4 Steps to Setting Proper Expectations
Setting proper expectations is one of the best ways to avoid ill-will between you and a client. Bending the expectation into something you think the client wants to hear, but is not realistic, or simply setting a false expectation to get the job, can cause grave damage, especially in the digital age. Bad news about you and your company can spread very quickly.
What Happens When You Fail In Setting Proper Expectations
You may remember an event in your childhood where one or both parents set an expectation for you and didn’t follow through. Certainly we all have had friends that set an expectation for us and didn’t follow through. How did that make you feel? Probably not good. Because parents are our parents, most likely the relationship stayed in check. On the friend front, depending on what the expectation was that was broke, the friendship may have ended. There are many marriages in the graveyard because of setting expectations and not following through.
In business, more times than not, setting a false expectation or failing to follow through with a reasonable expectation, can destroy the customer relationship and do harm to you and your company.
A proper expectation has a plan behind it to bring it to fulfillment. Proper expectations can be achieved. Clients will be appreciative if you meet the expectations you set for them. If you fail, your customer will feel they have been violated. They put their trust in you and you let them down and violated their trust.
Step 1 – Team on the Same Page
The first step in setting proper expectations is to define the typical things your customers will want answers to. Things such as price, time to completion, follow-up service, maintenance requirements and so forth and so on.
Once you have defined the areas of expectations, the people on your team and your employees – to whatever extent they are involved in the fulfillment of the expectation – need to know what their part is. For example, the crew leader needs to know what time he needs to have his crew on the job and how long he is expected to take to complete the job. If the crew leader feels that is not a reasonable expectation, they need to have a voice in helping define the proper expectation to set.
Every contact with a customer, whether by phone, in person or the Internet is an opportunity to set an appropriate expectation. Having the all employees that communicate with your customers on the same page, goes a long way to getting the customer’s expectation set right the first time.
Step 2 – Don’t Oversell
Overselling your product or service to nail the deal is a bad way to do business. If you set too lofty an expectation, what happens when you deliver reality? What happens is, they tell their friends and family there is nothing special about what you provided simply because the expectation was set higher than it should be. They may not bad mouth you, but they may never buy from you again.
Step 3 – Value Another’s Time
There is nothing more frustrating than to waste somebody’s time. Being vague with delivery times, whether delivery of goods or services is frankly disrespectful. We all have schedule conflicts. The key to turning a scheduling conflict is to get in touch with the customer early, as soon as you know, and reschedule, reset their expectation.
Step 4 – Resetting Expectations
There will always be things that happen that will get in the way of fulfilling the expectation you set for your client. The key to handling this is to be proactive and reset their expectation. Proactive communication will go a long way to keeping a good customer relationship. Most people are reasonable and will allow a change if the situation calls for it. But they will never know if you and/or your employees are not proactive with communication to clients when changes occur.
Summing it Up
Focusing and setting proper expectations you will set with your customers will go a long way to providing excellent customer service. Getting your team on the same page and each part of the team understanding their role can help you keep customers, gain repeat business, and reap the rewards of referrals. Plus it can help you to not pull your hair out because a customer exploded on you over a failed expectation.