Setting Expectations


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I’m encamped in our local Starbucks, busy with my morning series of conference calls.  Power is out at the office–the whole area is without power.  It’s been out since about 10 pm last night.  The power company was great in notifying us about the outage and setting our expectations about when power would be restored.

They said it would be restored at 5:45 am.  It’s 7:00 am, I’m at Starbucks.

I did something sneaky.  There are about 4 guys working at a big piece of electrical gear.  They are switching out parts.  I bought them some coffee.

They were appreciative, we talked for a while.  I asked them when they thought things would be done.  They replied, “Noon at the very earliest, this is a big job (and I was slowing them down).”

I said, “The power company said it would be done by 5:45 am, what’s up?”

They responded there was never any way the outage would have been corrected by that time.  The job was always estimated to be completed by Noon or a little after.  They didn’t know why the power company had set the wrong expectation.

I trust the estimate these guys gave me.  They’re doing the work.  They aren’t sitting in an office trying to “manage customer expectations.”

I wondered, Why did the power company set an expectation that power would be restored by 5:45am, when the people doing the work knew it would take until at least Noon?  I suppose someone thought that people could accept an overnight outage and they could later make an excuse for a little delay.

I don’t understand the logic.  I’m trying to plan my day.  I need access to computers, phones, power.  If they aren’t setting the right expectation, I have to keep disrupting what I do.  Every time they miss their commitment, I get more upset.  I wonder, why don’t they know, why don’t they tell me?

It turns out they do know, but for some strange reason they don’t want to tell me.

We see it all the time, sometimes we mis-set expectations.  I’m confused about why we do this purposefully.  We know we are going to make the customer unhappy.  But why are we purposefully going to make the customer unhappy multiple times?

In this case, we were unhappy that power had to be shut off, but knew it was because of maintenance.  We’re OK with that, anxiously looking forward to the power being restored.

But now we are disappointed again, and possibly will be disappointed again, and again, and…

Each time we set expectations and miss meeting them, we erode our relationship and trust with our customers.

Meeting expectations is how we build equity with our customers.

Are you meeting your customer’s expectations?

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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