We know that customers expect answers to service inquiries within an hour, and they also expect their online experiences to be convenient and fast, with their questions answered and their goals accomplished.

How has the ongoing digital evolution impacted how customers view patience today? How has your business reacted to customers' limited patience? What can brands do to perform within their customers' expectations?

Customers Want to Be in Control

Many poor experiences in the customer’s journey occur because they leave the customer feeling powerless.

Long wait times on the phone, having to type in or repeat information more than once or being transferred multiple times causes frustration and irritation for customers — as do shopping carts that don’t work or surprise shipping fees.

Taking away the ability of the customer to be in control often leads to a bad customer experience. Perhaps someone doesn’t want to use an online chatbot or knowledge base for customer service — but by providing those options, brands put the customer back into the driver’s seat.

"The ongoing digital evolution has given customers more control, which means they are now accustomed to getting what they want when they want it," said Mindy Weinstein, founder of Market MindShift and author of the soon-to-be-released book “The Power of Scarcity.” “When that doesn’t happen, it often causes anxiety and frustration.”

According to Weinstein, brands can restore this feeling of control among customers by providing multiple ways to interact with customer service and clearly communicating the estimated response time. “That puts some power back into customers' hands.”

Related Article: The Most Important Components of the Customer Experience

Customers Want Speed and Instant Gratification

The ability for customers to order food and have that food delivered is hardly new. After all, archaeologists have found evidence of food delivery going all the way back to ancient Roman times.

What’s new is the ability for consumers to order food from practically any restaurant and have it delivered by a third-party delivery service such as Postmates or UberEats.

Nourhan Beyrouti, senior director of corporate marketing and branding at Delivery Solutions, told CMSWire that over the past three years, customer expectations of speed and instant gratification, largely due to the increasing use of food delivery services, have transformed the retail experience.

“When customers began seeing that they could use an app to order food from their favorite restaurant and have it delivered in an hour by a local delivery driver, they began expecting the same service from their favorite retailers,” said Beyrouti, who believes that this paradigm shift affected both the retail and delivery industries.

“Expectations from the food industry have transcended into the retail industry, creating a better customer experience and more cost-effective delivery methods for retailers,” he added.

Customers Still Want Holistic Experiences

As customers’ patience continued to shrink and expectations grew, Amazon began to offer delivery of ordered items on the same day the order was placed. Because of the desire for speed and instant gratification, customers are eager for delivery options that bring products and services to them practically immediately.

Beyrouti said that same-day delivery is just the beginning of the convenient delivery options that will become available in the future and that delivery speed and convenience will continue to get shorter and more efficient.

“Drone delivery technology is already being utilized to deliver small products and as that technology advances, the use case will only increase,” Beyrouti explained. “As we look to the next five to ten years as these technologies advance, consumers will be conditioned to expect not only same-day delivery options but same afternoon or even same-hour delivery.”

Lara Mourra, head of strategy at Thrillworks, told CMSWire that consumers are cornering brands into commoditizing experiences through convenience and speed, but that brands sometimes take consumers' demands quite literally and forget about the sentiment of what consumers are trying to accomplish.

“Humans are complex and there are multiple factors that influence their decisions,” said Mourra, adding that satisfying the demand for convenience and speed isn’t always enough.

“The holistic experience should make sense as well, and this is where the gap lies between the customer’s experience and their expectations,” said Mourra. Strong brands are going to see this gap, recognize it as an opportunity and create memorable customer experiences while solving it, she said.

“When the experience makes sense, then magically the consumer will have the patience that seemed so lacking to interact with your brand in an intentional way and build trust through contextual experiences."

Related Article: The Tao of Customer Experience

Customers Demand Instant Customer Service

Today's consumer understands they can do business with a brand anytime, day or night. The always-connected customer, therefore, expects brands to be available at 3 a.m. on a Sunday over Christmas weekend, for instance.

A study by SuperOffice revealed that 88% of customers want a response within an hour, while 30% expect a response within 15 minutes. Brands that provide a way for customers to find answers to their questions immediately, in real-time, will soon have customers feeling emotionally satisfied following an almost effortless experience.

Learning Opportunities

Adrian McDermott, chief technology officer at Zendesk, said customer service is a key differentiator for brands, largely because today’s customers have high expectations, little patience and a lot of options to choose from. “As a result, they expect quick, easy and effective service, and they’re willing to look elsewhere if they don’t get it.”

Customers also expect a seamless transition between channels, so customer data must follow the customer’s journey.

“Beyond simply being available on messaging channels,” said McDermott, “businesses must also consider how customers can take action without leaving the messaging interface. For example, booking a massage or ordering room service should naturally flow as part of a seamless, digital conversation with the front desk concierge without ever having to navigate elsewhere.”

Because of the desire for speed and instantaneous satisfaction, brands must allow customers to be in charge of selecting their preferred channel, as well as provide options that allow the customer to serve their own needs.

“Businesses need to be where their customers are — that means meeting them on any channel, which is increasingly preferred to be messaging,” said McDermott. “This requires an approach that prioritizes conversations and centers the entire customer’s journey around them.”

Customers Have Little Patience for Poor Experiences

As McDermott pointed out, customers expect a positive experience that follows them across all of a brand’s channels. The experience should seamlessly carry forward from a brand’s mobile app to its website to its brick-and-mortar storefront.

Customers will remember a poor experience far longer than they will a positive one. In fact, a recent Verint survey revealed that 64% of consumers have switched to a competitor after having a poor customer experience.

Levon Galstyan is a certified public accountant at Oak View Law Group. His business depends on being able to provide an exceptional customer experience, something that’s getting more challenging due to such a fast-paced digital evolution that has largely been inspired by the tech giants.

“Almost 50% of my clients want service faster than five years ago,” said Galstyan. “Among others, Google and Amazon have altered customer expectations. With having to download programs, enter the same information more than once and navigate complexity, CPA clients are growing impatient.”

Thankfully, technology can help to achieve many of the expectations it has created. The first thing that Galstyan’s business did was embrace digitalization and the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

“If my company does not use AI apps, clients will go somewhere else,” said Galstyan. “Our company has invested in AI tools, and we have learned to deliver quick resolutions. Automation and embedded calculations help us to improve efficiency.”

Technology has enabled Galstyan to reduce consumer annoyance by providing customers with better experiences. “AI can offer insights that assist staff members and clients in identifying patterns and predicting trends,” he said. “This is helping us to give them suggestions to choose from.” This technology has made his clients happy, which in turn facilitated a better client satisfaction rate.

Related Article: Powering Customer Experience Through Conversational AI, Analytics and Good Data

Final Thoughts: Customer Expectations Higher Than Ever

Today’s customers are used to technology that provides them with many options. They expect brands to use technology to give them control of their narrative, they’re interested in speed and instant gratification and they want to do business online at any time of day.

Customers also have very little patience with brands that provide a poor customer experience. As a result, brands must ensure that customers have a frictionless, exceptional experience across their entire journey.