Some Thoughts on Expectation Management

Businesses can learn from each interaction with customers and vendors. Whether it’s discovering a new process is needed, an existing process needs modification, or existing processes can be combined or eliminated. There’s usually progress that can be made to reduce friction in business operations. Even in the absence of learning about a needed change businesses can extrapolate that the process *could be* optimal because there wasn’t direct observation by employees or customer reported issues. I emphasize could be because the mindset “this is how we’ve always done it” is pervasive and conditions people to see process issues as optimal.

Friction is inefficiencies in processes that result in time added to complete an action (reduced productivity) that can result in revenue loss that manifests as angry customers and employee retraining. Through personal experience, you can probably think of a myriad of circumstances where friction exists and goes unaddressed, but not all friction is caused by process inefficiencies. Human error occurs despite training and mechanical breakdowns occur despite maintenance and will create friction in any well-designed process.

Processes, whether written down and used for training (formal) or processes that employees know and pass along to new employees as they learn the job (informal), dictate how well the business runs. The better (less friction) the business operates the higher the productivity and higher revenues generally follow. Businesses have internal and external customers. A customer is anyone that relies on the action(s) of another person to perform an action(s) themselves. An internal customer could be the boss of the people they oversee and vice versa or one company department can be the customer of another company department. The list is long.

Looking at customer relationships from an information security point of view, just about everyone is a customer – including yourself. The external customers of a company are your customers and every employee is your customer because data protection touches everything, e.g. PII of employees for payroll and HR, and the payment details of customers purchasing products or services. Data protection is business operations.

Let’s look at an example from a retail perspective. There’s a cookie bakery that takes orders from the point of sale in the store, a kiosk in the store, and mobile orders. This bakery focuses on fresh cookies made to go. To ensure that customers have the freshest cookie possible the cookies aren’t baked and dressed until the customer enters the store. Customers who order on-premise are unaware of the product quality policy of do not bake until arrival because they’ve already arrived. Customers that place orders through the mobile application are not informed of the product quality policy and often arrive expecting their order to be prepared whether it’s one cookie or 15.

Lack of policy communication has, and will continue to irritate customers. If a customer places a mobile application order for 15 cookies and walks in expecting delivery of those cookies then has to wait 20 minutes causing responses from mild irritation to conflict. Whether it’s mild irritation or conflict the result is a negative interaction with the customer that can damage the brand’s reputation. This situation has a rather simple remedy, thankfully. Adding a message to the appropriate screen of the order flow that sets the customer expectation that their order will be prepared when they arrive at the bakery to assure the highest level of satisfaction will ease tension between the customer and the business.

Most businesses passively listen or don’t listen to their customers, and by doing that they miss out on opportunities to build a positive brand reputation, resolve conflicts quickly, and generate customer loyalty. When people feel they are heard and see the impact of their experience making a system/company/people better, they stick around.