This is so important. In fact, I will venture to say its everything in business and in life. There are three possible outcomes with expectations: (1) exceed expectations; (2) meet expectations; or (3) miss expectations. Two out of three possible outcomes help you maintain clients, customers and business, while the last one likely will lose business or damage relationships.
It is better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver. An example of this is when I tell a client I will have draft or project complete by a certain date. If I deliver it before the date I told them I have exceeded the expectation I set for them. If I deliver it on the date I said I met their expectation. If I get it to them after that date, I have missed their expectation, which I was in control of when I gave them the date originally. I know where I want to be when I have set the expectation and we all know what we think when someone else does so, such as when your car will be ready when in the shop to how long a doctor’s appointment will take.
And expectations in other areas, such as cost or fees, are incredibly important to manage. If you tell a customer a number or range, the cost better come in under or up to the number or within the range. Go under and you are a hero. Go over and you are a goat. You will be left making excuses for the cost and probably will end up cutting your bill. If you know the cost is going to be more than what you quoted, call them the minute you know and explain why. And get direction on how or if they want you to proceed. If you don’t, you do so at your own peril.
Sometimes things happen for innumerable reasons and you know you will not meet a deadline. What do you do? You call your customer and let them know, right away. And you then reset their expectations with a new deadline you believe you can and will meet. Having to reset expectations once in a while likely won’t harm your business, but if you make it a regular practice you do so, again, at your own peril.
So manage expectations well and you will have better client and customer relationships. Don’t, and you likely will have less client and customer relationships to worry about.