Question

Do you think smartphones are helping business owners to better serve customers, or are they causing customers to have higher expectations than what is reasonable?

Timothy J. Trudeau, CEO, Syntax Creative, www.syntaxcreative.com

 

Answer

Introducing new technology, like smartphones, into the customer-firm relationship is always likely to allow the firm to better serve those customers while also pushing service expectations to the boundary of reasonableness.

On the plus side, smartphones with a combination of well-executed custom apps and social media allow firms to provide a more individualized service to customers, greatly increasing the value customers perceive from that service.

This increase in perceived value allows the firm to further differentiate its service from its competitors (or to at least keep pace).

How a new technology then affects the reasonableness of customer expectations depends on customers’ perceptions of that technology. If your customers do not understand the technology underlying your smartphone app and the related services you provide, they are more likely to have unrealistic beliefs about what is possible for you to provide them. More tech-savvy customers are less likely to have these unrealistic beliefs.

As you develop your strategy for rolling out a new customer service technology, you must take into account your customers’ technical knowledge.

If your customers are tech-savvy, then it’s probably fine to roll out new services over time — the initial introduction won’t lead to unrealistic expectations about future services.

For customers who are less tech-savvy, on the other hand, you need a more cautious approach that delivers the full set of services customers will want when you first roll them out. Their expectations will center on what was delivered rather than what might be delivered.

 

About the author: David Alexander, assistant professor of marketing, University of St. Thomas Opus School of Business