A Professional Pet Peeve
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A Professional Pet Peeve

A Professional Pet Peeve

A Professional Pet Peeve

Keep an eye out for advertising campaigns that promise to “exceed your expectations”.  The chances are that you’ll notice quite a few of them – from auto dealers to cosmetic surgeons to home remodelers to banks.  So here’s my question – and my professional pet peeve – how can they promise to exceed your expectations if they: 1) don’t know who you are yet, and 2) don’t bother to ask?

Think about it – when’s the last time any business or service provider started the conversation with you by asking, “Help me to understand your expectations of us, and specifically, what a great outcome would look like for you?”  I’m guessing that it hasn’t happened very often – I know it hasn’t to me.

That’s largely because the science of expectations is complex and expectations vary – sometimes widely – from customer to customer.  Worse yet, they think they already know what they are – or should be – since they are the experts.  So if the marching orders of a business are to “exceed expectations” here are a few things they might want to think about before they find they’ve made a promise they can’t keep:

  • Expectations come from one of two sources: Communications or Personal Experiences.  Those that come from experience are stronger and more difficult to manage. It helps to understand their source.
  • An expectation must be both specific and measurable to have real validity.  It takes time, skill and discipline for a service provider to elicit, shape and document expectations that meet these two criteria.
  • Still, the job isn’t yet done.  Expectations must be prioritized – particularly if there are multiple buyers and / or multiple consumers. The harsh reality is that we don’t get fired for not accomplishing priority #5 – but be assured, we will be sent packing if we fail to achieve #1 and #2. Distinguishing which is which, is paramount, of course.
  • By the way, we’re still not there yet.  Expectations are almost always a two-way street.  In order for a service provider to meet and exceed the expectations of the customer, the customer must also do specific things that create the environment for success.  These specific responsibilities become the expectations of the provider and if they are not clearly communicated and committed to, the likelihood of failure is magnified.
  • Finally, Tenacity Commandment # 3 reminds us to expect our client to have expectations we didn’t expect they would have.  Whenever client expectations are not aligned with the provider’s resources and capabilities, disappointment and failure won’t be far behind.  Frankly, it can be hard enough when we know what the expectations actually are – it’s well nigh impossible when we don’t.

Steve & John