Consumers have high expectations.
High expectations left unfufilled sound like the quiet space between the lines of a bad review.
Unspoken but present, the echo of disappointment is reflected in negative comments because the comments are only negative because the consumer anticipated a positive experience.
Experiences that fall short of promised expectations are why customer satisfaction ratings consistently show up in product/service reviews.
Almost every unsatisfied review you will encounter has the language of: “I thought this would be better” or “we expected a different experience” and “we are so disappointed”.
If the products and services we are offered were required to include a disclosure of a possible negative experience then it would be harder for people to say they were misled and are now disappointed.
If all service people were honest then they would all say: “it is possible that something goes wrong with your experience, we simply can not guarantee anything other than doing our best”.
But the reality-most services and products do not warn us of our potential disappointment.
They may promise a refund, and we will take it, but we wanted what we were promised more than a refund.
We live in a society where being that honest about setting expectations feels risky.
The risk we anticipate by being totally honest is that no one will give us a chance.
We assume the consumer will think that if we are willing to make an unintentional mistake, we will also not work hard to make the customer experience as perfect as possible.
We have lived in a world of disappointing broken promises and yet we still seek these “promises” from service providers to feel they qualify for our business.
It is the culture we live in to look for a good promise from people, and then not be shocked when that promise breaks.
If we get a promise from people it means if something goes wrong we have the right to complain.
We also know that if someone takes away our entitlement to complain then no one will take ownership of our bad experience.
But what does this system really solve?
Would it not be better to know what to expect as the consumer than to always have to take bad odds on yet another promise?
We know that as humans we like control so why do we not allow ourselves to have more control over our experience by working with people who are willing to be honest with us up front?
The answer: almost no service providers and products are completely honest up front.
The broken promise strategy hasn’t put them out of business yet so why change the strategy?
Sure they have lost some customers but the business is open so why change?
Here are some reasons to be the one who decides to be totally honest with setting expectations:
#1. The world has changed. The consumer is smarter and has access to multiple choices for whom they work with and buy from. The only reason to continue doing anything according to the past status quo is if nothing has changed about the circumstances surrounding what has worked in the past. Consumers have options but cannot find the honest clear option to pick because everyone is afraid to be honest with them. If you are in afraid you will immediately be scarce which is a good thing.
#2. It is now more risky than ever to break your word. If you disappoint people today they will do more than tell their neighbors… They will tell thousands of people online. Bad news traveled pretty fast in the past, now it is traveling at the speed of fiber optic cable…
#3. It will make your life easier to set expectations because you will get to be human. No one is perfect. Perfection is not a constantly repeatable trait for the human condition. If you want to relate to people best… be a person! Just chose to be an honest person.
Set expectations upfront. Advise people what they should expect, what you intend to deliver, and that if you deliver less then you will do your best to make it right.
So many times service providers make excuses and isolate the consumer by saying: “my other clients like my service, not sure why you don’t.” Even if you feel that way how does this help your brand if you are telling a client they don’t fit in with your “everyone else” group? ? Remember, “one” can be everyone quickly thanks to the Internet.
There is no rule against being the change that you know the world around you will support and appreciate.
Someone needed to invent the automobile.
For almost 100 years people fiddled with the idea of this need until the invention gained real momentum.
The world needed cars to become more efficient as out societies evolved.
Similarly, consumers need someone to set honest expectations up front to attract and increase their customer satisfaction.
Consumers are looking for honest.
Please do not hide the broken promise system.
We do not have 100 years for you to decide to tell us what we can actually expect from you.
We need you now.