4 Levels of Customer Expectations

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"I don't have my own business and don't work in marketing or sales, so why should I be interested in the 4 levels of customer expectations?"

That is a very valid question that needs to be answered with a question.

"Does anyone see, use, review, or notice your work product?" If you answer "No," you have the job many people want because you get paid, and nobody pays attention to whether your work is good, bad, or mediocre.

If you said "Yes, " you have one or more customers.

4 Levels of Customer Expectations

Everyone Has Customers

Whoever receives your work product is your customer. Your boss, your co-worker, or a vendor is a way to define a customer for your job. You provide a service or product to someone who is most likely your customer.

So, this is for you too!

There are 4 levels of customer expectations. As you think about your customers or clients, determine what you do. Then decide how many of these levels of customer expectations are reality as you serve your customers. 

4 Levels of Customer Expectations

In 1999, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman wrote First, Break All the Rules. It has some great thoughts about managing and leading people, especially about the importance of focusing on people's strengths. That was the first reason I was drawn to the book. We use the Kolbe Index to help people work to their strengths.

Their book (page 129) presents the Gallup organization's findings about customers.

"Over the last twenty years Gallup has interviewed over a billion customers, trying to identify what customers really want. As you would expect, we first discovered that customers' needs vary by industry. Customers demand a different kind of relationship from their doctor than they do from their cable repairman...

Our second discovery was more surprising: Despite these differences, four customer expectations remain remarkably consistent across various types of businesses and types of people. These four expectations are hierarchical. This means the lower-level expectations must be met before the customer is ready to pay attention to the levels higher up. These four expectations, in sequence, show companies what they must do to turn prospects into advocates."


The first of the 4 levels of customer expectations ask some clear and simple questions - Do they get what they asked for? Do you provide them what you said you would provide?

If they ask for a hamburger, do you give them a salad? Hopefully not!

This isn't about your purpose or the smile on the employee's face. It is simply about whether customers get what they asked for. If you fail the accuracy test, the customer has little reason to return.


Second, is the product or service there when they want it? Are you open when customers want your product or service? Are you located where they can easily access your products?

When you are more accessible, you allow new prospects to become long-term customers.


Third, do you listen, respond, and understand them? Feeling understood is a step closer to real satisfaction and genuine advocacy.

Service businesses require this level, or they will not succeed. Now you see it in many retail businesses with member rewards and special customer privileges.

Level 4: ADVICE 

Finally, the last of the 4 levels of customer expectations is - Do you help your customers learn? "Customers feel the closest bond to organizations that have helped them learn."

It makes sense that alumni would be a key target for raising money for an institution.

Important News

Finally, a critical piece of information about the 4 levels of customer expectations may change your approach.

Doing the first two are critical for any job or customer. Both are relatively easy to do; follow the steps and do your research. And both are easy to replicate by competitors.

But here is the essential news!


It may be time to find ways to move beyond the first two. You are doing those two, aren't you?

How can you become a partner with your customer, helping them learn and providing them advice? Those are the two advanced levels of customer expectations that you have a chance to meet.


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