Mark Richardson, CR, is an author, columnist, and business growth strategist. He authored the best-selling book, How Fit Is Your Business? as well as his latest book, Fit to Grow. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301.275.0208.
Many years ago, I began thinking about the subject of exceeding expectations. I would field phone calls from upset clients or listen to team members’ frustrations and I found that most of the time the root of the problem lay in expectations that were set but not met.
Because of this dynamic, I began to train, coach, and write about the topic. Over time, I developed the following simple guidelines to help create, and then exceed, expectations.
1] Arrive a little early: Always arrive for an appointment one to two minutes early. If you strive to arrive on time, then you may be a minute or two late. If you get there 15 minutes early, you become annoying. However, ringing the doorbell one or two minutes before the appointment time exceeds expectations and is seen as respectful.
2] Exceed scheduling expectations: When you’re giving clients a timeline for the completion of a project, or even particular tasks, always exceed the expectation. This sometimes takes courage, since the client wants the job done in the shortest possible time. Yet it pays off in the end. For example, if you’re building a deck that should be completed by Wednesday, tell the client that the project will be done by the end of the week. If he or she says they would like a friend to stop by on Wednesday to see the deck, then you should again let them know you are not expecting it to be done. When the friend sees a brand new deck on Wednesday, you become the hero. You didn’t build it any differently, you just made the client happy because you exceeded the time expectation. Now you are known as the remodeler who finishes early.
3] Come in below budget: This is hard to do but totally achievable. Here are a few tips.
a) Budget: Remember, it’s the homeowner’s budget not yours. Remain respectful and realize that you are the guardian of the budget just as much as the fantasy maker.
b) Expertise: Spend more time educating the client on the financial aspects, rather than just focusing on the cool design specifications.
c) Courage: The risk of occasionally losing a prospect because of a higher budget forecast is far better than all the negatives that arise from being consistently over budget once the job commences.
4] Surprise them: Sometimes nice surprises can exceed expectations as well. It could be shoveling the snow off the homeowner’s driveway so they can park their car that night or a gift basket presented upon completion of the project. Surprises can also be part of the work itself, such as a clever detail or a shelf added in an unused corner. The key is to create a team culture that celebrates pleasant surprises.
I’ve focused here on exceeding expectations for the client, but you can also use this concept with your team, friends, and family. It generally results in greater happiness for all involved.