Posted on Jul 22, 2011
The Importance of Setting Clear Expectations
Over the last several months I have noticed a persistent pattern of the same issue cropping up in several of the companies I work with. I have also noticed that this problem causes a lot of pain and loss of profit, so it's something worth taking a look at for the sake of helping the many franchise opportunities and business opportunities out there today. The issue I am talking about is as follows: The failure to set very clear expectations with both customers and employees.
I frequently see companies shooting themselves in the foot in a few different ways. They do not take the time to set very clear expectations with their customers about what they will deliver, the quality the customer can expect, when specifically it will be delivered and exactly what it will cost. When these expectations are not clearly stated, the customer often has unrealistic expectations, and no matter how much work the business puts in, it is not able to meet those unrealistic expectations and therefore ends up with unhappy customers. All of this could've been solved if, at the beginning of the process, a representative of the business took the time to carefully and clearly explain to the customer exactly what to expect. The truth is, the company should actually set the expectations just a little bit lower than it knows it can consistently deliver. This is because it's always a good idea to under-promise and over-deliver -- not vice versa.
The other area in which unclear expectations can cause a lot of trouble and cost a lot of money is where a business does a poor job of setting very clear and specific performance expectations for its employees. The business manager feels like (s)he has done a great job of explaining exactly what is expected; the attitude, effort, proactivity, focus, professionalism and discipline that is to be expected from employees. Yet the employees have a completely different idea about what is expected of them. When there is a disconnect like this it can lead to ill feelings, anger, frustration and unhappy employees. And as I've said many, many times before: The number one factor in creating highly satisfied, loyal and engaged customers… is highly satisfied, loyal and engaged employees. To me one of the key factors in making sure that both of those groups are very, very happy is setting very clear expectations and then exceeding those expectations regularly.
So my recommendation is as follows: As early in the relationship as possible, invest the time necessary to clearly describe the shared expectations for how you will work with your customers and, and how you will work with your employees. If you do this well, everyone will be on the same page and when you deliver something a little bit better than they expect, the will see you as someone they trust, like and want to be loyal to – a strong driver of success for any business.
John Spence is the author of “Awesomely Simple – Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action.” He is an award-wining professional speaker and corporate trainer, and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America.
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