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Setting vs Meeting Expectations | Customers, Etc

Setting vs Meeting Expectations | Customers, Etc
By Ben McCormack • Issue #41 • View online
Last week we talked about walking back the customer journey to do a better job setting expectations. This week we continue that narrative as we explore setting vs meeting expectations.
Also, some readers may have noticed that my day job has changed. I’m still at FullStory, but I’ve moved to a technical program management role in the product organization. What’s that mean for this newsletter? Nothing really—I’m still planning to write every week—but you might see me sprinkle some TPM thinking into my thinking about customers.

Join me on an imaginative journey. You’re in the middle of New York City and you’re hungry. Just so you can enjoy the moment, let’s pretend we’re not still in the middle of a global pandemic. Go ahead, soak it in.
You walk down a side street and notice a small deli with a long line out the front. You join the line. You can see the sandwiches being made and your mouth starts watering. You place your order and pull out your card to pay. That’s when the cashier points to a handwritten sign:
CASH ONLY
Mortified, you fumble with your wallet and then admit you don’t have any cash. The cashier rolls his eyes, “there’s an ATM down the street. Next!” You head to the ATM, thinking who only accepts cash???, and then trot back to the restaurant to pay and enjoy your meal. For some reason it doesn’t taste quite as good as you thought it would.
End scene.
If we apply what we talked about last week in walking back the customer journey, we might point out that there’s a problem at the purchase stage of the customer journey, namely, that you the customer didn’t know you had to have cash when it was time to pay. Perhaps the deli could have moved that information earlier in the journey, maybe by putting a sign out front or putting this information on their website. The question is, would you still have chosen to eat at this restaurant if you had received the information earlier? The company would be doing a better job setting expectations—"we only accept cash"—but they might be failing to meet your expectations, “I can only pay with card.”
Many CX problems have their root in a failure to appropriately set customer expectations, but sometimes it’s not enough to set expectations. Sometimes you have to consider whether you need to make a change to better meet expectations. Let’s dig in.
Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash
Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash
Setting Expectations, A Problem
Last week, I imagined a story where a FullStory customer was threatening not to renew because their script performance was slow. We framed the problem as a failure to appropriately set expectations, and we came up with a journey map to thinking through how to better set expectations at each stage in the journey:
By moving information about script performance to earlier in the customer journey, not only do we avoid confusion later on, but we avoid having to scramble engineers at the last minute to explain what’s happening.
We’ve done all this work to better set expectations, and for the most part, it works. Customers are moving forward with their purchase with clarity and understanding about how the product functions. But what if you encounter a customer that decides not to move forward precisely because of this new information?
:(
:(
On one hand, this is disappointing. You’ve put all this work into talking about script performance, but you lose a sale because of it. Bummer. On the other hand, though, it’s sort of a CX win? It would have been much worse had the customer signed and then found out later that the product didn’t do what they needed it to do.
In many cases, this is fine. Your business operates a certain way. You set expectations. It works for most of your prospective customers. It doesn’t work for some of them. When that happens, you both move on.
But sometimes you recognize that enough prospective customers are saying “no” to the expectations you’ve set that it might make sense to consider meeting the customer’s expectations, rather than just setting them. Maybe you should speed up the script. Maybe the deli should start accepting cards in addition to cash.
Meeting customer expectations
Using the example of script performance, instead of just setting expectations—doing a better job of explaining how things work—could we take the time and effort to actually improve script performance, specifically targeting performance profiling tools like Google Lighthouse? Not only would this be helpful in our efforts to set expectations, but it would also help us meet prospective customer needs that aren’t currently being met.
The journey map after making fundamental product changes
The journey map after making fundamental product changes
What’s amazing about this approach is the effect it has on the entire customer journey. You’ll also notice the effect this has on other areas of the customer journey that we touched upon last week. While you’ll still include script performance in the evaluation and purchase stages—you can actively sell the improvements you’ve made—later stages don’t require as much effort.
In the post-purchase stages, you no longer have to dedicate an entire training session to how script performance works, though you might mention it briefly. And you don’t need to do proactive outreach to existing customers in the success stage because your improvements to script performance will prevent customers from being confused by performance profiling tools. The numbers are much better, so there’s no cause for alarm and therefore no explanation needed. And last but not least, you completely eliminate the need to run a fire drill from engineering because performance is a whole lot better.
Widening the customer journey
Did you notice we walked all the way back to the awareness stage?We’re now so confident in our ability to meet customer expectations that we’re able to move this information all the way into the awareness stage, the first very stage in the customer journey. “This area of the product is so good we’re buying ad words against it.”
A few weeks back, when we looked at the thinking behind creating a simple customer journey map, I observed that “the point of your journey map is to drive alignment across the entire organization.” If you take individual customer pain points and walk back the customer journey as a team, you’ll find areas of alignment that wouldn’t be possible if you only looked at the journey from within an individual silo. That’s how customer pain that surfaces in the support inbox can lead to product improvements that become the foundation for an upcoming marketing campaign.
Walking back the customer journey will no doubt help you better set expectations, but it will also highlight ways in which you can better meet expectations. Next week we’ll take a look at what happens when companies re-imagine the entire journey to completely reset expectations.
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Ben McCormack

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