How Well Do You Manage Expectations?


There are many causes of conflict, however the primary cause of conflict always circles back to one thing: unmet expectations.

Here's what I mean. Answer this one question for me: What business are you in?

Some might answer the question by stating the industry; “I’m in the energy business,” “I’m in the restaurant business,” and others describe what they do – or what they are – by way of an answer; “I’m a dentist,” “I’m an engineer,” etc.

If we take the time to analyze and understand what business we’re in, we will eventually come to the conclusion that we are all in the same business, because there is only one: preventing unmet expectations.

As varied as the work we do may be, and as diverse as our industries are, our success, and long-term sustainability is really all driven by this objective.

Managing Expectations

Our job is not to manage properties, sell houses, prepare meals, examine patients, repair machinery or enter data, our job – one and all – is to do nothing other than to manage the expectations of our clientele.

The degree to which we deploy our skills to this endeavour, drives directly the level of satisfaction – or dissatisfaction – experienced by our customers and consequently, determines our future.

There are many causes of conflict however the primary cause of conflict always circles back to one thing: unmet expectations.

Never underestimate how devastating unmet expectations can be for a business. Here’s why: we humans are an interesting species; when we experience good, or exceptional, customer service we seldom, if ever, tell anyone; but when we receive poor service (real or imagined), we tell EVERYONE. In fact many make it their mission to do so.

Those experiences linger in our memories for a very long time.

We all have, at times, been the cause of a customers discontent. And perhaps the biggest contributor to this unfortunate result is that we so seldom take time to fully explore and understand precisely what that customer’s expectations are.

Don't Assume

We assume we know, and cater to that assumption. We also wrongly assume that we all share the same expectations which means what satisfies me, will undoubtedly satisfies you.

Big mistake.

We were recently looking to acquire several new printers for our office. I contacted companies selling three well-recognized brand names and arranged for a sales rep from each to visit and offer solutions to our needs.

The first sales rep didn’t spend enough time in our office to even begin a presentation. I asked him to leave, and while my reason for doing so may seem harsh, I would do the same again.

I had spoken with this person the day prior to the scheduled meeting and confirmed the time of our meeting. He arrived 45 minutes late.

He offered no explanation or apology.

When I pointed out his tardiness, he muttered something about traffic with a tone suggesting that not only was it not a big deal but also one not worthy of mention.

When I said I had a client scheduled to arrive 15 minutes later and asked whether he thought it was okay if I simply keep that client waiting while he and I completed our meeting, he didn’t seem to think that was a poor solution.

Those who know me will attest to the fact I am somewhat of a stickler for punctuality. We are all late at times, but I do believe arriving 45 minutes late, without either the courtesy of a phone call or an apology is strong enough grounds to raise alarm bells as to what future interactions would look like.

I could not help but wonder if being late for a sales meeting – usually a time when sales people are on their best behaviour – and deeming it to be rather unimportant, is reflective of the level of caring and customer service we could expect from him and his organization in the future.

In choosing printers, I have no ability or knowledge that enables me to distinguish one from the other terms of quality, efficiency and reliability. A printer is a printer is a printer which leaves me with no choice other than to base my decisions on a salesperson whose behaviour inspires in me a belief that my expectations will be met, particularly when things go wrong.

What "Service" Means

Remember there is no such thing as good service or poor service in a restaurant, a store or any type of business - there is only our measure based solely on our expectations.

Which is why, if satisfied clients and customers are our pathway to a successful future, it is fair to say that meeting and managing expectations is the only business we are all in.

And if we fail to accept the importance of this basic business tenet, we run the risk of losing it all.

I expect you all to concur.

Till we read again.

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