Gone are the days when big promises would bring customers in flocks to the stores. Technology and specifically the internet have changed the whole business scenario. Though we perceive that the easy accessibility of online stores has made the customer more demanding, if we look at it from another angle it may be working the other way round. Yes, the customer is more demanding, but the demand has become more specific rather than waiting for lots of offers and goodies.
Let's make this clearer through real-life scenarios - imagine you're a customer; you have booked a room in a three-star hotel in a city directly over the phone. You got the best price after bargaining over the phone but the moment you enter the room you start complaining about the size of the space, the size of the bathroom, colour of the window shades, service quality etc.
Now, if you booked the same room through a site like OYO and got the same room for the same price, you won't complain about anything. You will stay there in that mediocre room with mediocre facilities till your trip is complete. Yes, it is all about the quintessential promise. The customer expectation while booking an OYO room is far less than the hotel offering its facilities directly. This is just because OYO promises less and so, the customer expects less.
If you're not convinced, extend your imagination to any other product. Say you're a customer who has gone to buy a pair of shoes from an offline store which advertised 50 per cent off (of course with a '*Conditions apply' that no one can read). You expect to get a good deal on a good brand. The moment you enter the store, you realise it's only on select models. Years ago, in the same scenario, you may try to choose from those 50 per cent items, but in today's world, you would just walk away from the store as you have hundreds of other options.
Now, even if you buy the shoes from the store after umpteen trials and checks, the moment you return home you might think it was not such a good deal after all and want to return them. If you buy the same shoes on offer, from an online store like Myntra, you don't expect them to be more valuable than what you pay and even expect them to have some faults; but, you'll most probably end up using them even though returning them to Myntra is quite easy.
So, again, it's all about the promise. The less you promise, the more the customer will be satisfied. The more a customer is satisfied, better the chances that they'll come back. If still not convinced, just go to any store, even a big brand showroom and you'll see tall claims with hidden agendas being rejected by customers outright. Extend this thought to any product, be it cars, airlines, service offerings or even movies and you will be convinced of this change.
This doesn't mean offers and discounts are not attractive to customers. Actually, customers are always looking out for offers, but they bite only the ones they feel are genuine. So promise only what you can deliver. Try to deliver more than you promise. Customer expectations are more realistic nowadays and this is a blessing in disguise for businesses. Lesser offers mean better bottom lines and turning a customer into a loyal one is not based on cut-throat competition on price anymore but on the genuineness of the product or service.
The new-age customer is not looking for tall claims from you, but transparency in what you are offering them. The customer is not looking to buy from the No. 1 in the business all the time nor is he looking to buy from the biggest showroom in town. His expectations have come down. He is looking out for genuine promises, the ones he expects you to deliver on.
Mind you, 'Promise less, deliver more' is not a new thought; it is one of the basics of brand building and marketing communication. But it is better to go back to the basics to meet new customer expectations rather than let ourselves get worn out by 'over-feeding' customer expectations with tall, un-deliverable promises.
(Pradeep Menon is co-founder and head of branding and strategy, Blackswan India Ideations and is based in Thrissur, Kerala).
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