Managing expectations

Managing expectations

Managing expectations

Doing more than people expect fuels advocacy and retention. Doing less than people expect fuels negative discussions and brand switching. That means that brands shouldn’t only commit to doing more than people expect (for starters: don’t talk about what you’re doing, do stuff). But that also means carefully managing perception; by setting the bar high enough that people want you, but not so high that it’s impossible to exceed expectations. Additionally, there is an issue in over-doing on expectations, this will fuel negative conversations as well.



The relation between setting expectations, under-delivering and over-delivering on these expectations.

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Managing expectations elements

Some compare the three key elements of the model (opening up, the main content part and the closing part) to breathing: breathing in, holding your breath and breating out. The model has 5 elements, with outcomes being devided into tangible and intangible outcomes.

The 5 managing expectations elements

Expectations level set

People will have expectations when encountering you, your company or an event, experience or destination. This is set by previous experiences, your brand, your communications, your previous acts, hearsay, etcetera. Managing these expectations is essential as the higher the initial expectations are, the more difficult it becomes to exceed expectations and the easier it becomes to disappoint.

And these consumer expectations change. Over the course of the last years, brands conditioned consumers to expect nothing less than Facebook and twitter care, within 24 hours. So, be aware what consumers expect and do even more to wow them.

Delivering on expectations

Delivery: no conversations When you merely meet expectations, there simply is nothing to talk about.


Under-delivery: negative conversations Companies that fail to deliver, bad customer support, failing to understand customers create reasons to talk, in a negative way. No need to get in to detail here.


Over-delivery: positive conversations As soon as you start exceeding expectations interesting things happen. People WILL talk about great service, quick replies, nice out-of-offices and other things they don’t expect.


This is one of the most tricky ones. Doing too much can often cause people not to be positive, but actually to start doubting you and be negative.

I once heard a guy tell a story about a company that produced hipster bags. Every time you would order via their website, they would send you an email claiming that your bag had just left their factory and that 10 employees stood there, waving the bag goodbye. A great story and it was made even more appealing by some great copy. But it had the opposite effect, the guy had a negative feeling about it all. It was just too good to be true. They were just trying too hard.

Another problem is the content of over-delivering. Getting a free drink at the end of your dinner is a nice gesture of the restaurant. Getting a 50% discount might make you feel cheap and make you talk about the discount and not about great service or great food. Ideally, you’re over-delivering in a way that spurs the right conversations.

Some even think Boondoggle’s KLM Surprise case is an example of over-the-top-delivery. KLM might have tried too hard to surprise customers. I do not agree, I still think it is a great campaign, but it raises an interesting dilemma: balancing over-delivery.

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