Set the Expectation

I have recently been engaged in a business transaction that requires multiple steps and several different parties.  To make it all happen, there is an intermediary involved who is taking care of getting everything together and putting all the ducks in a row so to speak.

The other day I got an email from this intermediary as follows:  I’d like to establish a time to conduct an introductory call during which we will discuss our timeline and all of the steps in the process.

I was struck by this email and the desire to ensure that I was informed as to exactly how things would work.  They wanted me, the customer, to be comfortable and to have all of the information at my fingertips so I wouldn’t be wondering what was happening.

This is something so many companies forget.  They believe customers are okay not knowing things, they actually think customers would rather not know the details so they can be magically surprised when everything works out.

Brain science tells us a very different story.  According to neuroscience research, we humans like to be made aware of what’s coming our way.  There is a part of our brain that looks for threats and not knowing what’s coming is perceived as a threat, a threat that makes us wary to move forward.  This perception of a threat works against relationships.  “No news is good news” simply isn’t a good philosophy for customer satisfaction.  Business needs to follow in the footsteps of the email cited above and make customers aware of what’s going on in their transactions.

A friend relayed a great example of this.  She was dealing with a business who was working on solving a billing problem for her.  She had called and the associate on the phone told her they would work out a solution and get back to her.  Of course, that was all they said, no time for follow-up and no details as to what they were going to do was given.  After about an hour of waiting, my friend called them back wondering what was happening.  After a little time to look into things and find what was happening, they realized only an hour had passed and told her this solution would take more time. When she asked how long, they said they didn’t know for sure.  This raised some hackles that caused a request to speak with a manager. All in all, it turned into a bit of a mess that could have been avoided if, on the initial call, they had simply given my friend a better idea of how long things would take.  They could have set the expectation instead of leaving my friend, the customer, to make an assumption that caused a perception ending in a negative experience.

Next time you are with a customer, set the expectation by letting them know how long things will take, give them information as to what they can expect and the steps involved.  This simple thing can ward off a lot of problems.  Customers are very wary of being cheated or taken advantage of and a little information – particularly a timeline – can give them just the confidence needed to create a positive experience instead of one surrounded in a haze of questions that lead to distrust.

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