Our best friends on the team also stayed at the same hotel. When I asked them about their night, it sounded like they were staying at a completely different place. The beds were uncomfortable, the hallways were dirty, the pool was gross and the grounds keeping was terrible. After hearing this, I visited their room… and it was absolutely identical to ours. I thought… how is it possible that two families from very similar demographic backgrounds, sharing an identical environment, have such radically different experiences?
I chewed on this for a while and decided it comes down to two things: perceptions and expectations. For me, the most important thing was location. I was able to overlook a few things, including the price, the shoddy grounds keeping, the slightly green pool water and the paper-thin walls. The location met my expectation and clouded my perceptions. Regarding my friends, the price made raised their expectations and made them much more aware of perceived (or real) flaws. Who was right? The answer is, of course, “I was…”…. Fine….Ok…. and they were two. It is not a matter of who was right or who was wrong. It boils down to meeting the customer’s needs. This is not a customer service problem; we both agreed the service was fine. This issue relates to understanding and meeting customer needs while managing expectations. For me the location was critical, so I refused to perceive the flaws. For him, price was critical, so he refused to perceive the benefits.
By the way, if you have not already seen the invisible gorilla video about perception and expectations, check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY&list=PLB228A1652CD49370. It is pretty cool.
This made me think; do we, as business people, do a very good job managing perceptions and expectations. What else could we do to help guarantee a good customer experience for everyone without dumbing down our messages so much that no one is happy?
For example, I think sometimes I get too caught up in the deal to manage the customer’s expectations. Where is the flaw in their plan? What part of their business is vulnerable? What could put the kibosh on this loan?
Managing expectations is hard because it requires some very crucial conversations with customers that we may not want to have, but must have to control perceptions and expectations. Managing customer expectations and perceptions is far more important than putting a big smile on your face and offering the customer a Diet Coke. It is about getting to know your customer and making upfront contracts regarding behavior and expectations (I even use this method when buying cars. You would be amazed at how the upfront contract equalizes the power structure in the negotiation). Doing this allows the business person to better manage perceptions, or at least determine what perceptions might be clouding expectations. Gather information from the customer and then tell them what they need to know, not what they want to hear. Sometimes that news might be bad, but by managing expectations and perceptions, their experience with you may not be negative. The worst they can say is “The business was honest and did not string me along.” If that was the worst review I ever got, I would be pretty happy. By the way, we won two and lost one in that tournament (on a bad call, which is always the case when we loseJ). I think the proximity to the fields made me a better fan. The price just made my friend grumpy.