Why Marketers Are Missing the Mark on Customer Expectations

As marketers we live in a very interesting time. The explosion of new forms of consumer interactions like social networks and mobile apps means we, as consumers, have interactions with brands we could not have dreamed of even a few years ago. The downside to these new options and opportunities is that it leaves the consumer in us wanting more from some of the more traditional communication channels.

These issues are not limited to “traditional” brands that are trying to stay current with the latest technologies and channels. Even the most cutting-edge and advanced brands and businesses are suffering from consumer expectation gaps as they try to deliver value and utility in all of their communications with their customers.

My own experience with Waze provides a good example of expectation gaps that can happen across various customer interactions. For starters, I’m a big fan of Waze. It has gone well beyond being just a simple utility for directing me from A to B – which is what the first generation of GPS and digital mapping offered up. It fits into my life as my helper for transportation, offering up not just turn-by-turn directions, but improvements for how I might move more efficiently given the rapidly changing context of the world around me. And the utility goes beyond just the directions. It helps me avoid hazards like potholes and cars on the side of the road. And, although I hate to admit it, it has likely saved me from a speeding ticket or two.

Waze isn’t just an app; it’s my daily helper with whom I’ve shared some of the most personal aspects of my life (my physical location) in exchange for helping me better move through the world. Even the advertising within the app is context-aware and valuable. Only serving up ads when I stop at traffic lights, and subtly directing me to locations or offers in close physical proximately, Waze fits into my day and balances promotional with helpful information. So what’s the problem, you might ask? Waze has set the bar so high for my interactions that any communication that isn’t as context-aware and relevant as my app interactions stands out and disappoints.

waze-winter-warningWaze, on occasion, sends in-app push messages to help or inform its users of relevant information. Recently I received a “Waze Tip” that included a guide to safe winter driving. This guide walked me through how to prepare my car for winter conditions and encouraged me to slow down and stay on top of road conditions. Sounds like a very helpful message, yes? However, at the time I received this message, the temperature was in the mid-60s and sunny outside. As I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, the chance for snow on my morning commutes is slim to none. This message was trying to be helpful and give me advice and suggestions during a time when much of the country was experiencing blizzard conditions. The goal was correct, but the context for me missed the mark.

In many cases, having a marketing message slightly miss the mark is just part of the cost of being a marketer. Insufficient data, or lacking the proper information to segment, target, and personalize a message just happens. While we strive for true one-to-one targeting, we sometimes struggle to make our engagement truly relevant. Where this moves from a minor miss to a major issue is when the expectations of the customer have been set to expect more from your brand. This is the trap Waze has set for itself. By being such a highly relevant and useful service that also knows exactly where I am at any moment in time, I expect each and every interaction to be consistent with a fully contextually aware experience. Waze’s tip wasn’t inherently bad, but it undermined the high expectations it has created throughout the rest of its interactions with me.

Waze is generally a fantastic part of my daily life, but it’s also a good example of how improvements in customer experience are raising expectations for what an acceptable brand communication looks like.

As marketers this should be our wake-up call. We need to ensure that we meet these raised expectations with contextually relevant messages that deliver utility for each individual. Good is no longer good enough. Our customers demand more from our messaging, and we have to push ourselves to live up to their incredibly high expectations.

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