We expect customers to have expectations. Wouldn’t you agree?

When you’re a customer, you have expectations for companies. When you’re a manager, you have expectations for employees. When you’re an employee, you have expectations for leaders.

Expectations are inevitable.

But what isn’t predetermined is what they are, how big (or small) they are, and why they are there. That is what this article is about. We know expectations will exist, but what, how and why they do – is what really matters.

The quality of the customers’ experience is based on what they get from your company compared to what they expected to get from your company. If they got far less, their experience will be worse. If they got far more, their experience will be better. It’s quite simple.

So, if we fail to understand this aspect (customer expectations) of the customers’ experience, we will be striving to close a gap that we have not yet measured.

These three details (what, how and why) can usually be determined through research; however, it’s important to note that a company can rarely know everything about their customers’ expectations. Some expectations are entirely subjective, so understanding each and every customer’s expectations would be a waste of time – what is most important is to seek an understanding of the patterns.

What expectations do your customers have? How big are they? And why do they have these specific expectations? These are the questions at hand.

What expectations do your customers have?
The first question allows you to target specific things that your customers want to see, experience and receive. Answering this question provides you the most tangible information to pursue, especially if you want to take action in the short-term. If customers don’t seem to care about whether or not you have a bathroom in your facility, redirect the funds you’ve invested in remodeling your restrooms into what they do expect to see.

How big are they?
The magnitude of their expectations is a worthwhile gauge to get because it gives your team an estimate on the size of the prize. Furthermore, answering this question gives you more insight into how to answer (and why to answer) the last question. If you discover that customer expectations are exceedingly unrealistic across the board, then you know there must be a very valid reason customers have such impractical ideas regarding what they deserve. In other words, knowing whether or not you’re close to meeting your customers’ expectations or far from delivering them altogether, can tell you something about where customers are coming up with their expectations.

Why do they have these expectations?
And that leads us to #3, why do they have the expectations they do? Did an overpromising advertisement recently run? Did a competitor make a statement about your company? Did someone in the media recognize your company for something specific? Did you recently get a new CEO? To some extent, your customers are getting their expectations from something or someone, and it’s important you know the source – otherwise, you can’t sway that source in the right direction.

Expectations aren’t bad, in and of themselves. But if you understand them, you are more likely to use them to your advantage rather than letting them determine your customers’ decisions. And because you can’t completely control what customers expect, take control over what you can – the reason, the size and the source.