CX Insight Magazine

April 2022

Understanding Changing Consumer Expectations

by Execs In The Know

The past 24 months have been disrupted in ways few could have expected. The pandemic and resulting transformation in the way we work, learn, shop, and live forced us to reset some of our expectations and behaviors. Many of these changes are here to stay, creating a new way of life and altering experiences and behaviors for the foreseeable future.

Execs In The Know wanted to better understand the shifts in consumer expectations for customer care given these disruptions. This article reveals the results of our research on changing consumer perceptions and behaviors over the past two years. It also offers some considerations for customer experience (CX) leaders in adapting to this ever-present and ongoing change.

We asked more than 300 consumers to share their views in an online survey from March 3-8, 2022. Depending on how respondents answered, sample sizes for reported results range from N=182 to N=336. The resulting data and insights are important for CX leaders to understand
as they drive operational and strategic plans. Let’s start by looking at a snapshot of consumer expectations.

Expectations Snapshot

When asked about customer care, 60% of respondents believe their expectations remain unchanged over the past two years, and 18% feel they are lower. Important, however, is the fact that 22% of consumers report that their expectations have increased. When asked about the quality of customer care, nearly half (43%) of consumers shared that it has declined over the past two years while 39% report stability. Only 18% feel customer care has improved.

When asked about their expectations for consistency in the quality of customer care for all companies they do business with, consumers overwhelmingly (71%) say they expect the same level of support. Thirteen percent feel that they are entitled to better service based on spending more with a company. Only 15% recognize that not every brand can stand out for its customer support.

In perhaps one of the most surprising findings of the study, half of customers prefer a live person to help them resolve an issue or question. Equally as interesting is that 34% report no specific channel preference, and only 16% want to self serve.

The Impact of Experiences

In addition to understanding expectations, we also wanted to learn more about the impact of experiences that occurred during the pandemic. The study revealed that 21% of customers stopped doing business with a brand because of a poor customer care experience.

Further, 80% of customers say that the customer care experience determines their brand loyalty. Only 9% report being not very influenced by the support experience, and a mere 11% are not at all influenced.

The study also highlighted the impacts of a positive brand reputation, with 76% reporting that merely hearing about a positive customer care experience influenced future purchasing decisions. Only 24% of consumers are unimpacted by a brand’s positive customer care reputation.

Insights to Action

This data helped us better understand the pandemic’s impact on consumer expectations and experiences. While it is important to understand the data, what matters even more is how you action it. How can you use the learnings of this study to align your organization with these changed consumer expectations and improve your CX? Here are four considerations to spark action:

1. Lead knowing that change is pervasive.

In each question we asked about change, most consumers shared that the events of the past two years had, in fact, altered their customer care expectations and behaviors. To help deliver what customers want, your organization must be dynamic and ready for change. Leaders who understand the pervasiveness of change can ready their teams for this norm and its resulting impacts.

As a leader, you must be nimble, flexible, and champion change. In addition, you should find ways to model these behaviors so your team can see you in action and follow. A great way to do this is to connect the results of this study to your operational plan and goals. For example, does it change anything knowing that half of the consumers in our study reported that their expectations have changed over the past two years? How might you alter or sharpen your focus based on this knowledge? Reminding your team that every interaction matters is a great first step. We all know this to be true, but keeping the message front and center can increase awareness and consistency. Another way to prepare for inevitable change is to look at your employee development plans. Is your organization creating managers, supervisors, agents, and support staff that accept — and even embrace — change? What tools do they have to find comfort in the unknown? Leading an environment that focuses on inevitable change can increase psychological safety and reduce fear when change occurs. Our world is more dynamic and moving faster than ever before, and embracing and living the adage, “the only constant is change” is an attribute of great leaders.

