Cropper: Ever Greater Expectations

Dec. 25, 2020
A new challenge is keeping up with customers who expect quick and easy.

Think about how your expectations have changed—and not just last year—when it comes to getting something done, getting something shipped to you, getting a hold of someone at any hour to talk about a service issue.

Or how about a ride to the airport?

Whenever I’m about to fly out of town the first leg of the trip is via Uber to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. I live a little bit outside of the city and I’ve got the trip wired—I know how long it’ll take my rideshare to get to my house, I know how long my ride to the airport will be, and I know how much it’s going to cost.

I rely on that consistency so I can be efficient with my time. If the Uber takes more than five minutes to show up at my place, I wonder what’s going on.

Five-Star Review

Such technologically aided conveniences have become woven into our lives and those of our customers. Just about anything is only a click away. Indeed, the Amazons, Ubers, Lyfts, and more have changed customer perceptions of what to expect.

I’ve got another example of big recent changes in how customers approach who they do business with, and it has to do with my teenage son taking his girlfriend out to a nice dinner.

He wanted to know the best restaurant in town, so I told him where it was and expected him to have a great time. Afterward, he came home and I asked him how he liked the place that I recommended.

“We didn’t go,” he said, “I looked them up on Google and they only had three stars, so we went somewhere with five.”

That’s just the new reality—people in their late teens and early 20s trust Google more than their own parents when it comes to selecting a good restaurant.

All Things Speed

Recently, when dealing with certain insurance companies, I’ve noticed a change in what they’re looking for. They were definitely nicer early on in the pandemic, but I’ve noticed a shift and I’ve heard, word of mouth, that it’s happening across the country: They never used to care how long a repair would take, but suddenly they’re all about speed.

The companies haven’t said exactly why time now suddenly matters, but I have a couple guesses. On the cynical side, it could simply be a cost-saving measure. Take rental car repairs, for example—the quicker those vehicles are back on the road, the more cash for all.

But I hope insurance companies are pushing shops for fast and thorough repairs for another reason: to make customers happy, because they know what customers want. And it’s going to be an adjustment.

Most repairs in Alaska take around 11 days, maybe 13 days during the busiest season. And picking up speed is going to be a challenge anywhere similar where waiting on parts can add to repair times.

But the writing is on the wall, I think, even if insurance later backs off: you have to be the fastest in the nation or get out of the way.

Real World Expectations

This was already in the pipeline before COVID-19, but the pandemic just sped it up—we have fewer points of contact with insurance companies, fewer points of contact with customers. And of course customers’ expectations have changed in other ways as day-to-day life was so altered.

We can take this opportunity—and the pressure that comes with it—to keep improving what we do and to be right there, living up to customers’ expectations.

We’ve been adjusting in a changing world, and the watch word for 2021 might also be “change,” but I think it’s a change for the better, as we keep up with our customers’ real world expectations, and frankly, what we expect from the world ourselves.