This is the fifth article that explores customer-centricity in today’s context. It expounds on my fourth article on customer thought processes in a buying journey, “Aligning customer expectation, prediction with perception for positive Moments of Truth”
Adequate performance reflects the minimum product and service level expected and could be accepted by both end and business customer segments(customers). Adequate levels signal a temporary advantage and is significant particularly in disruptive conditions in which are beyond the control of product and service providers eg. disruption in supply chain because of the pandemic. Customer expectations, predictions and even perceptions of excellent or ideal outcomes are attenuated because of constant irregularities experienced. Customers could be more relenting and have a propensity for adequate performance levels as a result.
In this context, customer prediction which occurs before and after a buying event and whilst waiting for the service or product to be ready, has a direct effect on service and product quality assessment. It prognosticates a satisfaction outcome with particular reference to adequate levels which lies within an expandable zone.
We will delve into the significance of adequate performance levels in relation to disruptive conditions.
Expectations and adequate service level
The heterogeneous nature of products and services lead to a variety of customer expectations that the customer hopes to receive. These expectations can be described as a level of performance that the customer ought to receive or deserve. Desired service is a blend of what the customer believes “can be” and “should be” eg. McDonald’s Super Value meal(SVM) mainly consisting of a juicy Big MacTM and add ons.
Although customers hope to realize their product and service desires, they recognize that this is not always possible. They therefore hold another, lower level expectation deemed adequate. It represents a minimum tolerable expectation, the bottom level of performance acceptable to the customer, and captures the ideal and realistic aspects of expectations eg. burnt French fries, but a perfect Big MacTM is still minimally tolerable and adequate because the burger is the prized food item.
Perception and zone of tolerance
The perception of product/ service quality levels that happens during and post consumption, is viewed as the degree and direction of discrepancy between customers’ perceptions and expectations. A sharing zone between 2 basic levels i.e. desired and adequate, are weighed up over these phases. This zone indicates customers recognition and willingness to accept heterogeneity.
In my burger example, if there is no gap in my auto comparison of expectation, prediction and perception, my ideal SVM would have been met. This would lead me to be completely satisfied.
Prediction and differing customer tolerance zones
Customer predictions are levels of service/ product performance that the customer believes will be realized. Predicted service plays an indirect but key role in satisfaction assessment by influencing adequate service particularly in fluctuating conditions.
This is why there is considerable variation in customers’ tolerance zones which expands and contracts. There are customers who have a narrow zone of tolerance, requiring a consistent level of service from providers, whereas others tolerate a greater range of service levels. Eg. under normal circumstances when supply chain activities run efficiently, I would predict that my SVM would be prepared to a tee. And if my Big MacTM turned out tasting like cardboard, this would be intolerable. In this instance, my prediction pointed to an ideal level which was unmet and my zone of tolerance contracted considerably.
However, during Movement Control Order where there are many disruptions, I would predict that there could be sub-standards in performance levels. Given that there are predictably hiccups in supply chain activities, I would have the propensity to perceive that it tastes like cardboard, and would readily compensate by improving the taste with ketchup. This would meet lower expectations albeit just adequately. In this way, my prediction of sub-standards pointed me to a potential reality away from my ideal. Therefore, my prediction influenced me to adjust my expectations lower and to have the propensity to accept adequate levels thereby expanding my tolerance level.
Therefore, prediction is a main influencer of fluctuations in a customer’s zone of tolerance and relates directly to adequate service levels. Prediction is key particularly in this age of technology when customers can predictably and unpredictably change their minds with updates and reviews of a product/ service, at the flick of their mobiles. Hence, it is during this thought process i.e. before and after a purchase event and whilst waiting for a service or product to be ready, present opportunities for organisations to leverage on i.e. strategies to manage adequate performance and its sharing zone with desired levels.
Then again, how are expectations, predictions and perceptions formed and how do zone of tolerance shift? Stay tuned for my next article to find out.
- Vu, V. T. (2015). Determinants of customer expectations of service: implications for fostering customer satisfaction. International Journal of Management and Applied Science, 1, 4, 146-151.
- Zeithaml, V. A., Berry, L. L. & Parasuraman, A. (1993). The nature and determinants of customer expectations of service. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 21, 1, 1-12.