It took me a few years to realize that happiness is based on one’s ability to manage expectations. We experience happiness when our expectations are exceeded. We may experience content and satisfaction when our expectations are met, or nearly met. A disappointment is not an experience most people like to reiterate. Regardless of our age, gender, education or social status we all have expectations. Nobody ever enters into any business or social transaction without having an expectation of outcome.
Expectations are formed by multitude of our own experiences, experiences of people we know and by marketing messaging. A price of transaction or fleeing nature of social interaction may reduce an importance of meeting our expectations, but the repeat experience of being disappointed will most definitely change our willingness to try once again. Even when you buy on a whim a $0.25 lollypop packaged in orange colored wrap at a gas station, you will be disappointed if you experience a strawberry flavor in your mouth. This experience may not make you very unhappy, and may not cause you to drive a few extra miles next time you need gas – the first time that happen. However, it may start to erode your trust in the establishment and to question its ability to deliver quality customer experience. Here are some examples:
- My sailing friend mentioned to me a few times about great experiences he had at the Dirty Cello, so I purchased tickets for the next one only to be bored by pompous “community” messages and the opening act that lasted for over an hour before the performance we paid for started. I noticed a few customers living in disgust.
- After watching Ford Fusion commercials about their terrific fuel economy I went to a considerable effort to secure one for my last trip rental. While it is certainly a nice car, the fuel economy is nowhere near commercial’s claims. There is no doubt my next car will not be a Ford.
From a company’s perspective it is imperative to have a clear understanding of its “best” customers’ expectations. I placed the word best in quotes because there are multiple ways to differentiate your customer base. One company may consider their most profitable customers “best” and optimize its products and processes to meet or exceed expectations of these customers without sacrificing profit margins. Another company may see those who’s feedback indicate the best fit, between their expectations and the experience the company delivers, to be their “best” customers. Such company may decide to optimize their products and processes to leverage their “best” customers’ enthusiasm to increase its market share and its share of their valet.
The point is – you cannot expect to retain your customers if you fail to deliver what the customers expect.