Expecting Epic, Experiencing Normal

Those of you outside of the northeastern US may have heard that we had a little snow storm here the other day. I got a call from one of my Canadian pals who was inquiring about the devastation foisted upon my home and family. After all, there was virtually no pre-storm shrieking before Buffalo received 8 feet of snow and since CNN had gone wall to wall with blizzard coverage, what was about to hit NYC, Boston, and elsewhere MUST be truly epic.

National Weather Service Caption "Two fee...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not so much.

When I told him that Rancho Deluxe had received barely a foot and the winds were quite a bit less than the hurricane forces many had predicted, he laughed and said “Yeah, up here we call that winter.” I laughed but a business thought popped into my head at the same time.

The nonstop weather warnings, the closure of mass transit and highways, the empty shelves at every supermarket in town all served to set expectations. When the all-time blizzard turned into a large but not record snow event, those expectations were not met. That was fine with me – better safe than sorry. A number of people, however, were actually angry and a meteorologist with the National Weather Service even took to Twitter to apologize for raising expectations and getting it wrong.

The business point is pretty obvious. Overselling and under delivering always means problems. All of us in business need to be careful about how we set expectations and err on the side of caution.  We all go to the airport these days expecting 45 minutes in the security line, a flight on which we’re packed in like cattle, and delays, delays, delays.  Our expectations are so low that when things are actually OK we think it was a great flight.  When our fast-food sandwich looks nothing like the poster hanging on the wall, we shrug our shoulders and eat – who expected anything more?

Your business shouldn’t cause customers to think that their experience with your brand will suck but neither should they believe that what they are about to receive will be the blizzard of 2015.  You need to set realistic expectations and over deliver on them.  If they walk away thinking they got a good value, even if they paid top dollar, everyone wins.  If not, you’ll spend a lot of time digging yourself out, much as we were doing yesterday.  Make sense?

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud

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