Who is Setting Your Customer’s Expectations?


Sunday was a cold day for April, low sixties and windy. The wind cuts through your jacket in The Ballpark in Arlington, might as well not even have one on. My brother and I decide to head inside to get a beer, if anything, just to get out of the wind.

“Two beers please.”

“19.50” the guy responds instantly, like it is a natural reflex.

I turn to my brother, “20 bucks? For two beers?!”

“What do you expect, Rangers game!”

What do you expect? What a question. One we as leaders and managers fail to ask. Who is setting your customers expectations? An even better question. Far too often we don’t even consider this. I can’t think of anything more with impact on a transaction, then preconceived expectations.

I was in a domestic auto dealer not too long ago, when I asked an advisor that question. The response? “Who cares.” His thought was: this was a domestic dealer; the customer should expect poor service. What? I replied with another question. “Did you ever consider, what that domestic vehicle might be parked next to in the garage?”

How can you just assume the customer has one expectation or another? Don’t you think you should be the one setting the expectations? If you assume this is done, you have already failed. Hard to give excellent service if you haven’t defined it.

I go into Starbucks all over the country. To be honest, I don’t even like their coffee. Every time I go in though, its comfort. They have the same routine and the coffee tastes exactly the same, every time, every city, every state. I have set expectations of what will happen, and they always deliver. How? I never received a phone call telling me how the experience will be. I didn’t see a commercial, or get a confirmation email. They set the expectation with disciplined repetition.

If I go to another place to get coffee, I am severely disappointed. Is this fair? That place didn’t do anything wrong. Is it fair they must live up to what I expect when they had nothing to do with creating my expectations? Fair? No, but it is reality.  Same goes for our advisor at the domestic dealer. That other car in the garage may be a luxury car, setting him up for failure and he doesn’t even know it.

“You might not always get what you want, but you always get what you expect.” -Charles Spurgeon

In our instant gratification society, we can’t just rely on disciplined repetition in processes to impress. While that is a crucial key to retaining our customers, we have to earn their business first. Is it realistic for a domestic dealer to have the same amenities as a luxury dealer? No, it is not, and that is OK. It is realistic however, to deliver the same level of service across the board.

We are constantly setting ourselves up to fail. Ironically a lot of our customers are expecting poor service. We usually deliver poor service, and then we ask them to fill out a survey to tell us about it. Imagine how powerful it would be to let a customer know how the service will go, and then actually do it. Do it with disciplined repetition.

This goes for all career fields. Next time you are setting up an appointment for a customer, let them know what to expect. Set the table for your customer, then deliver. Really, it doesn’t take much to impress people and earn their business.

That twenty bucks for the two beers? I was happy to pay. Would I pay that in a restaurant? No way, but what do you expect?