Once again I have been amazed by how things seem to come together; well I shouldn’t be surprised really, I have some knowledge and understanding of the power of the subconscious mind or RAS (Reticular Activating System).

Over the weekend I commented on Four Square about the quality of a hotel that my family and I stayed in while attending a family event in Yorkshire. The hotel belonged to one of the no frills chains, so I did not have high expectations. As we had not stopped in a hotel like this before I did not really know what we should expect. However, when you book two ‘family rooms’ with a double & two singles I thought that is what we should get and that the beds should be made. When we all turned up and got into the rooms, we found a double bed and a sofa bed with a pull-out matress underneath and a matress on top; the double beds were made but not the singles. Our ‘lowered’ expectations were not met and that set a negative tone. On Sunday evening we then settled down to watch an episode of Waterloo Road in which, the subject of expectations came up; a young man called Finn was constantly ‘let down’ because no one met his expectations of what they should do for him. This got me thinking about the whole topic of expectation, expectancy. Then I had a chat with a fellow People Development Representative about ‘managing expectations’ within our constituents. Raised awareness or coincidence?

Expectation: An inverse law?

According to a definition I found on yourdictionary.com one definition of expectation is:

ex·pec·ta·tion – noun – looking forward to; anticipation

In my observation we tend to have high and low expectations of events, people, things etc. When we have high expectations, we have the anticipation that we are going to have a great time, a great meal, someone is going to deliver excellent service and often we are disappointed or end up less satisfied than we had expected. It is almost as if we set that expectation so high that it becomes incredibly hard to meet it. How often has that happened to you?

On the other hand, when we have low expectations of something we are pleasantly surprised or delighted when what we receive is better than what we thought we were going to get. It doesn’t even need to be great, but because it was better than what we anticipated we were going to get we are relieved or more satisfied than we thought we might be.

It seems to be a bit of a topsy-turvy situation, an inverse law.

Under promise, over deliver

I cannot recall where I first heard the phrase “Under promise, over deliver”, it seemed to have some popularity for a while. I often heard it used in situations where a delivery date was to be given on projects/pieces of work. The crux was to give a date/time that something would be done by with a bit of built in ‘fat’ and then actually deliver early. In doing that ‘customer’ would be very happy/delighted with the service they had received. If something happened to go wrong that was not anticipated, the built in fat gave a bit of leeway to sort the problem out and still deliver on time and meet expectations; still a positive experience for the customer.

Managing Expectation

The “under promise, over deliver” phrase to me is a form of managing expectations. It seems in today’s cut and thrust, uber competitive society that many things are being pushed the other way “over promised, under delivered” to attract customers; the promise of faster responses, better service, more uptime… the list goes on. However, that potentially sets us up for a fall, for lower satisfaction or disatisfaction. I recalled that one of the definitions of ‘quality’ relates to meeting expectations, so I looked it up and found this

General: Measure of excellence or state of being free from defects, deficiencies, and significant variations. ISO 8402-1986 standard defines quality as “the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.” – BusinessDictionary.com

Which would you be more satisfied with, a service that promised “everything” but with much of what was being promised not delivered or a service that was realistically stated and where all of the promises were met and some/all were exceeded? Here in lies the dilemma I suppose for many businesses, the competitive environment drives them to promise more, but can they really deliver to the expectations that they are setting up and if they do actually deliver to them, those same competitive advantages or surprise and delight becomes the cost of entry as others adopt them.

What expectations do you set?

As I pondered this post I then thought about the topic of what expectations we set up for others, what do we promise or imply to other people that they can expect from us? How often do we meet those expectations? I have over the past few years become more aware of the impact this can have on me and others; times when I said I will try to get somewhere, try to be at school for an event, try to do something for somebody etc, this sets up an expectation, implies that you are going to deliver and when you don’t it sets up disappointment and undermines trust in the relationship and your integrity. I am now very aware of what I commit to do, notice I said commit to do not try to do, what I say I will do and when I will do it by. I strive to meet and exceed the expectations that I set. If you look at the bottom of this page, you will see a statement that says “Honour every commitment. Keep every promise. Achieve every goal.”, this is an adaption of an Integrity pledge that I have seen and it is something I set my stall by. How about you? Do you honour the commitments you make? Keep the promises that you make? Are you building trust and integrity?


The Front Portion is where exactly?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Adam NFK Smith