Why setting expectations is good for business

What makes doing business with your organization a joyful experience?

It can depend on a number of factors, but in this article we’re focusing on a big one: setting expectations.

If you think about it, movie theaters post specific showtimes — not just because it keeps them on schedule, but also because customers want to know when they can expect the movie to start.

Imagine the chaos if instead the film began rolling when “enough people decided to show up!”

Likewise, what if you hire a painting service to freshen up your walls, and the initial quote doesn’t match the final cost on the invoice? Not only will you be surprised and angry, but you probably won’t use them again either (or refer them to your friends — another ding for the business).

Setting expectations is critical for two reasons:

  • It eliminates uncertainty from the customer experience, and
  • It helps you set boundaries for the health of your organization.

Let’s look at an example of this in the wild.

Source: https://www.yahoo.com/news/kids-brutally-honest-lawn-mowing-193601734.html

Recently, I ran across this story of two teenagers who started a mowing business in their community (entrepreneurship is alive and well!). Along with other yard-related services, their sign laid out a number of other details to let potential customers know what to expect, such as:

1. The kids wrote it by hand, so at a glance you know you’re hiring a younger team.

2. They added interesting lettering and colors for the headline and for the Notice at the bottom. It’s clear what service they’re offering and what needs your attention right away.

3. The kids set clear boundaries about when they’ll work and where. They occasionally have sports events on the weekend, so they’re warning clients about their priorities in advance. One  of the kids said that he doesn’t want to drag a lawnmower 5 miles just to do a lawn, so they’re clear on their service area.

4. They provide clarity on the price and make sure customers understand the terms they’re using, such as “yard” means the entire lawn versus the more technical, 3-foot measurement.

5. The kids say how to reach them. Text, don’t call.

6. They tell you what they need when you hire them, both in general and for specific jobs (like needing the customer to provide the seeds).

What happens when you set expectations

You may be hesitant about setting boundaries and expectations for your clients or donors, for fear of offending or scaring away those important people. Whether you need to set the rules for a contest, be specific about what’s going to happen at an event, or explain how donations will be spent, the truth is both your organization and your customers benefit from expectations.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • It helps everyone make a plan. If you’re going to host a fundraiser, then both your team and your patrons need all of the information in order to plan. People like plans; it gives them structure. The folks on your team want to be able to plan within the boundaries of time, space, and energy. Attendees will appreciate the opportunity to plan on attending your event (very important!), as well as what they can expect from it — such as, should they bring extra cash for raffles, silent auctions, or other fun activities?
  • It gives people an exciting reason to be involved. Creating boundaries around your offer, services, or events means that your attendees can focus on the excitement. For example, sharing actual stories or financials with your donors helps them envision how their money benefits others in real, tangible ways — instead of worrying about what happens to their charitable donations once it leaves their bank accounts.
  • It reduces the chance of disappointment. Leaving out the expectations may seem like a safe idea, but it’s better for everyone when you lay them out from the get-go. For example, if your summer program is available at different times or locations than it has been in the past, it’s important to let your audience know from the beginning. Again, this helps them plan for the changes — even if they don’t like it, they will be more disappointed if they find out later.
  • It helps you look good and retain customers. When people know what to expect from you, it’s easier to hold up your end of the deal. That way, when you “check off all the boxes”, your customers are happy and are likely to return.

Does your messaging set clear boundaries and expectations?

It can be challenging to understand whether or not your marketing materials are communicating all the right information, especially because you work closely with them. For a little hand, reach out to us for a “second set of eyes” and recommendations that will help you and your audience feel good about what you put out into the world.