When Setting Customer Expectations Backfires


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One of the most important ingredients for delivering service excellence is setting a customer’s expectations. I live in Manhattan and use the subways for transportation.  When a station has an electronic sign telling me when the next train will arrive, I’m happy. I, along with everyone else, have important information that helps us make decisions.  We are in control.

I also use OpenTable, a website for making reservations at restaurants.  It’s easy to navigate: click on the city, date, time and restaurant of choice and hit enter.  The table is reserved. Repeat customers on the site are rewarded; certificates can be redeemed to use at certain restaurants after enough points are accumulated.  It’s OpenTable’s policy to recognize loyal users.

So far, so good.  I decided to cash in some points for an upcoming night out.  I received a pop up message that I should expect my coupon in three weeks.  That sounded ridiculous.  Why should it take that long to send my reward?  That was the turnaround in 1970, not 2014.  Then to add insult to injury, I got the following email:

“We have received your request for an OpenTable Cheque. While most requests are processed in fewer than 3 weeks, please allow up to 6 weeks for delivery.”

I was not happy with that communication as you can well imagine.

Setting customer expectations is a “must do.”  Creating the process to back up the expectation is just as important.  In this case, the company must determine how to deliver their reward in a timely manner.  Tell customers using the website that it could take up to a month and a half to receive their “cheque” so plans could be made in advance.

I read recently that Priceline.com acquired OpenTable earlier this year. I hope management looks into an electronic system to send customers their coupons.  At least that’s what I would expect.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Shapiro
Richard R. Shapiro is Founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) and a leading authority in the area of customer satisfaction and loyalty. For 28 years, Richard has spearheaded the research conducted with thousands of customers from Fortune 100 and 500 companies compiling the ingredients of customer loyalty and what drives repeat business. His first book was The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business and The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business was released February, 2016.


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