Whenever a product, service or feature is released into the hands of your consumers, customers and users, the provider must always continually need to manage expectations to meet the needs of their users. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot this week, as I often share my perspectives positive consumer experiences.
Before I get into my usual controversial perspective, I want to ask, what is a positive consumer experience?
Think about it for a moment. It’s alright, no one’s telling.
It’s my belief that a positive consumer experience is a moment where a person interacts with your product or service, even for a moment of time, and they leave knowing or feeling positive about your service or features. Not all positive consumer experiences will result in sales or retentions; however, it will help them stay magnetic to your business’ offers.
Consumers in this context are ones who are effected by the actions of you or your company. For instance, prospective clients, existing clients, former clients, investors, 2nd-degree users, etc. An analogy is like this, for those who don’t shop at Wal-Mart, they are still impacted by the actions of Wal-Mart when they threaten small business markets. I consider those consumers.
Users are the consumers, most likely customers, who actually use your product or service. Often this is where the breakdown occurs in expectation setting. People love to challenge their boundaries, challenge traditional expectations, and ask the age-old, “what if–” questions to their actions.
Customers, in my view, are isolated to those who invest monetary contributions or heck of a lot of time into a product or service. Customers are in direct competition against users and consumers to gain the attention of a company’s leadership. No matter if you think it’s right or wrong, it’s what happens.
[At this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Where are you going with this?” Well, I tend to get to my point after supplying context, so relax.]
Providing and managing expectations are vital to create happy consumers, users and customers. How can a company reasonably (and realistically) accomplish such goals?
- Make product documentation, privacy notices and “fine print” accessible and readable.
People don’t read legalese, so make the most important items emphasized up front. One arguable benefit for this, is to minimize ambiguity and to not force your users to act like an Attorney General when reading guidelines.
- Provide ample time for product or service changes.
Many service providers fail at this because they don’t follow-up with their user’s reactions. A good way to gauge user feedback is to facilitate beta programs. No, my friends, I don’t mean slapping the word “beta” on a product or service to avoid proper testing. Continually follow up with folks in a beta program and reward them for helping you find bug. It’s crowdsourcing at its best.
- Don’t hide or make product documentation from consumers.
Some product managers have a nasty habit of concealing product documentation from consumers. With exception to publishing PRDs/BRDs out there, let consumers know as much as you know. With proper product or service documentation, they can quickly and easily refer to information without consuming human resources to get it (technical support).
- Be responsive to consumer demands.
It’s one thing to not meet the needs of users, but it’s entirely different when you ignore requests from end users. Consumers include paid, free and non-users and are the ones who define your brand. Responding to their concerns will definitely raise your credibility and customer service. When responding it’s good to embrace any criticism and reset expectations (and communicate that within your organization).
All in all, managing expectations paves the way for fantastic consumer advocacy. Consumer advocacy is simply being the inner-voice for users in your organization. A great blog that discusses consumer advocacy at a more granular level is The Consumerist, where they advocate user complaints and run stories when companies do (and don’t) exhibit positive characteristics.