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Customer Expectations: What Do Your Customers Demand?


What do customers demand in their experiences with companies? Our focus in this chapter is on what many have claimed to be the sky-rocketing expectations in the modern economy. We dive into the wisdom of the popular imperative for businesses to aim to “always exceed customer expectations,” and what future trends in customer expectations will look like. As a teaser, it is clear that companies should avoid either attempting or promising to “always exceed expectations,” as such a strategy is virtually impossible to achieve and may ultimately be self-defeating. While companies must continue to set, manage, and meet expectations, it is unlikely that expectations will spiral out of control in the years ahead, even as innovations progress at a more rapid pace.

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  1. 1.

    For just a handful of examples of these dire warnings about skyrocketing customer expectations, see: “Corporate America Under Pressure from Consumers’ Rising Expectations,” Lithium, June 2, 2015; Markovitch, S. and P. Willmott (2014). “Accelerating the Digitization of Business Processes,” McKinsey Group; Meehan, Mary. “Customer Expectation Trends: They Want It All. So Get Out Of The Way,”, August 12, 2015.

  2. 2.

    In general, the aggregate, national-level ACSI variables we examine in this and the next several chapters have thresholds of significant difference of about 0.1 points, based on the statistical significance testing methods used and the large samples of data collected. Thus, any change over time of ±0.1 or more points are considered statistically meaningful.

  3. 3.

    Research on the alignment between consumer perceptions and manager ideas about those perceptions confirm that managers tend to overestimate the level of many of their customers’ perceptions, including their expectations. Hult, G. Tomas M., Forrest V. Morgeson III, Neil A. Morgan, Sunil Mithas and Claes Fornell (2017). “Do Managers Know What Their Customers Think and Why?” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 45(1), 37–54.

  4. 4.

    In this chapter and the chapters that follow, we will examine industry-level changes in the ACSI variables over the prior ten-year period, from 2008–2017. While 25-year dynamics at the national level are of greatest interest, to track the changes in consumer perceptions and behaviors over a longer timeline and since the introduction of the ACSI, these more recent comparisons at the industry level will, we hope, add additional insight and context into economic dynamics over this period.

  5. 5.

    Based on the statistical methods used and the industry sample sizes, differences in expectations and the variables examined in the next several chapters at the industry level are significantly different at a threshold of roughly 1.0 points. The difference between the significance thresholds between the national- and industry-level variables lies in samples sizes underlying these statistics, which are much larger at the national level.

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Correspondence to Claes Fornell .

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Fornell, C., Morgeson, F.V., Hult, G.T.M., VanAmburg, D. (2020). Customer Expectations: What Do Your Customers Demand?. In: The Reign of the Customer. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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