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Expectation = frustration?

I recently saw an article with an image that included a quote from Antonio Banderas: Expectation is the mother of all frustration.

Honestly, this is true in life, in all relationships. Think about it for a second: Aren’t relationships much easier and much more relaxed when you have no expectations of the other party? Were you waiting for him to bring you flowers? Did you expect her to call your mom to wish her a “happy birthday?” How did that make you feel when those expectations weren’t met. Not so good, I’m sure. Frustrated? Disappointed? Unhappy? Questioning the person and the relationship?

Now think about your customers. Think about what frustrates them. And why.

Expectations, of course.

Customers come to do business with you because they have a set of expectations, including:

  • “I heard they have the best [insert product here].”
  • “I read reviews and saw that they got 5-star ratings.”
  • “Their commercial said they guarantee [insert guarantee here].”
  • “I’ve purchased from them before and had a great experience.”

There are a lot of different ways that customer expectations are formed:

  • your brand promise
  • your marketing and advertising
  • you stated outright, e.g., we do X
  • customer’s previous experience (with your brand or with another brand), or
  • consistent delivery of a great experience (by your brand)
  • word of mouth or reviews and feedback from other customers
  • from within us/customers, based on our own set of morals and values and how we would treat others or what we would do for them

But expectations can be funny thing.

  • Customers have them, but they are not in control of them and not in control of the outcomes.
  • Customers have them, but companies must know them and understand them.
  • Companies set them (brand promise, service delivery, marketing, etc.), yet they have trouble delivering against them (consistency/consistenly).

Where do you begin?

Obviously, understanding your customers, their needs and jobs to be done, and their expectations (against those needs, jobs to be done) is the first step in being able to deliver against them. When employees know and understand customer expectations, they can develop products and services, provide service and support, interact with customers, and more in such a way that ensures they meet or exceed said expectations. And they just need to do so consistently.

There’s an equation for this: Performance – Expectations = (Dis)Satisfaction

How do you measure expectations?

First ask what they are. Understand them. Deliver against them. And then ask if they were met. Or you could simply ask a satisfaction/experience question post-interaction to gauge where you stand, since expectations and experience are closely related. Or you can just ask an expectations met question post-interaction to get the same information. Oftentimes, we’ll ask a more-detailed diagnostic question to understand what the expectations were; after all, if you only know that they were/weren’t met but don’t know what they were, how helpful is that?

Are expectations the mother of all frustrations? I tend to agree. But expectations are inherently part of all relationships, including those with customers; so companies must learn how to identify, deliver against, and mitigate those frustrations, er, expectations.

Deming has an interesting take on expectations: 

Customer expectations? Nonsense. No customer ever asked for the electric light, the pneumatic tire, the VCR, or the CD. All customer expectations are only what you and your competitor have led him to expect. He knows nothing else. -W. Edwards Deming