Janet, my wife, and I were traveling with friends through Groveland, California, home to the Iron Door Saloon, which claims to be the oldest saloon in the state of California. We’re suckers for anything that describes itself as the oldest or the first in its category, so we stopped in for lunch. The saloon was busy and nearly all the tables were taken, but we found one that was open and sat down. Daisy, the server, came up to us within a couple of minutes and pleasantly explained that she was the only server, that she was also busing tables, and that it would take about 10 minutes before she could even get our order. She was setting expectations. She was also friendly and professional and we liked the place, so we decided to stay put. After about five minutes, Daisy came back and took our order. She exceeded expectations by getting to us sooner than she’d promised. As she took our order, she pleasantly explained that it would probably be about 15 minutes before we would get our food due to the large number of customers and the lack of other staff members to help with the crowd. She didn’t do it in a whining or complaining manner. As before, she was friendly and professional. Once again, she was setting expectations. As you can imagine, our food arrived sooner than the promised 15 minutes. We were pleasantly surprised, had a great lunch, and left feeling good about our experience. (Remember the oft-quoted words of Maya Angelou: “People will remember how you make them feel.”)

Setting Expectations

When you set expectations for delivery of service, your end-users and other customers plan accordingly. If you think a repair is going to take four hours, promise it in five. That way, your customer will be pleasantly surprised when it’s completed in four. The idea is to under promise so you can over deliver. Be pleasant and professional, just like Daisy. Your customer may not like the idea of waiting, but as long as you’re pleasant and professional in setting expectations, they’ll more than likely accept what you say.

Communication is Critical

Suppose you promise something in four hours, but unforeseen problems prevent it from being ready on time. When that happens, you must be proactive and alert your customer before the deadline. You never want them to call or email asking what happened. Head off such calls or emails by letting your customer know of any problems as soon as possible.

People make plans based on the information they have. When they expect something at a particular time and it’s not ready at that time, it can throw their plans into disarray, leaving them feeling frustrated and possibly angry.

Communication is the key. Always keep your customer informed, never leave them in the dark, and set achievable expectations. When you exceed expectations like Daisy at the Iron Door Saloon, your customers will feel important, respected, and satisfied.

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