When expectations collide

When expectations collide

In last week’s blog, ‘Expectations abhor a vacuum’, I asked the question, “What happens when the expectations I set collide with the expectations you have?”

It’s a not uncommon problem between the organisation’s ustomers and in the marketplace with customers. And there’s no easy solution.

Beyond the basics determined by laws and professional courtesy, it’s easy to get into uncharted territory, and I know I’ve been in more than one project team or retail situation where the shape of things resembles a pear faster than I could say “but I assumed…”

And that is exactly where the problems start. Because stated expectations set boundaries and promises it is reasonable to expect will be met, and while I may not agree with them, at least I know where I stand. The assumed things make an ass out of u and me (as the saying goes).

I’ll leave internal expectations between ustomers aside for this blog with the suggestion that the approach outlined on the Blueprint of We website could help avoid a lot of communications failures and unmet expectations.

A good place for businesses to start is to make sure that the baseline things that come along with a trade of any kind are being met by your expectations relevant for the market you are in. If you can’t meet that level then expect a collision.

Here are a few examples that I’d say are baselines almost guaranteed to cause a collision:

  • If retail staff can’t answer questions about product being sold.
  • If something made to order uses the wrong specifications.
  • If trades people don’t turn up at appointed time.
  • If trains or flights get cancelled.
  • If my hot coffee is cold.
  • If …

So here are three tips to avoid expectation collisions (or at least reduce them):

  1. Get to know what the baseline expectations of your marketplace are. What are others doing? Talk to potential customers – they won’t be able to tell you all but they will tell you some. Use your common sense, what would you expect if you were your customer. Which brings me to…
  2. Don’t expect a customer to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. For example, reading lengthy terms and conditions statements. If you bury fees and charges in the fine print, don’t be surprised when customers are annoyed they didn’t know about them. You likely don’t read the fine print on things so why would you expect your customers to be any different!
  3. Obviously, clearly set expectations that you can meet (see previous blog) and where necessary explain why. In general there will be fewer collisions if you take the time to be deliberate and conscious and don’t leave things to chance.


Don’t miss the opportunity to get your brand questions answered by posting them on twitter @michelhogan or emailing me at michel@brandology.com.au.

See you next week with (your question here).

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. Follow her on Twitter.


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