What do customers expect?

Addressing 4 Key Areas Designed to Turn Prospects into Advocates

What if you knew the exact formula required to create advocates; raving fans; walking billboards; brand champions; and evangelicals for you and your company? That would be one valuable formula, wouldn’t it? Well, by reading First Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman you would discover that – according to Gallup research – there are four levels of customer expectations. Thoughtfully and consistently meeting these expectations can deliver a WOW factor that will convert potential customers and clients into raving fans.

Let’s get right to it. Here are levels 1 through 4, in ascending order of importance:

1) Accuracy; 2) Availability; 3) Partnership; 4) Advice/Learning

I’ll unpack them for you and illustrate what each level might look like from the customer’s point of view.

This information can apply to any industry and since it’s safe to assume we’ve all been out to eat at a restaurant, I’ll use dining experiences as the example. Suppose you owned a restaurant and committed to concentrating on these 4 levels of customer expectations. In doing so, here’s how you might think of their respective roles and – subsequently – focus your efforts.

1. Accuracy: You’d want your hosting staff to provide accurate wait times at the door. Getting guests’ food orders right – like desired meat temperatures and special requests – would be paramount. And strict recipe adherence would be emphasized in order to provide a consistent experience for returning (and referred) guests.

2. Availability: This might start with a web site that’s easy to navigate. It should offer online reservations and prominent placement of your phone number. An easy-to-find physical location with ample parking would be fundamental to your success. You’d have enough inventory to support your menu, with special regard to your most popular items. You’d have sufficient personnel on hand. Employees would be good at “reading” guests and recognizing that certain look on a guest’s face when they’re in need of something. They’d be right there to accommodate … before the guest felt the need to flag someone down. Why not offer a menu to peruse – and perhaps even light appetizers to nibble on – to guests in the waiting area?

3. Partnership: You and your staff would demonstrate an “I’m on your side” approach to customer service. Servers would follow through to make sure guests are pleased with every part of the process. They’d remember the names of their regulars. And when things went sideways, staff would go into service recovery mode, displaying a spirit of ownership and empowerment to quickly make things right. You might ask regulars to participate in focus groups, to shape future menu formats and service guidelines. You might even name a few menu items after your regulars, as a way to honor them. Now that’s partnership.

4. Advice/Learning: Why not offer cooking classes and wine pairings? How about a cooking tip of the day, or “insider” restaurant secrets guests could subscribe to? My longtime friend – and the chef/owner of Chef Tony’s in Bethesda, Md. – pairs his cooking classes with follow-up efforts to see how attendees are applying their new skills at home. Talk about creating customers for life!

Prioritizing your efforts

You should know that, while accuracy and availability are important (after all, they are 2 of the 4) as bestselling author Dan Pink said of these first two levels, when I interviewed him on my TV show, “… the absence of them is a problem, but having them is not an advantage.”

Focusing even more of your time and creativity on levels 3) partnership; and 4) advice/learning will provide more of a human element/experience and most likely pay the greatest dividends.

You might read back over the restaurant examples above and imagine how these efforts would make you feel if you were a guest …

It’s all about a feeling

When it comes to creating remarkable customer experiences, I recommend thinking in terms of the feelings you’re invoking in your customers and clients. Imagine leaving them feeling, 1) like you’ve thought of everything, and; 2) completely taken care of.

Focusing your efforts on these 4 levels of customer expectations should have you and your team well on your way to producing these feelings; emotions that are so powerful you’re likely to turn prospects into … advocates!

Your Turn

How are you demonstrating accuracy, availability, partnership, and advice/learning in your company, with your prospects and customers?


  1. […] getting this strategy right in your business is “true” differentiation from your competitors, greater advocacy amongst existing and future customers, and a business culture your people want to come to work […]

  2. […] Your customers want to feel included. Let them know of your successes, future plans, and important changes. Practice the act of keeping them informed and they’ll likely feel a sense of partnership. […]

  3. […] According to Gallup, providing advice/learning opportunities is a high-level client expectation that is powerful enough to turn prospects into advocates. Candidly, no other marketing effort has yielded me as many new clients as these Tips of the Day. So, my questions to you is, “What are you waiting for? Can you provide your own tips of the day, or some other advice/learning opportunities for your customers and clients? […]

  4. […] not enough for you to demonstrate partnership with your customers and prospects. They should also sense that partnership exists between you and […]

  5. […] available would your prospects and customers say you are? Can they reach you on the phone when they need […]

  6. […] You may notice that acquiring some of your best customers and clients has been a direct result of you taking the time to provide advice and learning for them … one of the most powerful approaches to an (unspoken) customer expectation. […]

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