Customer expectations and satisfaction are closely related. Customers feel less satisfied when they expect something from a company but do not get what they expected. On the other hand, if they have low expectations of a company and are pleasantly surprised, they may feel more satisfied than if they had high expectations and feel they have been let down. Interestingly, companies are not always able to accurately predict what customers will expect from them, and systems of gathering and analyzing feedback are typically important.
Often, a customer's level of satisfaction is dependent on the expectations he has for a company. For example, if he expects a company to offer prompt service, but he encounters delays in the processing of his order, he may feel unsatisfied. Likewise, if he believes a company will provide a quality product and his purchase seems cheaply made, he may feel unhappy. Additionally, a customer may feel dissatisfied with a company if he believes his business is valued, but a company proves otherwise by allowing its employees to ignore him, behave rudely, or fail to respond appropriately to complaints.
In many cases, customer expectations and satisfaction are influenced by the advertisements a company uses to sell its products or services. For example, if a company advertises that it processes orders within a certain time frame but then fails to live up to this, its customers are likely to feel misled by the advertisement and dissatisfied. Likewise, if a company advertises itself as putting customer service first, but then shows only an average level of concern in this area, its customers are likely to be less satisfied. In such cases, the connection between customer expectations and satisfaction is one the company influenced with its advertising claims.
Sometimes a customer's own preconceived ideas about a company — unrelated to advertising — can also affect the relationship between customer expectations and satisfaction. For example, if a customer believes a company has the expertise to quickly and accurately diagnose an equipment issue, but the company is unable to provide a diagnosis right away, the customer may feel let down. The same may hold true if the customer expects a company to accept special orders but it refuses to do so.
Many companies make the mistake of trying to meet assumed expectations rather than learning what the customers' expectations really are. If the expectations are assumed, the company's priorities may seem off kilter due to the fact that is does not really understand what its customers want or consider most critical. In such cases and in light of the relationship between customer expectations and satisfaction, finding effective methods of gauging customer needs may prove critical for the company's success.