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How to manage expectations to create the perfect offering
Managing expectations is a skill that leads to better customer engagement and greater satisfaction for both parties when done properly. Often we hear about companies that suffer reputationally because they create unrealistically high expectations for their customers and themselves, aggressively promising to cater to all demands, only for the delivery to be badly received when it inevitably does not live up to its sky-high expectations.
While setting high expectations is good, and can serve as a powerful motivation within your own company, extrapolating that to your offerings to customers without anything backing it up could harm your business and damage your brand image. Therefore expectation management and proper goal setting are two extremely important points in handling all aspects of customer engagement.
The Art of Expectation Management
To understand expectation management, it’s best to use a metaphor that all of us can relate to — going to school. Your initial image at a school might determine whether you are seen as a straight-A student, a sports fanatic, or a geek. This also affects the friendship groups you might form or enter into. Analogically, first impression will affect what type of company you are perceived to be by customers. It is therefore important that a company upholds a clear image (read: first impression) to be associated with the brand, allowing correct audience targeting (i.e. friendship groups in our high school metaphor).
Returning to the earlier metaphor about first-impressions at school, predicted grades can also be used explain the strategy of expectation management: If a student is perceived to be a straight-A student, getting a B would be seen as an underachievement and would therefore affect everyone’s perception of this student. But if another student who constantly gets Cs suddenly gets an A, that can be perceived as exceeding expectations, creating a positive response (i.e. a pleasant surprise!)
This strategy of setting expectations that are slightly lower than capacity, while actually constantly trying to exceed expectations is what good companies use to manage expectations. Asking customers to keep expectations realistic, and still delivering flawlessly on schedule and under budget is one of the best ways to keep customers and clients delighted in your product or service. I call this the art of expectation management.
Always Have Another Trick Up Your Sleeve
Companies like to outshine their competition by presenting all the skills within their capabilities. However, if the product does not live up to the customer’s expectations, it would result in the customers being dissatisfied, however good the product actually is. And this would resulting in a loss of confidence for customers to approach your brand again. By laying out all your features, you might appear to the customer as transparent, eager and capable; yet by limiting some of the information conveyed, you can pique curiosity and interest. This can generate more attention than expected. Companies such as Apple thrive on teasing their customers with minimal information to keep them engaged, generating buzz and speculations that elevate and leverage their brand exposure without any effort.
Importance of Goal Setting Strategy and Dynamic Responses
The best strategy here is to set realistic goals with the client by providing relevant information and quotations, and then exceeding those goals dynamically through gathering information and exploring possible additions within your offering. Then you can present these to your client the next time you meet with them. No only would you assure the client that you understand the problems they face, but you show the client that you have improved on your offering by anticipating their needs. This makes them feel even more important and valued.
Become the Master of Expectation Management
Knowing how to manage your client’s expectations, setting reasonable goals, exceeding those expectations through a pull strategy, and executing dynamic and effective responses will help your organisation become respected and well liked. Take the initiative and drive the process of setting and managing client perception and expectations. Each organisation should also develop a more targeted strategy that originates and extrapolates from this formula, as expectation management vary depending on the nature of the organisation. Hopefully this short post can serve as an effective launch point for those conversations.