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What if we Focused on Managing Expectations?

A couple months ago, I realized that it was time to renew my passport. I downloaded the forms, filled them all out, dropped by town hall, where I had my official exact size and specification photo taken, verified the details and then mailed the passport application. The application stated something like: “Please allow 6 weeks for receipt of the your passport”. 4 weeks later, there it was, in my  mailbox. I was able to check the status online, but never actually did it.  Ok, it was just a passport, and the government is the only game in town, but my expectations were met. I did not worry, there was no angst and the event passed without much fanfare

Whether it is a purchase at the local grocery store, a software purchase online, a car, or a phone and the associated service plan, we all have expectations. Trust, boiled down, is ultimately the expectations set between two entities, usually people. It could be between a person and a brand, but that sounds a bit like marketing speak. It is what it is. When a brand make a promise, it is setting my expectations, as a customer. Business to business is no different, actually, more often than not, a business includes a person in-between the brand and the customer. This is not always the case, but often it is, when you make a business purchase, there is almost always a person involved, this person is acting a proxy to the brand. As business purchases are typically more complex, that extra level of comfort of looking someone in the eye makes the difference.

In the age of the social web, this is no different than it was before. The question then, is what should a business, or the people within the business be managing? Customer Relationship Management (CRM) suggests that I am actually managing a relationship with customers, which in some ways sounds kind of silly. Most CRM systems simply manage data, and leave the relationship part to the human looking at the data. So, some have suggested that within this new normal, it might be more appropriate not focus on managing relationships, we should focus on managing the social aspects of the relationship, or SRM. This might bring things closer,  in other words, if we focus on the human aspects then we may have more success. We can help business people by providing the right information, at the right time. This fostering a way to focus on the important aspects of the relationship with people (more than just customers even).

The only thing that needs to be Managed are Expectations

As I have said in previous posts, relationships are built on trust, not data. And, as I said above, a large component of building trust depends upon meeting expectations. Therefore, my conclusion, therefore is that to element which needs actual management, are the expectations. Everyone needs to know, and fully understand what each and every customer, supplier, partner and any other member within the ecosystem expects. I am not suggesting that customer data and all the other components of CRM are not needed. I am saying that at the only thing that really needs to be managed are expectations. Everyone needs to understand the brand messaging, as this is setting the expectation of the future buyer, for example.

To me, this is what the word ‘Social’ adds to CRM, it is not only social technology, it is about adding the human element to the impersonal nature of most CRM applications. Since social CRM changes the focus from your rules, as a company, to the needs of your customers, the next step beyond understanding the needs is meeting the needs. Social CRM is about the Social Customer as well, and the new level of expectations. Once a person or organization attempts to meet the needs, more often than not communications, interactions and conversations will occur where some level of expectation will be set. Are you confident that everyone on your team is aware of these expectations? A consumer yourself, maybe a parent, what are the results of expectations missed? How about overachieving, or exceeding expectations?

By the way, I can not think of a better reason for collaborative technologies internally, maybe even as part the CRM application, or Social CRM application itself, where Gartner thinks collaboration is central to Social CRM.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • buchanla July 3, 2010, 11:05 AM

    Nice post Mitch!

    One of the most comprehensive books I’ve read on expectations management is “Reliability Rules” by a friend and colleague of mine, Reg Price http://www.managepromises.com/.

    In his book Reg argues that “promises are like babies; fun to make but hell to deliver”. He assets that most organisations make a series of both implicit and explicit promises but few measure how well they keep their promises or have a system (people / process / technology) in place to help them make better promises and set / re-set expectations with their customers as necessary.

    Reg sets out quite a comprehensive framework to firstly make promises more accurately in the first place (and therefore set expectations clearly) e.g. compare “someone will call you back later” with “I will call you back by 5pm tomorrow” . He also talks through the process of re-setting expectations if you are unable to fulfil a promise. Most customers are open to things changing, the key is managing their expectations in a transparent and open way.

    Thanks as ever for your thoughts.

