Ramble On Ron

Diamonds, Music and other Facets of Life

Setting Expectations

Posted on | March 23, 2013 | 2 Comments

I came across a recent situation where a service provider is (constantly) making a mistake that we used to do here at Samuelson’s all the time. It’s all about setting expectations.

Here’s an example:

Someone wants an engagement ring made. Back in the day, we would do everything we could to do it as fast as possible. “Sure, we will have this ready for you by the end of the week.” This puts stress on me or the salesperson, the jeweler, and eventually the customer. A lot of things happen within a week that we can’t control. The jeweler doesn’t get it done on time, a part needs to be ordered, it doesn’t look right and has to go back to get fixed, someone gets sick, etc etc. So then we are in the uncomfortable situation of telling the customer their ring will not be ready on time. Can even ruin a proposal plan. How can this be avoided? “Your ring will be ready in three weeks.” Now, if you have it in a week or two you look like a hero. Under promise – over expectationsdeliver.

This discipline is very hard to adhere to for a service provider because you NEVER want to say “no” to a customer. Especially if it means losing a sale. Here’s another situation. “I have to have this ring tomorrow.”  My advice – learn to say no. Nine times out of ten it’s ok if you explain it right. If someone needs instant gratification, then they are often not great customers.

What prompted me to write this post is that I have been receiving these promises from a service provider. And all of my stress could have been avoided had the expectation been set properly. “I’m working on it now, I’ll have this for you in an hour, you’ll have this today…” If he would have said, “You will have this next week, or next month, or next year,” this would have made for a much less stressful situation. Instead, I was expecting these things to be done faster and I had to keep asking/emailing/calling to check my status. Not a good situation for either of us to be in. Again, a simple “It will be done in a month (or two or three)” would have solved this problem for me and the service provider.

It’s a rookie move that a lot of businesses do, and my staff here at Samuelson’s is trying NOT to do this anymore. Took a long time to learn.

There was an interesting article in the New York Times about this titled, “What Did You Expect? It Makes a Difference”. It starts out talking about a doctor setting expectations, but what’s most interesting is the scientific explanation:

…how we manage expectations applies to everything, from dating to job searches to what presents we’re going to get for our birthdays.

“It’s so central to our lives,” said David Rock, author of “Your Brain at Work” (HarperCollins, 2009).

There are two sides of expectations — what we expect from others and what we expect from ourselves. And how we manage those expectations is critical to how we view our experiences and pursue our goals.

Mr. Rock, who is also director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, which aims to improve leadership through applying the latest research on the brain, says there is a physiological reason we are disappointed when life does not meet our expectations. The neurotransmitter dopamine is released in our brain — and makes us feel good — when something positive happens.

Take an event as mundane as crossing the street. We push the button and expect the light to change in maybe 30 seconds. If it takes five seconds, “there’s a pleasant release of dopamine, and a general feeling of well-being,” he said, even if it’s only fleeting.

The downside is that when our expectations are not met — let’s say it takes a minute for the light to change — our negative feelings are much stronger than the good feelings we get when expectations are exceeded.

Which is a real shame. As Mr. Rock explains it, “If we expect to get x and we get x, there’s a slight rise in dopamine. If we expect to get x and we get 2x, there’s a greater rise. But if we expect to get x and get 0.9x, then we get a much bigger drop.”

“When we don’t hit our expectations,” he added, “our brain doesn’t just get slightly unhappy, it sends out a message of danger or threat.” That suggests that the cliché “hope for the best but expect the worst” has a lot of truth.

It’s all about setting expectations…

 

Comments

  • Dina Wasmer

    Good stuff and thanks for sharing Ron.

    I just ran into a similar situation last week with one of our clients who asked me 3 different ways if they could get their website sooner than the date we had provided and I had to keep telling them that it wasn’t humanly possible. Sure, we might be able to get it done a few days sooner but if we miss that deadline then the client will be ticked and we’ll look badly and they certainly won’t remember the conversation we had weeks prior when I told them it would be tough to make.

    Hard to do sometimes but better to stick to your guns and be realistic upfront. I find that referencing, “in our experience with comparable projects, this tends to take x days/weeks, etc. and if you want it done right, this is how long it will take.” Without being a snot about it…just direct. 🙂

  • rambleonron

    Thanks for your comment Dina! I think this subject applies to most businesses.