Customer expectations are rising at an unprecedented rate. KPMG Nunwood's UK CEE 2017 report shows that individuals are starting to demand more and more from the brands they interact with. Indeed, the pillar of Expectations is having a greater impact on advocacy and loyalty, with a three per cent increase since 2016. It's a development that has left many organisations floundering, with some questioning whether there is anything they can do to stem the tide. Is there a clear customer experience strategy that can be deployed in a world of rising expectations?   


An escalating vortex

First, it is important to understand why expectations are rising at such a - rate. In a way, the best CX brands have created a rod for their own back. By delivering consistently high customer experiences, they have set a precedent, a 'new normal' by which all other organisations are assessed. Indeed, respondents frequently talk about brands in comparative terms, relaying their experience of one company in the context of their experiences with another company. As a result, firms have become caught in an escalating vortex of ever-increasing customer expectations. For the top performers in this year's CEE, they have still been able to deliver excellent results, but they have 'plateaued' somewhat; they are having to work increasingly hard just to stand still.

For example, in 2016 the pillar of Expectations had a 14 per cent weighting on NPS and loyalty. In 2017, this has increased to 17 per cent, bringing the pillar closer to the more emotive areas of Personalisation and Integrity.


Breaking the customer experience mould

Reassuringly, there are some companies who are winning the battle against rising customer demands. They have developed strategies that reset expectations, with a greater focus on offering solutions to customers before they even realise they have a need. These companies are typically more innovative, and are keen to connect more deeply and more profoundly with the individuals they come into contact with.

The cosmetics retailer Lush is a brand with a creative approach to the pillar of Expectations. The organisation landed at number five in 2017, with a CEE score of 8.00. Crucially, its Expectations score was strong at 7.73.

Lush has always prided itself on being more of a 'home-spun' retailer, historically relying on word-of-mouth as opposed to conventional marketing. It forges deep connections with its customers, not just on the shop floor, but in the wider context of its CX strategy. Lush consciously creates a sense of anticipation by retiring a third of its products each year, before unveiling an exciting new range of cosmetics.

It's an element of its customer experience strategy that the retailer actively involves customers in. For example, for the last two years Lush has hosted an event known as the Lush Creative Showcase, where the brand has given people the opportunity to come and experience some of its latest inventions, both cosmetic and technological. "Expect a bath bomb production line and bubble factory where you can watch products coming to life courtesy of the compounders," the company says.[1]

The event also provides a platform for the latest innovations. For example, the brand recently showcased the Lush Lens - a visual tool that allows customers to search for product information by taking a photograph, even if the item is unpackaged. The Lens is set to be integrated into the Lush smart phone app, which already allows users to search for products by favourite scent and 'feeling.'

And whilst it's unlikely that a customer ever bemoaned an app's lack of smell-search functionality, it's an exciting innovation for people to enjoy. It's also a good example of how an organisation can find ways to surprise and delight, and fulfil customer needs that they weren't previously aware of. It leads individuals to develop an expectation that a company will continue to innovate in an exciting and positive way, and this is the standard that all organisations should strive for. There is no need for every retailer to develop a superior scent search engine; they can surprise and delight in their own unique ways. The overarching feeling that the customer will take away is one of the brand being so invested in their happiness that it is prepared to 'go the extra mile' to make their life more easy and more fun. This is a good starting point for any company looking to renew its customer experience strategy.