Main Difference – Customer Expectation vs Customer Perception
The key difference between customer expectation and customer perception lies in the customer aspirations and mindset; Customer expectation is an assumption in deciding the purchase whereas customer perception is an interpretation of collective information after purchase. Both concepts are important in delivering a superior offering to the customer and to making them satisfied. The variables in confirming the customer satisfaction are expectation and performance. The gap between the two variables decides whether the customer is satisfied or disappointed. This gap is known as Customer Gap (Parasuraman, et al, 1985). The performance leads to perception. Therefore, both customer expectation and customer perception are highly important concepts in the field of customer service and marketing. If the product performance exceeds the customer expectation, the customer is satisfied and can be easily retained. To do this, a thorough knowledge of customer expectation and the organizational resources are paramount.
What is Customer Expectation?
Customer expectation can be defined as “Customers assumption of his / her experience in fulfillment of a need with the available resources at his / her disposal”. In simple terms, customer expectation is what the customer expects from a product or service. This can be influenced by cultural background, demographic factors, advertising, family lifestyle, personality, beliefs, reviews, and experience with similar products. These influencing factors help the customer in evaluating the quality, value and the ability of the product or service to meet the need.
Customer expectation can be classified into two categories based on the performance aspirations for attributes, features, and benefit of the product or service. These are known as explicit and implicit expectation. Explicit expectation is expressed by the customer and usually relates to product performance such as the number of servings per bottle, free maintenance period, electricity consumption per hour, etc. These are well-identified performance standards and can be already explicitly mentioned in the package or technical data sheets. The implicit expectation is tricky, and most organizations fail to address it, resulting in poor customer satisfaction. Implicit expectations are things the customer believes to be obvious and thinks the seller knows it. But, they are unspoken assumptions of the customer. For example, the customer wants the seller to remember their past orders, or they expect to be given priority as they are regular customers. When the implicit expectation is ignored, the customer treats it as an explicit expectation. They assume that the seller knew the implicit expectation from the beginning, but did not attend to it.
Customer expectation was decoded by a research done by Parasuraman, et al (1985). The research only referred to service level quality. But, few of their findings were important and can be applied to both product and service. They indicated that customers have a predetermined expectation before purchase. This affects the buying decision. Furthermore, customer expectation is said to have two levels. One is the desired level, and the other is sufficient level. The desired level is the benefits customer hopes to get, and the sufficient level is the acceptable service or benefit. Finally, their research indicated that a promise of the seller should not be unrealistic. Under-promise is better, whereas the likelihood of exceeding customer expectation is high.
Businesses should always pay careful attention to setting expectations, meeting expectations and resetting expectations, to be successful in the marketplace.
What is Customer Perception?
Customer perception is the customer experience via consumption and interaction with the seller. Customer perception is subjective and can differ from person to person. Perception is a result of customer’s individual assessment of a product or service quality based on consumption and interaction with the seller.
The perception may differ from what the seller intended to induce. This probability of deviation possesses the greatest challenge to a marketer as customer perception is very difficult to predict and manage. If an organization is unable to get the attention or a favorable response from the customer, it can be a catastrophe for the organization. A large number of options in the marketplace and access to information from a customer point of view makes things more difficult for marketers.
Customer perception is not static; it’s dynamic. So, customer perception is about the present mindset of a customer. In future, the perception can shift from a favorable to an unfavorable situation or vise-versa. Initially, the perception will be judgmental, rational and fact-based. But, when the relationship grows between seller and buyer, it can be based on emotional factors. In addition, competitor actions, buyer circumstances, and buying power also can impact the perception.
Measuring customer perception is a difficult task, but it’s an essential task for an organization to view its offering from the customer viewpoint. Market research and surveys are the best tools for the measurement. The organization needs to bridge the gap between customer expectation and perception to manage customer perception. After measuring the perception, they can attempt to manage the customer gap.
What is the difference between Customer Expectation and Customer Perception?
As we have understood the concepts of customer expectation and customer perception, let us differentiate both concepts.
Customer Expectation: Customer expectation can be defined as the customer’s assumption of his / her experience in fulfillment of a need with the available resources at his / her disposal.
Customer Perception: Customer perception is an individual customer’s mental interpretation of collected information and consumption of a product or service.
Pre-purchase or Post-purchase:
Customer Expectation: Customer expectation is an assumption in deciding the purchase. (Pre-purchase stage).
Customer Perception: Customer perception is an interpretation of collective information after purchase (Post-purchase stage).
Customer Expectation: Customer expectation is the anticipation of experience. It’s a future-oriented concept
Customer Perception: Customer perception is a review of the experience. It’s a past oriented concept.
Customer Expectation: Customer expectation is influenced by cultural background, demographic factors, advertising, family lifestyle, personality, beliefs, reviews and experience with similar products.
Customer Perception: Customer perception is a result of customer’s individual assessment of product or service quality based on consumption and interaction with the seller.
Target Audience for Measurement:
Customer Expectation: Customer expectation can be measured via surveys and market research among potential customers who are the segmented target audience for the product or service the organization is offering.
Customer Perception: Customer perception can be measured via surveys and market research among consumers who tried the product or service at least once.
The important aspect of customer expectation and customer perception is the gap between them which is known as customer gap. Organizations should strive hard to keep the gap minimal as possible to succeed in their trade.
Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V.A. and Berry, L.L. (1985), A conceptual model of service quality and its implication, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 49 (Fall), pp. 41-50.
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