11 Mar Exceed Expectations By How Much?
Exceed Expectations by How Much?
Your firm is positioned right where you want it to be. You’re leaving a wonderfully successful Expectations Meeting with an important client. All members of the Web of Influence®, on both sides, were in attendance. You had very good news to present about the prior year and your performance against the key expectations you had elicited 12 months ago. Importantly, the new set of expectations is very compatible with your capabilities. They are specific and measurable and the clients easily prioritized them, while agreeing that their successful achievement would create meaningful value for them. Life is good!
As you build your operating plan to correspond to their expectations, it becomes clear that you can not only meet, but also significantly exceed, the client’s expectations in a number of key areas. The question on the table is: “How much should you plan to exceed their expectations by?”
Turning to Tenacity’s first book, which introduced the Clients for Life® client retention process, the answer is evident – you should plan to exceed their expectations “by just a little bit”. Here’s why:
First – You avoid, or at least delay, the onset of the Expectations Paradoxsm. Clients use their past experience with you to construct their expectations going forward. This is entirely normal, natural and perfectly legitimate. When you’ve raised the bar so high that even you can’t jump over it in the future, you’ve waded into the dangerous waters of the Expectations Paradox. (Note: To avoid the Expectations Paradox, you must aggressively communicate behind your ‘one-off’ performances, in order to level-set client expectations going forward.)
Second – Consistently exceeding your client’s expectations, even by just a bit, is outstanding performance. Think about your last business trip. Perhaps you had a little less traffic on the way to the airport, parked a bit closer to the terminal, cleared security faster and more pleasantly than usual, the flight was right on time, the attendants unusually pleasant, a one-class rental car upgrade awaited, etc. etc. The point is, a series of consistent wins, even smallish ones, allows us to look back at the end and say: “Wow! That was a great trip!” Your clients will feel the same when evaluating consistently great results you achieve versus their expectations.
Of course, we all want to be seen by our clients as providing superior service. Remember, superior service is service that consistently exceeds client expectations, by just a little bit! That doesn’t mean we fail to provide the heroic miracle for our client when called on to do so. It does mean, however, that we must never allow a level of service that we know we can’t sustain, to become the client’s expectation going forward.
Has this ever happened to you? It probably has – whether in business or in your personal life – particularly your parenting life, if you have children. Once a request is granted – or a behavior permitted, it becomes the “new normal” standard going forward. Now – we’re not saying that clients are like children (of course we’re not) but only clear proactive communication delivery can prevent our heroic achievement from becoming their new expectation (aka – the new standard of performance).
The bar is set too high when we know that even we can’t even jump over it. Let’s make sure that it wasn’t us that raised it up there.
Steve & John