Understand the differences between customers’ Needs, Wants and Expectations

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If you want to fully understand your customers, you need to understand the differences in their needs, wants and expectations. It’s a priority for the road to success. This will also help you to build the customer profiles for your business.

I have identified that most of my learners and many business owners I know, they are confused between the terms and more specifically when it comes to customer wants and expectations. So, let’s clarify these terms.

Customer Needs

These are things that the customers cannot do without and it’s necessary that you have in your business. These are basic requirements that the customers have in order to be able to use your business.

Their absence makes it impossible for them to buy from you and they will definitely go to your competitors, hoping that they will meet their specific needs.

The customer needs come first in the customers’ level of priority and they must be met, there is no question about it.

A basic example of a customer need is the wheelchair access.

If your store does not have one, then the disable customers will not be able to use your business. They need this to have access to your premises.

Another personal example is the baby chair.

I need to use a baby chair for my toddler daughter whenever we visit a restaurant or café, in order to be able to sit her safely and use their food and drink service.

We haven’t sat and left from several restaurants because they did not have a baby chair available. My basic need was not met, my custom went elsewhere.

Make sure you meet the customers’ basic needs. It’s fundamental for every business who respects its customers.

Apart from showing care and provision to your customers, this will open your business to a more diverse customer base and improve your business reputation, resulting in increase in your sales and profitability.

Customer Wants

Unlike the customer needs, these are not absolutely necessary to the customer, but it would be really good for them to have.

The customer wants are those things that would make the customer feel nice and better with themselves, but do not prevent them from using your products and services, if they are not available.

A good example can be a customer wanting home delivery of your products or extended opening hours.

Customer wants can be tricky for a specific reason: they are usually based on each person’s way of thinking and character. This means that they are subjective and might not be based on reality sometimes.

Using the same examples as above, you can see how the customer wants can become non-achievable: the same customer wanting home delivery of your products in half price or extended opening hours until 5am each night.

Due to the fact that the customer wants can be unrealistic, you need to be able to choose the ones that you are realistically capable to fulfil.

For the rest, you need to use your diplomacy and politeness in order to deal with them and not let the customer completely disappointed.

Customer Expectations

These are things the customers believe they will receive from your business or experience from your services.

They are usually based on previous experiences the customer had themselves or someone else who shared them with the customer.

They are also based on the promise each business is making to the customers regarding the level of services and quality of the products that they will receive.

For example, when you go to McDonald’s or KFC, you don’t expect to receive the service you will receive in a fine dining restaurant.

You expect fast counter service, in a casual environment and relatively low prices. On the contrary, in the fine dining restaurant you expect table service, in a formal environment and relatively high prices.

This means that customer expectations are usually based on reality and are more objective, compared to the customer wants that are subjective and might not be based on reality sometimes.


You mainly need to focus on meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

Regarding the customer wants, you need to fulfil the ones that are realistic and achievable, offering value to your customers and business.

The customer needs should always be met to the best possible extent.