building your website initially, but you have continued your testing as your company has grown? Customers don’t have to fill out a survey or share their thoughts via social media to tell you what they like. Sometimes it’s as simple as clicking on the blue button instead of the red one.

Related Article:

Turning Bad into Good: Handling Bad Reviews

In a study by Bain consulting, it states that about 80 percent of companies believe they provide superior customer service, but when they spoke to customers, it was found that a mere 8 percent agreed. With such an enormous disconnect, many businesses should take heed, but also see the potential. Customer experience might be the new battlefield for companies, with some experts seeing it as a key competitive differentiator and acquisition strategy.

Bridging the divide

Technology has many benefits, but sometimes too much of a good thing can have adverse effects. While you can utilize Facebook messenger chatbots or make use of Twitter customer satisfaction data to acquire real-time feedback, there are some instances where tech isn’t always the answer. In a study by Accenture, it was found that 83 percent of consumers prefer dealing with humans via digital channels for solving customer services issues or to get advice.

There’s lots of hype about AI being the future of customer service, and chatbots offer enormous potential to handle monotonous work and easy questions, but it’s important to leave the door open for keeping it human. While more 70 percent of consumers say they want the ability to solve customer service issues on their own, mostly through automated or self-service options, about 86 percent expect chatbots to always offer an option to transfer to a live person. Technology can help, but should not replace people.

Related Article:

Turning Bad into Good: Handling Bad Reviews

Realizing the customer is in control is now part of the battle, and engagement, where they flock, is part of monitoring and managing the experience. Whether that’s social media like Facebook or online review sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor, customer service is now 24/7 and the consumer calls much of the shots.

A cross-functional collaboration of marketing and customer service is an opportunity to deliver on promises, improve retention, and even turn customers into advocates. But it will require monitoring and listening to social media and reviews, not just managing the process. Companies that get it will be more likely to transform. Grasping that customer service is instrumental to brand experience can shift some customers into advocates, when the customer journey delivers and aligns with brand promises put forth from marketing. In the end, it’s experience-focused value propositions tailored to and meeting expectations that can earn customer referrals, along with trust.

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