Be A Hero
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Be A Hero

Be A Hero

Be A Hero

While preparing for last week’s class at The Tenacity Center at Kennesaw State University, John and I had extensive preparatory conversations with the company’s EVP to ensure our teaching was tailored to their needs.  Interestingly, one of their biggest concerns was managing the Expectations Paradox with their clients.  We don’t hear that a lot.

As you may recall if you’ve read our first book, “What Your Clients Won’t Tell You and Your Managers Don’t Know”, the Expectations Paradox arises when we give the client extraordinary or heroic service experiences that they use to set expectations of future performance.  Of course, clients will always understandably reset their expectations this way, unless we understand how, when and why to communicate behind the experience.

Great companies can legitimately be proud of the amazing things they often do to “WOW” their clients.  Corporate legends and heroes are spawned by the miraculous and superhuman stories retold such as driving all night through the blinding blizzard to complete the order.  That’s great stuff (and we’re not saying don’t ever do that) – what we are saying is don’t allow it to become the expectation going forward.  If it does, you’ve trapped yourself in the Expectations Paradox and that’s the world of shrinking margins and “never good enough”.

The response we recommend should be in two progressive stages:

1.) Explain to the client that the extraordinary service response was outside the agreed upon scope of service and resources, and while happy to do it, it won’t always be possible going forward and shouldn’t be expected.

2.) If the same or similar request should occur again, we should specifically cost out the response at a level that makes economic sense to us and ensure our client understands that an addendum to the agreement will be necessary going forward to cover recurrences.

Instead, what we often do is bask in the heroic glow of the ticker tape parade the client initially throws for us.  As the accolades are washing over us, it’s easy to forget that tomorrow, we’re the ones who’ll have to come back to sweep up the litter.  Everybody else just goes back to work – only now they have higher expectations than they did before.

Those elevated expectations can be tough to live up to.  That’s why legendary amateur golfer Bobby Jones, the only sports figure ever to receive two ticker tape parades in New York City, retired at the age of 28.  He explained his decision to retire saying, “It (championship golf) is something like a cage.  First you are expected to get into it and then you are expected to stay there.  But of course, nobody can stay there.”  That’s as good a metaphor for the Expectations Paradox as I could imagine.

Interestingly, Bobby Jones’ status as a heroic figure only continues to grow, now more than 80 years after his retirement. There’s important learning there for all of us when we understand that it still grows not because of what he did, but because of who he was.

Steve & John