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The Expectations Business

I heard a great quote from a wise man (named Bob) a few months ago that really resonated with me. “We are not in the fixing problems business, we are in the setting expectations business”.

Have you ever been excited about a company’s service simply because they called you back when they said they would? Or been impressed with a contractor who showed up on time? I certainly have. In fact, I am keenly aware of the time when somebody promises me one. If you say you will be at my house to fix something at 9:00am, I will notice when the clock hits 9:01am and you aren’t there. I will also notice (and be impressed) when you arrive at 8:59am and knock on my door. Servicing businesses is no different, in fact it is even more annoying in business because schedules are often much more rigid.

Most technical people can fix problems. What we do is easy for us and foreign to our customers just like any other trade. But where most technical people fail is in setting accurate and realistic expectations with their customers and adjusting them when things don’t go according to plan.

We get a lot of service requests in a day, and sometimes it is like a flood on a busy morning. We can’t possibly deal with everything at once on days like that. We’d need twice the employees! But the great thing is that we aren’t expected to. Our customers don’t need every single issue that they have to be fixed instantaneously. What our customers do expect is that we will communicate with them about their requests, prioritize effectively, act quickly, and set realistic expectations as to when their requests will be dealt with.

In the last couple of months we have put a lot of emphasis on this. We have a new member of the Pod now (Corinne) whose entire role is about setting and managing customer expectations. That’s it. Her role is to keep our customers happy by communicating with them constantly, ensuring their work is completed to satisfaction, and readjusting expectations if and when things change. A simple “I will call you at 3pm and update you” followed by an on-time phone call at 3pm makes all the difference in the world when a customer is experiencing a frustrating problem.

I really believe that anybody in the business of providing service to customers can get a lot out of this concept, and personally I am really hard on people who do otherwise. I can do without the frustration of wondering when my problems will be fixed or why a contractor is late when I came home early from work to meet him. I’ll shop around again and again until I find somebody who respects my time and my pain when I need their help, and I suggest everyone do the same.

Posted in : Business Babble
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