As Customers Should We Just Lower Our Expectations?


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In service experiences, expectations almost always dictate the outcome.

Before you conceptually agree or disagree with the above statement, I would like you to suspend your judgement for a moment.

As I reflected back on my experience with Al on flight #2839 and the subsequent cab ride from the conference to the airport, I was struck by how different my expectations were for two providers of transportation.

Have you suspended your judgement? Or maybe just put it in neutral for a moment?

Consider this…

Service is produced, consumed and evaluated simultaneously.

Two people can receive the exact same service, the exact same experience and have totally different outcomes.

Just like two people can ride a roller coaster with one being thrilled and the other being upset that they are even on the ride.

In service, expectations not only change from person to person.

Expectations can change day to day and moment to moment with each individual!

I believe expectations dictate the outcome of an experience.

Let’s think about the expectations every passenger had for flight #2839.

I believe the expectations were 1. Safety, 2. Respect and 3. Service. In that order.

I think we would all agree that often times as airline passengers, we lower our expectations for service, and respect but not safety.

I would argue, however, that everyone has a zone of tolerance or minimum expectations for the level of service and respect received.

To use flight #2839 as an example, if all passengers did not have expectations around respect and service and only valued safety, the flight would have met or exceeded all of our expectations.

I don’t think it is an either or proposition.

Now let’s apply those same expectations on the cab driver in the Prius from the conference center back to the O’Hare airport.

Safety, Respect, Service.

Well, typically that might be true, but this particular morning my expectations were radically different. Myself and and the same colleague who had tolerated the American Airlines flight were headed back to the airport.

Unfortunately, due to a a late business breakfast meeting, we were running very late to make our flight, and Siri was telling me it was going to be 54 minutes door to door.

We jump in the cab.

The driver asked, “Where to?”

I said, “O’Hare, and step on it!”

He looked at me and asked, “Are you serious?”

I said, “Yes! I’ve always wanted to say that. But yes, really, my phone says it is going to be 54 minutes. I know you can get us there way faster.”

He did another double take and looked at me and said, “Seriously?”

I said, “Seriously, we can’t miss this flight.”

Just as I enunciated the T in flight, he accelerated!.

We were in a Prius, which takes a little bit of time to get up to speed. I soon realized one of his key strategies for getting us to O’Hare was to avoid reducing his speed if at all possible. Sometimes he did this when I was sure it was not possible.

Let’s go back to those three expectations, safety, respect and service. Safety was pretty much out the window as we swerved around the first bicyclist.

It was all good for about two miles on I-90 West. This is when it got really crazy.

The cab driver exited the interstate for the back streets. When I say exited, I mean we were in the fast lane and he cut four lanes over type of exit.

We started out on a two lane avenue, however cars were allowed to park in the far right lane. His strategy here was to weave in and out of the parked cars while passing cars on our left. Keep in mind he was still operating under strategy number one, not losing top speed in the Prius.

At this point I actually started to text a business colleague just so someone knew my GPS coordinates for the crash I was sure was forthcoming.

My business partner sitting next to me closed both eyes as we moved from a two lane road, to a one lane road, through a residential neighborhood all the while consistently following principle number one, try not to lose maximum speed of this electrical vehicle.

I actually tried to film the back street stage of this cab ride but couldn’t as we came sliding onto the front lawn of a house through the alleyway, jumped the curb while cutting three cars off attempting to re-enter the interstate, one mile from the O’Hare exit.

While he was going from four lanes, to two lanes, to one lane, to the back alleyways, he popped in his personal “mix tape” of music that started with the tune Don’t Worry Be Happy, followed up by Hotel California and Bob Marley’s One Love.

I knew for a fact my fellow cab mate was completely scared! Never in the history of traveling with her has she ever tolerated me singing. That is scary but nothing in comparison to the stunt driver up front!

After sliding out of the alleyway attempting to re-enter the highway, we were forced to play chicken with an 18 wheeler as we merged back onto the interstate.

Granted, our driver’s strategy number one was no longer in play as traffic forced him to reduce his speed to 5 mph. The Prius is approximately wheel high next to the 18 wheeler, and our cab driver is not budging.

He merely puts two wheels up on the right median and goes back to his strategy, bring the electric vehicle back to maximum speed.

I have to tell you, I forget what his encore song was as he brought the electric vehicle up to maximum speed. I can tell you that the total elapsed time door to door was 34 minutes.

My expectations for this ride were to get there in one piece as fast as I could.

Mission accomplished.

I’ve been in some crazy cab rides in some third world, off the map countries. This was definitely one of the top three scariest cab rides I have ever been in.

We made our flight, and the cab driver got a huge tip for getting us there in 34 minutes.

As customers, should we lower or expectations?

Or should Al just become a cab driver?

P. S.
I got a call from American Airlines yesterday to discuss the issue on flight #2839. The reason I mention this is they called me because the blog got posted on Twitter. Not because of the official complaint filed at the operation center in O’Hare.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Psichogios
Peter Psichogios is the President of CSI International Performance Group whose mission is to help companies create engaging employee and customer experiences. Prior to joining CSI International Peter served as an executive member of one of the largest Instructional System Association companies in the world. In this capacity, he led all the front-end analysis and worked directly with Dr. Ken Blanchard. Peter has been fortunate to work with the who's who of the Fortune 500, helping them deliver innovative learning, engagement and recognition solutions.


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