What you say and do not mean, follows you close behind – Ben Harper
“We can have someone come by your house between 1:00 PM and 4:00PM, does that work for you?” There it is, an expectation contract. It’s simple and agreed upon. In fact, the service provider set the terms of this micro agreement. You simply accepted. A level of hope is now in place.
At 3:45 PM you are notified that your 4:00 PM outside time is not going to happen. In fact, they now can’t be there until 6:00PM. Does that work for you? NO. Since you have shattered my expectation contract can you tell me the new time I might expect someone? Tomorrow, between 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM. Welcome despair. Why should I hold out any hope you might show up then? I don’t trust you.
There you have it, a crushed engagement and a freefalling reputation. All done in the blink of a non-caring eye. There is nothing harder to reconstruct than broken trust.
It happens all the time. The meeting is scheduled for a 10:00 AM start time, but doesn’t get rolling until 10:15. A conference call is scheduled that gets cancelled at the last minute. A deadline is set and then moved back and back until its validity is about the same as a sasquatch sighting. It’s so often our experience that it has become the norm. Did I really expect someone to show up between 1:00 and 4:00 PM? Of course not. I have been in this sinking expectation boat too many times to hold my breath for a timely knock on my door. Sad but true and you know it.
A customer, team member, manager or leader should recognize the intense power that lies in setting, fulfilling or better yet (get ready) exceeding expectations. Just think of the minimum. You say something and then do it, just as you described. Wahoo!!!! I love that and that is just a smallest thing you SHOULD do.
If you can build the least amount of fulfilled expectation you have a reputation that can grow. Clients are shocked. You mean my car repair is done? My 9:00 AM appointment is ready to roll? I received my package on time? You know the simple joy Amazon or Zappos creates when your order gets their AHEAD of schedule. Heck, you are singing and dancing before the UPS guy gets back to his truck. EXPECTATIONS. Do the minimum to build to the next level. Miss the minimum in your expectation agreement and guess what? You are in constant recovery mode and you will be apologizing for the foreseeable future. A business built on I’m sorry doesn’t stand a competitive chance at survival.
Before you commit to something, think of it as a contract between you and the other party. You are the designer and implementer of this agreement. Don’t make it lightly. THINK. Can you actually do what you just promised, because this agreement, this expectation contract, no matter its size, is a PROMISE. It tests your word.
One of the laws of Creative Ventures is that “speed should never outweigh thought.” Speed is often the villain in this drama. You think it is the master of expectations. The faster the better. You make promises based on your love affair with speed, but speed is the enemy of expectation. We are horrible estimators. We think we can do things we can’t and we promise those “cant’s” as expectations. We build our own traps and unfortunately our word and integrity is the thing that gets caught.
Try this, slow down and think. It sounds simple, but when speed is pushing your brain, slowing down seems impossible. At Creative Ventures, after an initial project call, we often tell our clients that we need to think about the issue and provide a timeframe in which we will develop our initial ideas. This allows us to really think and actually forces us to slow down. We ask if this works for the client and then our integrity clock starts. We have provided time for us to think and produce based on an agreed upon schedule. It’s not about NOW, but instead about an agreed upon when, a when that allows us time to make it happen.
Accomplishing our commitment to our client is our gold and it should be yours too!