Is there anything more important in business than managing expectations? When done correctly, people are WOWed. When done poorly, people are disappointed, let down and never come back. Personally, this week has been full of events that underscore the importance of setting and managing expectations correctly. Here’s what happened, and what I (and perhaps you) can learn from it.
My wife and I have a growing family. In addition to Ella Mae, our 18 month-old daughter, we have another Teschke on the way! I keep telling myself that we’re ready for two. I’m sure I’m wrong. We’ll find out January 11.
Either way, we decided to make a few upgrades around the house, including getting a bigger car and finishing the basement. We wanted more space for Ella to play, for us to work out and, of course, for me to escape into my home theater man cave.
Finishing the basement, missing expectations
We talked with a few neighbors who had their basements finished and chose a local company specializing in finished basements. They had a great portfolio. Their basements look like rooms, not basements. The project scope, price and timeline seemed fair, so we signed and got underway a few months ago.
The quality of the crew and their work is exceptional. They’re doing a great job and are just about finished.
As with any construction site, there are multiple guys in our house at various times doing what they do. In our case, they all worked for the same construction company. A few weeks ago, one of the guys saw that we had a rubber floor delivered for the gym. We were planning on having another company (one specializing in floors) install it, but he said that they could install it for us. Great! My expectations were exceeded. If they could do it and save us the time, effort and money of having another company involved, great! So, we canceled the flooring company.
Yesterday, when talking with the owner of the company, I asked about the status of the floor. It’s still on rolls while the rest of the basement is just about finished. He had no idea that they agreed to install it. In fact, he was surprised and said that they could do it, but would charge to do it.
Wait a second. When I talked with the other guy a fews weeks prior, it seemed like they were going to install it as part of the bigger project. He never mentioned anything about charging for the work. I figured he would have said something like, “Sure. We can help with that. I’ll have the owner call to let you know how much it would be.”
So, we expected that they were going to install the floor as part of the bigger project and they expected to charge for it at the end without first letting us know how much it would be.
And, just to be clear, companies should charge for work outside of the original project scope. It’s only fair. But, they also need to be clear when and how much that work will cost. Otherwise, there’s no way to know where the project scope ends and the add-ons begin.
It all turned out well, though. They’re installing the floor as a courtesy for the mixup…and we’re another happy customer.
Laying carpet, missing expectations
As part of the basement project, we moved our family room furniture to the basement and re-carpeted upstairs. We called a friend and she recommended a local flooring installer. The price was higher than what we expected, but she assured us that you “get what you pay for” and that the service is “white glove” and professional. Sold. Let’s do it.
The carpet guy stopped by last week and did his work. However, when he left, the place was a mess. He didn’t vacuum…at all. There were pieces of carpet all over the place and the entire first floor was coated in a layer of dirt – including the brand new TV mounted on the wall, Ella’s toys and the kitchen. Everything. We spent the night cleaning.
We were expecting that he would have cleaned up and left the place as clean as it was before he started – especially given the “premium” price of the service.
It’s not the work, it’s the expectations
What’s a shame is that in both cases the work is exceptional. Top notch. No complaints. The basement and carpet both look great.
It’s just that if expectations were managed a little better, the process would have felt better. Perception is reality.
But, on the other hand, if everything was so seamless, I wouldn’t have this article to write.
Can’t win them all.