Experience without expectations is unthinkable — literally. What
I believe will happen plays a prominent part in how I feel about what does happen.
Even when it’s part of a subconscious story I didn’t know I was telling myself.
So, why should organisations even try to shape people’s experience?
Because even a modicum of control is better than none. And the best way to achieve it is concentrate on what you can command. The expectations you set.
In an article six years ago, I said,
“The simple fact ignored or overlooked by many, many (nearly all) organisations is that if you don’t set expectations for what you will won’t can can’t want to don’t want to do, then the person on the other side of the trade will insert their own.
And then you’re in trouble. Because while you have control over the actions and decisions to meet the ones you set, you have no control over those you don’t know about. Zip. Nada. Big fat zero.”
Since that article, we’ve moved even deeper into the ‘experience economy’ and yet too few organisations understand that expectations are set by saying something will (or won’t) happen.
For example, I order some skin care online with 3–5 days for shipping. I’m satisfied when the parcel arrives as predicted three days later. Now consider if the company doesn’t say how long shipping will take. But a recent purchase from a different business had arrived overnight.
Do you think I’ll attempt to intuit the arrival date from the company who didn’t set the terms? Not a chance.
Think about a recent experience when no one set out what to expect. You likely filled the gap with some combination of what you hoped and last time something similar happened. Absent a promise, in a sleight-of-mind worthy of David Copperfield, you choose that other experience and apply it.
People are skilled expectation extrapolators.
Which can be good and bad. Good if it’s something your business magically manages to meet. Bad if you’re not wired that way, in which case you’re doomed to disappoint me. And here’s the kicker — you won’t know why.
Too many organisations zealously avoid setting expectations. Which means experience becomes a day-in-day-out game of happenstance, leaving them open to others upping-the-ante across the dozens of everyday interactions.
Because someone out there is likely doing more, faster, cheaper, better. So you can play by their rules or make your own.
Still, it’s not enough to simply set expectations. You’ve got to follow through and meet them. Which means you’ve got to ask, do I have the information and capital I need to set this expectation so I KNOW I can meet it?
Information is who will do what by when.
Capitals include time, people, money, culture, influence, environment.
Little good happens when the experience I have runs into the expectations you didn’t set. But when you set and meet them, the experience will take care of itself.
See you next time.