Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Spiral of Expectations

I've spoken often on the topic of the "Spiral of Expectations" in marketing and customer service. My use of the phrase evolved from the "Rational Expectations" theory of economics. As it relates to marketing, it is intriguing to note that consumer expectations continually spiral up. We've all seen it. We all do it. Once a company offers better service, better prices, faster delivery, extra toppings, larger quantities, fresher ingredients, bigger guarantees (and on and on) we come to expect that level of performance from all companies. Not only from other companies in the same category, but from companies in other categories. If Hertz can check me out and process payment right at my car without a visit to the counter shouldn't the airlines be able to scan my ID as I board without my ever needing to stop at a counter or gate check-in? If the grocery store lets me use self checkout for my convenience (is it really for my convneience?) shouldn't I be allowed to self-scan at Lowes or Home Depot ( I can). I can't wait for the day when I can self-serve at the dry cleaner rather than wait for the clerk to search for shirts (which always seem to be at the other end of the automated hanger rack).

As marketers, we need to be aware of what is happening in the lives of our customers across all categories, not just our own. Consumers don't segment their lives into our product categories. We shouldn't set our service expectations by our category definition. It's a trap.

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