Expectations are tricky. Maybe because they're relative and hard to guess for other people.
Recently my family and I headed off for our annual summer vacation. You'll probably agree with me that check in times for rentals are getting absurd. Check ins used to be around 1-2p, but then moved to 3, then 4 and this year our check in was at 5p! The day is nearly over.
However, many times, especially when dealing with private owners, you can request and get an early check in time. We'd done this the previous year with the same owner and were told our condo should be ready around 3p. Well, we arrived around 3:30 and the room wasn't ready. "Should be ready shortly, we'll send you a text." Shouldn't be long we expect, so we decided to head to the grocery and get some things we needed for the week. We got back around 4:30. Still no text. We call again. "Nope, still not ready, we'll send you a text." By this time, my 3 and 7 year old boys are going crazy after being up since 6a, driving in the car for 7hrs and expecting to be in the pool way before this. Our groceries are wasting away and we're hanging out in a parking deck for our vacation. 5:10p still no text (10 minutes after the check in time).
I was getting cranky myself and I began thinking about expectations. If we'd only known we couldn't get into the room until after 5, we could have planned to do something entertaining or just arrived later. Everything would have been cool and no one would be at the end of their rope.
Expecting one thing and getting something else sucks. It especially sucks when this happens repeatedly.
I think about this a lot in business. A business always wants to please it's customers, so they typically over promise and under deliver. A previous boss was an exception to this. He would tell customers if an order was placed by 1p it would be shipped the same day, but he told his staff that orders placed by 4p should be shipped the same day. His motto was under promise and over deliver.
That's what I strive for in consulting. It's so easy and enticing to tell a customer you'll have their work done for them by next week when in reality it's going to be longer. It's really difficult to get it right and I've messed it up plenty. For one, it's really hard to know when you'll have the time to work on something. Development work is never turnkey. There are always customizations and different a implementation for every business scenario. Secondly, you don't want to seem slow and want to please the customer, so you see the shortest possible path from start to finish.
But, I always go back to my vacation and think, if they'd just told us it'd be a little after 5 until we could get in, we would have been much happier because we got what we expected.
Over the last couple of years, I've gotten better about under promising and over delivering. I'm sure I still miss my client's expectations at times, but I hope to continue to improve the experience daily.