It’s about expectations

Many of us have heard this before, but it bears repeating. Customer or user satisfaction depends, in large part, upon the expectations you set, as a service or product provider. Promise something you can’t or don’t deliver, and satisfaction goes right down the drain, no matter what you did right.

A great friend of mine put this another way: under-promise, and over-deliver. It’s plain, simple, and it should be the golden rule that companies use when they think about their products and services. I don’t mean you should set your sights on mediocrity, or that you should settle for the lowest common denominator. But you should ALWAYS make sure you promise only what you can absolutely deliver, and if you do anything above and beyond the call of duty, it’s icing on the cake, and it makes the customer ecstatic in a viral sort of way.

Have you heard of Micro Center? Neither did I, till a couple of weeks ago. Their website is certainly underwhelming — at least it is at this point in time, but I have a feeling that’ll change. I got a flyer in the mail from them, inviting me to the store for a free gift. I went in and was blown away. Their store has the coolest and best floor layout I’ve ever seen! It’s clean, well-lit, beautiful, stocked to the gills with cool technology, and everyone is friendly! Did they promise any of that in their flyer? No, they just promised the free gift and mentioned the new store. They delivered on the free gift just fine, and their store atmosphere was the icing on the cake that left me ecstatic.

And guess what? They have an in-store pickup option as well. I ordered a few CF cards from their site today, and went to pick them up in the evening. But do you know what they did? They didn’t promise a 20-minute turnaround. They actually put some thought into it. Their staff is new, their store is new, their systems are probably new or re-designed, and they knew they couldn’t deliver on something like that. They said the order would be ready for pickup in a couple of days. Was I disappointed? No. I got the price I wanted on the products I wanted, and as long as they were going to make good on their promise, I didn’t care. But I thought I’d test the waters anyway, and Ligia and I got in our car and drove to the store tonight.

When we got there, the same cheery atmosphere awaited us. The people were courteous and smiled, just like the last time we visited. We went to the customer service counter, where the representative looked up our order and explained that it wasn’t ready yet. No problem, I’d expected that. I asked if I could pick up the items from the store shelves and come back to the counter. She said yes. I browsed through the store, found what I needed, brought the stuff back to the customer service counter, and the representative fulfilled the order. She fiddled a bit with the computer system since it was new, but she was courteous and helpful, and I didn’t mind waiting an extra couple of minutes. In the end, I walked out with my order fulfilled, and the kicker was this: the price was the same as on their website.

It’s about setting the right expectations, plain and simple. Do what works for you, and more importantly, do what you know you can do! Under-promise, over-deliver, and you’ll have happy customers. Even if you go just a bit beyond what you promised, it makes a huge difference!


4 thoughts on “It’s about expectations

  1. I found similar issues with pricing in CompUSA stores vs. their web site. Sometimes I just want to look at a product before I buy. I’ve learned in those cases to print out the product page and take it in with me. In cases where the price is lower online, they’ll honor the lower price.

    I hate to walk into most retail stores. Most salespeople tend to assume that a middle-aged woman wearing jeans and a T-shirt doesn’t know squat about gear and isn’t going to make a purchase without her spouse. I have to admit that sometimes it’s amusing when they discover that I know more about their products than they do, but mostly it’s just plain frustrating. Sometimes I can’t even get waited on. I guess the smartphone clipped to my belt doesn’t scream “geek!” loud enough. Perhaps I should change the ringer? 😉


  2. Raoul, you make some great points. Isn’t it funny that when a company actually does what they say they will do (and go beyond that), it makes a great impression and makes you feel good about doing business with them? There is no sour taste in your mouth after that kind of experience.

    I wasn’t going to get into this, but I can’t help myself. While I admire the work that Kristopher has done and continues to do, I don’t think that there is a whole lot of upfront transparency from Zooomr. Instead, they tell you afterwards what they are doing and hope you’ll buy in. While many upgrades have been made, there is still functionality missing that had been there previously. Sour aftertaste, indeed.


  3. Nice PR spin, Kris, but that’s not the point of my post. The idea is to stay away from promising something you can’t deliver. Being upfront has nothing to do with it.

    You can be upfront with your users all you want as long as you deliver on your promises, which, historically speaking, hasn’t been the case for Zooomr.

    Perhaps that’ll change in the future, now that you’ve got some more funding and staff. It remains to be seen.

    But please don’t try to put a PR spin on my article. It only adds to the frustration and disappointment I’ve already experienced as a Zooomr user.


  4. Cool post Raoul, while we’re not Best Buy or Circuit City, I will offer my thoughts on Social Software.

    In the case of Zooomr, we did deliver over 250 new features and refinements in the Mark III release. We’ve continued to add even new features and fix older bugs, as well. Mark III is more than a collections of features, it was a complete rewrite of Zooomr to help us scale our service to the many people who use our service throughout the world.

    A recent example of a wonderful feature we’ve launched for our users is Social Stream.

    In all, because Zooomr is run in an up-front manner (where we tell you what we’re planning and if something doesn’t make the cut, then it doesn’t make the cut) nothing is kept secret from our users. We want our users to be a part of the process!

    Marketplace was a big push in Mark III — and still is for our users outside of Asia; we instructed everyone to start pricing photos and they have. We mentioned in our launch that we weren’t going to launch Marketplace first-thing and that we would launch it at our discretion at a later date to be determined.

    We have explained to our users that at the time we launched Mark III, Zooomr was merely a two man company unable to fulfill Marketplace orders, so if we were to open the Marketplace, it would have been hard to process orders. Now that we have a full staff, it will be much easier to re-approach the idea.

    In all, we look at what the majority of our users want. They told us that they wanted to talk with their friends in real-time through both Photos and Text, and we delivered Zipline. They told us that they wanted to track what their photos were up to, and we delivered Social Stream.

    Really, the future of Zooomr is just beginning! And, while what you say about managing expectations is true, It’s our humble opinion that we should be open about our plans to help people communicate with their friends and family around the world. If we were to ‘manage expectations’, we might not be able to be as open.

    Again, great post and thanks for mentioning Zooomr!

    kristopher tate
    cto & founder — zooomr


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