    Laurence Buchanan
    @buchanla

    • Mitch Lieberman July 4, 2010, 6:58 PM

      Laurence,

      Thanks for the comment – I think :-) Not quite sure where to go with the baby comment. If Esteban left it alone, that is probably a clue for me. That said, the point is well made. To carry it one step further, if I might, the seriousness (i.e. perception by customers and prospects) of the promise and/or commitment made by one part of the organization is almost always under appreciated by another part of the organization.

      I like your last line, as this is where I was hoping to take this conversation. What we should all be managing are the expectations. If we do a good job of that, we will be in a much better position to build trust and create long lasting relationships.

      Thanks Laurence – Mitch

  • Esteban Kolsky July 4, 2010, 12:44 PM

    Mitch,

    You make some great points (to which I wrote before on managing expectations), but I believe you are a little short on the conclusion. What social adds to the equation is not the human part, that was always present — it adds the ability to the business to measure the delivery against expectations. Capturing and analyzing the massive amount of data produced through social channels, combining that data with the other operational data gives a company a truer feedback than if they were to ask customers directly.

    Even the best run satisfaction surveys have a 2-4% “satisfaction gap” (the difference between the satisfaction score and customer churn – more customers leave that express dissatisfaction) — and the worse are in the 10-15% range! so the feedback captured via social channels, closer to reality, allows the organization to truly understand the missed or hit expectations.

    That is the value that Social CRM brings: truer feedback, integrated with existing operational data, yielding better insights and knowledge.

    Otherwise, as I always say: under-promise and over-deliver to meet customers’ expectations; if you do that and deliver above their expectations, then you are golden.

    Nicely written

    • Mitch Lieberman July 4, 2010, 7:07 PM

      Hi Esteban,

      I agree with your points on what Social adds. My focus here was the little bit that the people who use the CRM application can gain by changing emphasis in the use of these applications (or better yet just the way they interact with customers and future customers). It is really not about the application, we all know that to be true.

      For this post, my thinking was focused on the operational nature of customer interactions. What does it mean to be managed? If a restaurant tells me it is 20 minute wait and it takes 25, I am annoyed (I know, little patience). If the restaurant tells me 30 minutes and it takes the same 25, that is a whole different feeling (to me anyway). In the age of Social, 4square, Yelp Gowalla, that perception will be shared quite often.

      Thanks for stopping by, it is appreciated – Mitch

  • raybrown99 July 4, 2010, 7:35 PM

    Hi Mitch Happy Independence day to you. I think you’re getting close. I’ve long asked my coaching clients “what’s the secret to the perfect relationship (business or personal)” the answer, which people struggle to get, – expectations set and expectations met. The other great and related conversation is “what do your clients consider to be your “standard” offering and what do they class as an “extra”” This throws up all the expectation stuff around standards & extras, how a standard can quickly become a standard (the company annual golf day !). The other point I’d make is that a realisation of the importance of expectations is not enough, to me that’s a conceptual thought. What’s important is the knowledge, understanding, competencies, culture change that may be required to take advantage of a new concept. In my experience we too often jump from concept to implementation without the necessary time and resource being applied to the knowledge and understanding phase.

    • Mitch Lieberman July 4, 2010, 7:55 PM

      Ray,

      Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your thoughts. “Expectations set and expectations met” will stick with me, as it is a simple plus rememberable way to present the topic. Near the end of your reply, the issue of jumping from concept to implementation without understanding the intermediary steps is also important. I am hoping that the concept of meeting expectations is not all that new however…

      Cheers,

      Mitch

  • raybrown99 July 4, 2010, 8:31 PM

    I’m fairly new to all this blogging and commenting but how good is it that I can comment here in Melbourne, go and have my breakfast and come back to find a reply in my inbox. On the concept comment, the point really is that people have the concepts and most are not new, meeting expectations, loyalty, trust, relationship etc. The missing piece is the required depth driven by new circumstances, new communication tools, new competitive environment etc. Today’s knowledge, understanding and competencies on the same concepts are different to those required even 5 years ago. My concern is that managers are holding on to their old “toolboxes” and trying to adapt their existing tools to the new customer driven world. Remember the old saying – if your only tool is a hammer you see every problem as a nail ! Marketing, sales, customer service and IT have been doing things in their particular (silo’d ?) way for a long time now, perhaps it’s time for new structures and new organisational strategies.