Meeting Expectations Versus Managing Hope

Meeting Expectations Versus Managing Hope

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

At a recent customer service presentation, the speaker who preceded me said that we must do better than simply meeting our customers’ expectations, and he shared some stories of truly amazing service experiences. Then it was my turn to speak. I didn’t want to contradict him, but I needed the audience to understand that it is impossible to go above and beyond with customers at every interaction. Sometimes meeting expectations is a perfect experience.

In my customer service keynote speeches, I talk about ‘Managing the Moment’. The idea comes from Jan Carlson, and if you’ve been following me, you will recognize this concept. Every interaction customers have with you or your company gives them the opportunity to form an impression. Understanding this simple idea is a good start to developing and/or maintaining your customer service and CX strategy.

I believe you must manage expectations, and if you are even the tiniest bit above average in doing what customers expect, your customers will love you, give you high ratings, and refer you to their colleagues and friends. The key to being successful with this idea is to be consistent. You want customers to say things like, “They always are knowledgeable,” or “They are always so helpful.” The word always followed by something positive, typically an expectation is what you’re going for.

Shep Hyken Expectations Cartoon

So back to the idea of just meeting expectations. Some people confuse expectations with hope. Here’s what I mean by this. If I call someone for help and leave a message, I expect them to call me back, and I hope they will return the call sooner rather than later.

Let’s say I’m called back within an hour. I’m pleasantly surprised because the person met my expectation of the callback and did it in the timeframe I hoped they would – maybe even a little sooner.

Most customers won’t analyze the experience quite this way, but it is exactly what they want – or hope for. They will, however, notice that the call was returned quickly and may say, “Thanks for calling me back so quickly.” The returned call was expected. The comment about “quickly” indicates their expectations were met or slightly exceeded. And if you do that every time, the customer will use the always when they talk about you and describe the experience by saying, “They always call me back quickly.”

Let’s flip this around. I believe most customers hope for a great experience, but not necessarily an over-the-top or above-and-beyond experience. And based on their typical experience with service laggards, they, unfortunately, don’t have high expectations. So, whenever you meet or just ever so slightly exceed what your customers hope for, you’ve created a positive experience that gets them to say, “I’ll be back!”

Image Credits: Shep Hyken

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