Implicit Customer Expectations: Are You Addressing Those?

Customers don’t always specify everything they want. Truth is, not everything can be specified.

Lets say, you go to a restaurant and order a sandwich. You specify the type of bread, filling preferences, sauces etc. That’s what you want and it can be specified explicitly. But you also want the bread and veggies to be fresh. Preparation to be hygienic. Ambience to be nice. People to be courteous and so on. How often do you specify these expectations? It has to be that way.

These are implicit customer expectations and they are powerful. It starts with a decently working product but you deliver real value to customer when you address implicit expectations. Better yet, if you are able to create a new set of implicit expectations, you start leading the way. This not only delights the customer but creates a new standard for implicit expectations in your area of work. When you set new standards for implicit expectations, you move a customer from “experience” to “advocacy.”

Implicit expectations are slippery. Easy to overlook or ignore because they are unsaid and invisible. This is an area where you are likely to take shortcuts because RoI of addressing implicit expectations is not visible.

In your quest to deliver a working product fast (and cheap), do not forget that customer still expects you to address the intangible elements of product that are not specified but certainly expected.

If you want to deliver great value to your customers, you have to get your kitchen in order. That’s where real value is created.

Related Posts:

Quality: Setting Right Goals

Most improvement initiatives are heavily focused on internal goals – increasing productivity/efficiency, eliminating waste, reducing defects/costs and so on. Processes around these goals are written and implemented. People are trained, tools are implemented, energies are directed and everyone starts working hard to meet these goals. Some improvement is seen, some re-alignment is done and it seems to be working fine, till…the customer starts complaining again.

This happens often because of the “internal orientation” of goals. When you establish your processes, pay enough attention to what customers are looking for. Customer A may be looking for impeccable technical quality (features) of deliverable while Customer B may be very sensitive to the quality of communication. Customer C cares a lot about user-friendliness of the product while Customer D is looking for an overall quality of experience delivered. Each one of these customers carry a different perception of quality based on their specific business needs and experiences. The fact that these expectations are fluid and ever-changing adds to the challenge.

If processes are a way to meet business objectives, it pays to identify the right objectives that finely balance internal and customer oriented goals. Internal goals are about continuity of pursuit to remain efficient. External objectives ensure that organization remains absolutely focused on what customer perceives as “value” and ways to deliver that value. With this balance, the focus on customer needs and wants is as much as focus on tools, systems, internal learning and processes. These objectives (and its constant reinforcement) drive people to look for ways to ensure that system is flexible to handle variation in customer demands.

Bottom line:

When defining your processes, do not forget to include the customer. A lot of waste from your practices can be eliminated if you constantly focus on how those practices help you achieve internal and external business objectives.

Gentle Reminder: Don’t forget to focus on your internal customers – your people.

Related Posts at QAspire:

7 Steps For Customer Centric Process Improvement

Metrics: Are They Mapped With Your Business Objectives?

Adding Value: A Gentle Reminder

Sure, as a project manager / business leader, you:

  • Completed the project in given time frame.
  • Within the budget. With minimum schedule deviation.
  • Utilized your resources optimally.
  • Filled up all the required templates.
  • Did retrospective. Celebrated completion.
  • Shared statistical reports with the top management.

But did you:

  • Think about “value” (remember 102%) you will deliver? Early in the project cycle?
  • Set expectations of your team on what “value” means to you and to the customer?
  • Glad you did that. But did you keep that in perspective constantly while executing?
  • Critically evaluate “earned value” for the stakeholders?
  • Track value delivered, when you tracked through the Gantt Chart?
  • Make stakeholder’s world a bit better in any way?

A Gentle Reminder: It is easy to have a hard-nosed focus on scope, time and budgets (and they are important too) but when you don’t think/plan/understand how the project/initiatives adds value to your customer’s business (or what is customer’s definition of value), you fail to create a positive impact.

Adding value – that is what project management (and all our work as professionals) is all about. Isn’t it?

Have a wonderful Friday!

Bonus: If you are a project manager, reading “5 Goals Every Project Manager Should Aspire to Achieve” at by Jason Westland would help. Check out #4 there!

Customer Expectations in Service: Are you Listening?

It is said, whatever business you are into, you are ultimately into customer service business. For service industries (healthcare, education, banking, information technology and so on), the definition of quality is much beyond plain ‘conformance to requirements’.

In order to deliver overall quality of service (and customer experience), businesses have to take a holistic view of customer’s explicit and implicit needs. Explicit needs is every thing that can be specified in form of a contract/SLA. That is easy. Understanding implicit customer needs requires businesses to actively listen, build relationships with customers, understand their unique needs , preempt challenges and map services accordingly.

What do customers generally ask for?

  • I have a problem. Solve it. (Purpose/Scope)
  • Solve it quickly OR Deliver it when I want you to (Schedule/Timeliness/Speed/Time to Market)
  • Save me some money, time or efforts (Cost-Effectiveness)
  • Provide what I exactly want (Accuracy/Conformance/Quality)
  • Deliver something that I didn’t expect, something that delights me (Value-Add/Excellence)
  • Deliver the service wherever I want it (Location/Presence)
  • Deliver services that are usable over a long period of time (Sustainability/Scalability)
  • Understand my business as well as I do (Understanding/Context/Clarity)
  • Make me feel important and valued (Service/Relationship)
  • Involve me in service delivery (Engagement/Involvement)
  • Show me the improvement (Metrics/Continual Improvement)
  • Educate me about service and best ways of solving problems (Education/Consulting)
  • Treat me as a human being who can also make mistakes (Empathy)

Are you listening to these explicit and implicit customer needs?

It is easy to follow processes, meet SLA and stay happy being a ‘vendor’ to the customer. It is difficult to engage the customer and build relationship to become a reliable ‘partner’.

It is your choice as a business that really matters.