I recently checked into a hotel that told me they don’t clean their rooms on the weekends—yet there’s no discount in pricing for this lack of service. A home repair company kept me on hold for nearly an hour while they tried to figure out why they couldn’t get someone to repair my toilet in less than a week—and no, they couldn’t call me back, that wasn’t part of their system. Are we doing a better job of meeting customer expectations?

With all the tools and technology, we have today, you’d think customer experience would be showing steady improvement. Yet, according to a recent presentation by Forrester Research’s CEO George Colony, that’s not the case. Most companies are still not meeting customer expectations.

That’s no surprise to those of us who are on the receiving end of this treatment. The question is why aren’t things getting better? Both examples above came from national chains that supposedly focus on creating good customer experiences.

The Five Steps toward Meeting Customer Expectations When Social Fails

There are those who believe social media will solve the challenge of meeting customer expectations. The thinking was that as companies become more engaged with social tools, they’ll monitor what’s going on and make adjustments. Well, some may be monitoring the situation, but that doesn’t mean changes are being made.

That’s because social interactions are trailing indicators. They tell us how customers feel after an incident occurred. But what about focusing on preventing customer snafus to start with?

Here are five areas that are ripe for improvement to meeting customer expectations in most organizations:

  • Empower your employees to do the right thing. Rather than focus on arbitrary metrics or automation systems, teach customer facing employees to focus on solving the customer’s problem—especially when it doesn’t fall into an established process.
  • Understand the limits of technology. How many times have we been asked to input our account number, customer ID, or other information, only to be transferred to someone who asks us for the exact same information again? The goal is to help the customer, not populate data in a system.
  • Hire for empathy. The ability to understand and relate to customer issues is invaluable to meeting customer expectations. Not enough organizations are looking for this trait when they hire customer-facing employees. Instead, they hire people who can follow directions and input data—not interact positively with customers.
  • Model correct behavior. Customer experience runs through the entire organization. It’s critical that senior executives model the behavior they expect their teams to follow rather than saying one thing but rewarding another. When an employee goes above and beyond, hold that up as the type of example you expect to become part of the culture.
  • Know your raison d’etre. Ensure all employees understand the goal and purpose of the organization in terms of how their actions impact customers’ lives. Make them feel part of something special because they are helping you achieve your mission and leave your customers better off for having worked with you.

Change your focus from monitoring last week’s interactions to creating the environment that will keep your customers engaged and excited in the future so your staff can be consistently meeting customer expectations.