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The first rule concerning customer expectations is: "there are no rules." Customer expectations can shift quickly and dramatically for a variety of reasons.

There are many factors that influence customer expectations, including:

* previous experience with your products or similar products
First impressions can make or break customer relationships. If customers love your product or a had a good experience with a similar product, they will have high expectations when they buy from you. If, however, they are disappointed by quality, performance, or service, they may abruptly switch to another source.
* the customer's state of mind (and state of business)
Economic and industry trends can change customer expectations. Economic trends can change perceptions about price and durability while industry trends can change expectations about quality and functionality. Another factor to consider is the changing needs of the customer—for example, a single customer marries or a married customer has their first baby.
* word of mouth from other customers
Customer expectations about your product or service are also influenced by word of mouth. When an existing customer praises your product, expectations rise. When an existing customer criticizes your product, expectations fall.
* the competition
If a competitor offers a similar product at a certain price, the customer will expect the same from you. If the competitor offers a special gift with a purchase, the customer will look to see what you might do as an incentive.
* your advertisements
When your ads tell people you perform to a higher standard, they will expect you to live up to the promise. If you under-promise and over-deliver, you'll gain customer commitment.

Customer expectations are ever-changing. Understanding the factors that influence customer expectations is essential if you want to anticipate customer needs and provide them with exceptional service.

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