What Did You Expect?

By Jack LaRue

Consider this scenario. It's Saturday night and you go out to dinner. At the restaurant, you have to wait twenty minutes to get a table. How does that make you feel? Your answer probably depends largely on what the greeter told you when you first arrived. If you were told "It'll be just a few minutes," you were probably pretty frustrated. However, if you were told "The current wait is thirty to forty minutes, but I'll try to get you in earlier," you were probably feeling pretty good. The wait itself was identical. The only thing that changed was the expectation. It's a classic example of the common mantra "under-promise and over-deliver." 
 
We've all heard this, but have you ever thought about how contrary it is to our standard behavior? It's not that any of us purposely want to mislead our customers, but most of us are optimists. We want to communicate what we hope to deliver, and we often fear that under-promising could disappoint a customer. None of us wants to do that. So, with the best of intentions in mind, we over-promise, setting us up to under-perform.
 
The first step to exceeding customer expectations is to truly understand those expectations. This requires getting feedback from customers as well as the ability to look at things from their perspective. It doesn't have to be complicated - just ask customers what they expect. The better you understand your customers' expectations, the better chance you have of exceeding them. 
 
Next, make sure that you and your employees are setting the right expectations in the first place. This means having the data and experience to know what's possible and what isn't. If employees are just offering personal opinions about a deadline (also known as "guessing"), they're much more likely to fall victim to the optimism and conflict avoidance that can lead to over-promising. Don't be afraid to ask your employees exactly what they need to set more appropriate expectations. 
 
If you want to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, start by thinking about what your customer really expects from your services. Then think about how you and or your staff might be influencing those expectations or how they could influence them. With that understanding, you'll be in better shape to actually exceed those expectations - and enjoy happier, more satisfied clients.
 
How do you manage expectations at your firm? Share your comments with AccountingWEB. 
 
More articles by Jack LaRue:
 
About the author:
Jack LaRue is the senior vice president, myPay Solutions, at Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting.
 

You may like these other stories...

For the first time in the five-year history of Vault.com’s rankings of the top 50 accounting firms to work for in North America, a firm has held the top spot as best accounting employer for two consecutive years....
Legislation coming out of Washington just might reduce homeowners' burden for disaster insurance. It's a topic very much on everyone's minds since the mudslide in Oso, Washington. The loss of human life was...
Many firms these days claim the bulk of their new business comes from referrals, essentially saying their existing clients do all the business development for them. But this won't work unless you can build true client...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Apr 22
Is everyone at your organization meeting your client service expectations? Let client service expert, Kristen Rampe, CPA help you establish a reputation of top-tier service in every facet of your firm during this one hour webinar.
Apr 24
In this session Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA introduces you to a powerful but underutilized macro feature in Excel.
Apr 25
This material focuses on the principles of accounting for non-profit organizations' revenues. It will include discussions of revenue recognition for cash and non-cash contributions as well as other revenues commonly received by non-profit organizations.
Apr 30
During the second session of a four-part series on Individual Leadership, the focus will be on time management- a critical success factor for effective leadership. Each person has 24 hours of time to spend each day; the key is making wise investments and knowing what investments yield the greatest return.