By Schuyler Stuart, Environmental Specialist II
The goal for any business operating in today’s market should be to not only meet client expectations but to exceed them. Exceeding client expectations is what sets a business apart from other businesses that provide the same services and ensures not only customer loyalty but customer expansion and profitability. This was the topic of conversation at John Cannon’s presentation on Exceeding Expectations. John is the associate director of the physical plant for planning & operations at the College of the Holy Cross. His article, to which this lecture focused, was published in the APPA magazine Facilities Manager September/October 2011 issue.
The presentation focused on the mysteries of expectation development and why we can find ourselves in situations where expectations have not been met. Often enough, as Cannon explained, we create our own disappointments when we do not meet the expectations that we set for ourselves or others. Cannon used the simple example of attending a baseball game. Your friend offers you a free ticket to a baseball game of your favorite team. You go to the game your team wins and you have a great time. Now imagine that your friend told you that you would be meeting some of the players after the game. You go to the same game, your team wins and you have a great time. However when the game is over the players must leave unexpectedly and you do not get to meet them. Now instead of being satisfied with your experience you are incredibly disappointed and feel as though you have been cheated. By setting an expectation and not meeting it a wonderful experience has turned to a disappointment.
This same scenario holds true in the business world. By being aware of your expectations and those you are setting for others you ensure that you are always meeting client needs and forging great business relationships. The best way to be sure that your client is having his or her expectations met is by over communicating. The most common situation where expectations are not met stem from a lack of communication one person simply misunderstands the expectations of the other. A great example of this is explained when Cannon sets up the power outage scenario. He gives the scenario to two groups of people with only one difference; communication. A snow storm hits and One group receives a notification from the power company that the power will be out for X amount of hours because of backups. The power is restored 2 hours before that time. The second group looses power and it is restored at the same exact time. However while group one is generally satisfied with their service, group two is highly dissatisfied. How could this be? Both groups received the same electrical work and the power was restored at the same time. The difference is the service provided and the communication between the power company and its customers.
More often than not clients will understand when things go wrong. They do not expect absolute perfection. However, they do expect a certain level communication and customer intimacy. People in general are much more receptive to honest mistakes than covered lies and deception. Take the following for example: you are going to be late to a job or meeting. It is best to call ahead and explain the situation honestly so plans can be made to re-schedule or adjust as needed. The client will be much more receptive to the truth and appreciate your humility than if you just showed up late using whatever convenient excuse you could come up with. These situations are usually transparent and only undermine the development of business and personal relationships.
Communication is the key to exceeding expectations. The more honestly and openly you communicate with those around you, the more success you will have personally and professionally. Expectations are only exceeded when you are aware of them. If you take the time to understand the expectations you are creating you can effectively manage and use them to deliver the WOW to your client each and every day.