2. People want people.

Based on the findings of this study, the human touch trumps technology. This revelation may surprise some, but it likely makes more sense when you consider that we have lived through months of shelter-in-place restrictions and interacted with very limited in-person interactions. Considering this finding as directional data, what should you do next? Look at your customer! It certainly should make you want to learn more about your own customer base. And, you may not have to start from scratch. Does your Insights team have similar voice of the customer (VoC) data? Partner with that team to find out and get more details about your customers. If that team does not have this specific data, commission a study of your own. A good starting place is a touchpoint study to learn about your own customer preferences. A well-designed and executed touchpoint study can tell you what channels your customers prefer for top contact drivers. Self service for starting the returns process? Phone for a concern about account security? SMS to get an update on tracking delivery of an order? Asking is the sure way to know what your customers want! A touchpoint study can also help you prepare for the future. Consider including channels you are investigating as you optimize your strategy. This is a great way to find out if your customers really want to contact you via Facebook Messenger or any other new channel, for that matter. The results may surprise you! Regardless, VoC data and insights should be connected to your operational plan, team goals, channel strategy, and strategic roadmap. These insights can provide much more than post-contact data; they can help you understand perceptions and expectations more broadly. Don’t just do it once; regular and consistent studies help us prepare for change. And we already know change is coming…

3. Reputation matters.

A lot. This study revealed that customers are influenced by their own experiences as well as the experience of others. Customer expectations and loyalty are impacted in two ways: by the direct interaction customers have with your brand and by the opinion others have about an experience. Word of mouth about customer care experiences has been around since the first contact centers, and word of mouth was born shortly after internet usage became widespread. Today, social media has given consumers more power than ever. Whether on their own social media channels or on a review site, customers can easily share their opinions. And, according to this research, the power of influence is strong. What actions can you take? First, know where you stand. Use a web scraping tool to measure sentiment and see exactly what your customers are saying. Chances are, your customers are using social channels to highlight their preferences, discuss their likes and dislikes, and maybe even interact with you. This text data can be easily collected for sentiment analysis with a social media scraping tool. Insights teams can use these tools to gauge and analyze conversations using an organic approach. Second, share the results of these reports with your frontline. This awareness will help reinforce the skills they learned in training, particularly for negative interactions. Training on diffusion of anger, problem resolution, empathy, and active listening can turn a negative experience into a positive one. And being a brand advocate is a must for all contacts!

4. Share and share alike.

Speaking of sharing, do you have a robust communication plan for VoC and other impactful data? Sharing this information with your teams will increase their knowledge and awareness of changing customer expectations. The communication can cross any number of channels, including, but not limited to, fireside chats, town halls, dedicated intranet pages, and email updates. Consider a periodically rotating item on your team meeting agenda to share this type of information. It is a leading practice to blend dynamic communication channels with static ones for variety. Static communication can be used to inform, and dynamic channels provide ways for employees to participate in the conversation, ask questions, and interact with leadership. And don’t just tell your employees what’s changed; include them in what’s next. Create ways for your team to respond to changes in customer expectations, such as identifying solutions and next best actions. Crowdsourcing ideas and upvoting the best ones is a fun and easy way to get input from the frontline. Another great way to keep them informed and engaged is to set up brainstorming sessions, roundtables, or focus groups to identify next steps. Thought-starters can include: What do they think of this information? What ideas do they have about how to respond? What would they change to address the learnings from the insights? These types of exercises can be informal and fun as they build trust and rapport across the organization. More formal ways to include employees are also available to you. We already talked about partnering with your insights team to learn more about the voice of your customer. You can also expand this partnership to use more formal methods to include the Voice of the Employee (VoE). A quantitative study is a great way to uncover untapped knowledge in the contact center! Consider expanding your existing VoE survey program to include gathering feedback on the results of VoC studies. For employees who may not feel comfortable sharing ideas in informal or public settings, a VoE pulse survey may be just the thing to increase their knowledge and engage them in solutions. Once you get the results, ensure you close the loop with your team and tell them what you are planning to do with the information they shared. Following up is integral, since it keeps employees engaged and helps them feel heard.


As we face a future that’s more dynamic than ever, understanding the needs and preferences of our customers and preparing our employees for this inevitable change is an important role for leaders. Leading through change is essential to success! Staying abreast of changing expectations, communicating what we learn, and updating operational plans accordingly are three key considerations for the future.

Strengthening our partnership with the insights team or organizations that can help us understand and interpret the customer’s voice will help us stay in the know and ahead of the change curve. As brand ambassadors, employees have a voice that should also be heard and considered when adapting to change. Organizations that have a clear plan to incorporate customer insights, create solutions that meet changing expectations, and keep employees engaged along the way are sure to win in our ever-changing world!


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