Is Trying to Exceed Expectations Dangerous? • Financially Simple


Expectations are an important part of business. A CEO sets expectations for growth over time. Your sales department outlines product and service expectations for potential clients. But can expectations be harmful to your business? Inherently working to exceed expectations isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if you’re setting expectations too high and consistently underperforming, that could be a recipe for disaster. Join me as I unpack whether trying to exceed expectations is dangerous to your business.

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This week on The Financially Simple Podcast:

  • (2:08) The importance of clear expectations

  • (3:39) Communicating expectations with clients

  • (4:58) When expectations become dangerous

  • (5:31) Creating realistic expectations

  • (9:45) Exceeding expectations through transparency

  • (11:04) Set boundaries

The Importance of Expectations

Expectations matter in life and in business. As a business owner, you must clearly set the expectations of your team. If your team doesn’t understand what is expected of them, they can’t perform to the level you desire. Renowned motivational speaker and sales expert, Geoff Burch explains the importance of having clearly defined expectations through a tale from an old job site.

Geoff arrived on the site and immediately sees three of his employees (two had been with him for many years while the third was an eager young upstart). He asked the first man, “What are you doing?” The long-time employee responded, “I’m laying bricks, as I am a bricklayer.” Geoff turned to the second man and said, “Why are you here?” To this, the man honestly replied, “I’m here for the paycheck.” Finally, Geoff asked the newest employee, “What are you doing?” The young man responded, “I’m building a place where the sick can be cured, where the ill can be made well so they may return to their friends and families.”

Geoff was moved by the young man’s answer but ultimately had to let him go. The reason was that the project was to build a gas station, not a hospital. While this is a humorous anecdote, it shows the great importance of clearly communicating expectations. Had the young man been allowed to continue without following the expected plans, it could have delayed the completion of the project, cost thousands of dollars in labor and repairs, and myriad issues within the team. So, clearly defined expectations are an absolute necessity within your team. But what about client expectations?

Communicating Expectations with Clients

It is often necessary to set expectations for your goods and services. In fact, these are often communicated in your marketing efforts. Think of a vehicle ad. Let’s say it’s for an F-150 just because I love pickup trucks. They typically highlight the many functions of the vehicle while showing it driving down the road. Therefore, the expectation has been set that when you purchase this vehicle, you’re going to be able to travel while sitting in a comfortable chair and enjoying your favorite music.

Now imagine how disappointing it would be to purchase the vehicle and find that it indeed has a comfy chair and a working radio but it doesn’t drive. The expectations set by the manufacturer’s marketing would not be met. This would be very bad for business.

When Expectations Become Dangerous

Setting expectations is only dangerous when they can’t be met. This is why I prefer taking the stance of underpromising and over-delivering. Now, I’m not saying you should be bare-bones in your promises. Instead, offer a promise that meets the client’s needs and falls into the realm of what you know you can accomplish. Once you’ve set the expectation, you must make every effort to follow through.

When I was first going out on my own, my dad told me, “Son, you’re a Goodbread. That’s not a name that’s easily forgotten. Therefore, you must follow through on your word.” What he was teaching me was the importance of keeping my word; following through with whatever I said I was going to do. That has served me well in my 30 years of business ownership.

Friends, striving to exceed expectations isn’t a bad thing. However, consistently coming up short on your promises could destroy your business and your name. So, how can you manage client expectations to prevent over-promising and under-delivering?

Create Realistic Expectations Then Strive to Exceed Them

One of the best ways to create lifetime raving fans of your business is to provide the unexpected. You can almost build these opportunities into your client process by promising small and delivering big. For example, let’s say you own a pizza shop (I’m totally jealous right now). It would be expected that when someone orders a pepperoni pizza, you deliver a pepperoni pizza.

However, it might not be expected for you to have put three different types of pepperoni on that pizza. Likewise, it may be unexpected to include a free side of cheesy bread with the purchase of a pepperoni pizza — if any pizza restaurant owners are reading this, I’m willing to be a one-man test market.

In this scenario, you’re not only fulfilling your original promise of delivering a hot and fresh pepperoni pizza in a timely fashion, but you’ve also exceeded the client’s expectations by including a variety of pepperonis and a free side of cheesy bread. As a result, you’ve likely also created a raving fan.

Exceed Expectations Through Transparency

Another way to avoid under-delivering is to be transparent and offer options when consulting clients. Many times, clients want the world on a budget. Let’s say you’re operating a marketing agency. You’ve probably encountered clients that want your premium package for your value price. As you know, this just can’t be done. It falls on you to clearly express the options available to the client at the price point they’re willing to pay.

Setting clear expectations sets the stage for the service you will provide, and opens doors to throw in unexpected extras if the opportunity presents itself. The most important thing is that you’ve communicated exactly what you will do and when you will do it. Anything beyond that is “icing on the cake.”

Set Clear Boundaries

Just as important, is setting clear boundaries. It does no good to tell the client what you’re going to do if you don’t also make it clear what you won’t do. This is your opportunity to set boundaries for when you will be available to the client, helping you avoid unintended expectations.

So, working to exceed expectations isn’t a bad thing. Just remember that your primary objective must come first. Set expectations that you know you can achieve according to the primary objective. Anything extra that you accomplish will be viewed as added value and can work to create a lifelong raving fan of your business.

Wrapping Up…

Aiming to exceed expectations is a good thing, as long as you don’t overextend yourself in the process. You would be much better served to provide consistent and reliable service than to occasionally wow your client at the expense of doing the expected things well. Laying a golden egg isn’t impressive when all of the others are rotten.

Friends, life is hard but life is good. Meeting client expectations is frustrating but it doesn’t have to be. By clearly defining the expectation, you can make exceeding them, at least, financially simple. Let’s go out and make it a great day!

Could you benefit from exploring ways to improve consistency of outcomes, opening new doors to exceed expectations for your clientele? Reach out to our team. We have advisors all over the country who are waiting to speak to you.

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