The expectations and standards are missing in experience, and it is impacting success

Dan Barker is a for hire Organizational and Leadership consultant – He has experience in supporting diverse organizations across the globe.

Dan Barker 09/13/2023

So often, when I approach a company representative and share that my experience was less than par, that protection and defense are always the first response. The service and the response often do not meet the values or commitment the company has placed on the wall. The opportunity stems from not teaching all employees how to see the big picture. Focusing on knowledge and calling it acumen takes away from assessing effective decision-making. The outcomes must align with the big picture. 

Let’s start with a recent experience

My escape is starting the day with a workout and finishing it up with 15-20 minutes in the steam room. A week or so ago, I was wrapping up a fantastic leg workout with 20 minutes on the stair stepper. I still had an incredible high going as I went downstairs, thinking how great it would be to loosen up and relax in the steam room. I turned the corner to find the steam room door propped open and a closed sign. It was not even lunch yet. Even worse, the sauna was closed as well. I now would have to sit and wait in my sweaty clothes for my wife for the next 20 minutes as she relaxed in the women’s steam room, or should I say stew in my dissatisfaction with how my whole experience had just changed. 

I eventually found a team member and mentioned that this happens often. I shared that your front desk handed me the towel, not knowing what I would see when I turned the corner. It makes no sense, and the lasting experience is terrible. Instead of empathy, I got a list of questions about what I saw and what items in the locker room were still open. The team member mentioned that she would look into it and was going to leave it at that. I just shared I thought you may have some concern and stepped away from their desk in the central area to wait for my wife, but still in her view. 

Of course, she was not going to sit while I stood there. However, I was not there for action. I had assumed nothing could be done now for my experience and was willing to sit and wait for my wife. The team member went and found another service team member. I heard them state I was a “very upset” customer, and she needed answers on what was happening. After a few minutes, she returned and instructed a desk member to make me a smoothie. I told them I was not looking for a smoothie. I’m on a meal plan. The follow-up I got was that they were addressing it. Both should not be shut down. It was not the first time I had this experience, and it likely will not be the last. Be careful when you sign up under an agreement. I’m locked into this Groundhog Day!  

Let’s start with the basics

No one with dissatisfaction wants the first response to be an interrogation. The first response should always assure the customer that you understand their feedback. It is best to quickly follow it up with an ownership statement, like, I’m going to look into this and see if we can find a resolution. Permission is an excellent way to stay on the right side of the conversation. Permission is the common pleasantry that helps keep the conversation moving, but nothing too formal. A great next question could be, would you mind if I asked some questions to understand better what you experienced? The response will differ greatly from “Tell me what is exactly closed.” I had provided an acceptable resolution in my initial complaint with the team member. Why not a schedule or some notification system ahead of time? When it comes to customer experience, don’t be afraid to inquire about what might be an acceptable resolution. Don’t assume everyone wants something for free. In this case, I’m a reminding customer who wants you to live up to your promise on the wall. 

It’s not the customer’s fault expectations are missed

Either expectations are not set, or they are not managed well. Expectations are not a nice to have. The big picture is that expectations protect the brand and the promise on the wall. Expectations should guide all day-to-day duties and tasks. There is a significant difference in cleaning the steam room three times a day versus using and executing an interval schedule. Expectations should be used to support the essential details of cleanliness, health, and cadence. 

When expectations are not set, the routine of management is to find themselves in a cycle of resetting expectations. An important factor with expectations is that they can be achieved consistently. Whether the work is based on schedule or some process or decision tree, expectations ensure critical outcomes are reached. Often, expectations support the foundation of a company’s product and customers. Consistency is essential for effectiveness and should help set the standard. 

Standards are not just for the wall and the tour

Let’s say that expectations have been set. The assumption is that the “machine” is now doing what it does. It is this mentality that breaks the chain of experience. It is vital to call out that when standards are not managed well, it impacts employees and customers negatively. You cannot put experience on your wall and not consider it when feedback is provided. An employee who does not have clear expectations is doomed to create an inconsistent experience. Effectiveness should be based on consistent execution of what works and reducing the things that don’t. Expectations should set the standard, and the standards management should also have clear expectations and follow through. This is how an organization is steadfastly committed to achieving excellent customer experience. 

“A company cannot level up or differentiate experience without expectations and standards to create the foundation towards customer success.”

Dan Barker

Instead of a “really upset” customer, you have an inconsistent experience

Be focused on resolution with every interaction. A permanent solution is supported through expectations and standards. Organizations focusing on being right or solving problems one-off in a silo are not helping the standards on the wall. If there was no expectation of when to clean or communicate it, the service team member only works on the knowledge of “I need to clean it.” Instead, this is a driving experience, and my subsequent decision may create an inconsistent experience. Improved decision-making will create a more substantial alignment to the big picture, translating experience into customer success. Create consistent experiences by setting expectations and standards that help align decision-making. Place focus on where it goes wrong and employee and customer feedback on how to improve it. 

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