I’d like to explore the phrase “managing expectations” as it relates to delivering great service. How many times has someone said that the success of a project came down to the service provider’s ability to adequately manage a customer’s expectations? Or as a recipient of service, we felt that our expectations were not met?
A customer’s expectations are the ultimate measure of the service provider’s success. Their satisfaction is based on how close you have come to their expectations. This can be a very different measure than how closely you met the contractual terms or the scope of work or milestone schedule. Expectations are your client's vision of the result.
Too often, managing expectations is used as an excuse to “lower” expectations. That is not the optimal way to view this activity. Simply managing expectations may not capture the full mindset. Instead, understanding, articulating and agreeing to a set of expectations is likely the most important process for success.
Expectations are set by all kinds of events – prior experiences, customer references or something that came up in the sales process. A service provider must understand and address these early on rather than relying on a contract or process. Because if the two are different, it is a matter of time before they collide – and expectations will trump the contract as it relates to satisfaction.
So, be proactive and thorough in understanding expectations. Tune into the areas where they may differ from yours. And then be confident in addressing them. That is the only way to truly manage, influence and ultimately, exceed expectations.