Business Man Shrug

Fill-in-the-Blank Expectations Leave Too Much to the Imagination

Recently, Company A did the right thing as a strategic partner and evaluated its customer’s system for efficiency and workflow. They said they would send a report with their findings and recommendations.

A week went by, then another, then yet another. By now, the customer was irritated that they hadn’t received that report yet, figuring they would receive it a week or two after the evaluation.

When informed of the customer’s comments, Company A’s account rep was indignant: “I didn’t say I would have it to them in a week or two!

So when did he say they would receive the report?

I didn’t say anything!

As Scooby Doo would say, “ruh-roh!

Your Customer Doesn’t Have an Eye in the Sky

That gaping blank spot for the delivery date was filled in by each party, unfortunately with vastly different time lines. The customer thought the report should (not could or would) arrive in a week or two. The account rep wasn’t quite sure when the report would arrive and thought he conveyed that by the leaving the delivery date ambiguous. Somehow, the customer was supposed to know that omission was intentional.

Imagine if the account rep checked in a week or two after that conversation–or even delivered the report. His follow-up call would be greeted with a gust of frosty air. The customer might not even mention his disappointment because he would assume the account rep would know all too well the report was “late.” The account rep would assume the cool reception had nothing to do with him.

All these assumptions! What a disaster!

Fortunately, that account rep avoided frostbite because he learned of this misaligned expectation through a customer experience interview and was able to spring to action and clear up the misunderstanding (and, we imagine, light a fire under the report writers).

Get the Full Picture of Your Customer’s Expectations

What would have happened if that customer hadn’t mentioned that expectation during a customer experience interview?

The relationship would be crumbling without the account rep’s slightest inkling.

That’s a key benefit of customer experience interviews. An objective third party “mediates” communication that is frank and thorough.

There is another benefit of customer experience analysis. We didn’t limit that lesson to that one account rep. The misunderstanding was discussed in a post-interview discovery session with our client’s account, operations, and product teams so their entire team received real-life examples of best practices and lessons learned. It’s likely other “blank spots” were filled in after that call.

We track those lessons and create irrefutable documentation of how internal practices play in the marketplace. The interview with the customer explains what happened. The discovery session finds out why it happened. Until one knows why something occurred, one can’t fix it.

In this example, our client was able to:

  1. Find out the true temperature of that customer relationship and discover what specific events created that rocky status.
  2. Immediately acknowledge any missteps. The client apologized for the misunderstanding about delivery dates.
  3. Plan process changes to avoid such errors in the future. In this case, the client developed a process, which the account teams can use that will generate specific delivery dates or explain why a firm date can’t be set.

Customer experience programs alleviate stress on your account teams by heading off undetected issues. If these issues are quickly addressed, it will reinforce and strengthen your relationship with customers and ultimately, will help you retain and grow accounts.

By implementing a customer experience program, you’ll guarantee that your accounts don’t hinge on “fill-in-the-blank” expectations.


Lisa Allen on sablinkedinLisa Allen on sabemail
Lisa Allen
Program Consultant at Primary Intelligence
Lisa Allen has interviewed hundreds of buyers and customers and delivered key insights to help clients in a variety of industries win more business and grow existing accounts. Lisa holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Michigan.
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