What is Expected

I don’t expect much, and I usually get it.

Expected outcomes are what buyers pay money for. Businesses and consumers lob lucre at vendors in order to achieve something, be it optimizing general ledger processes or smelling better. Expected outcomes, or expectations, are the foundation of all commercial relationships. I give you money and you make me smell good.

If the cologne you sold me knocks buzzards off cesspool fencing, then my expectations have not been met.

Microsoft and Hotels.com recently brought all this to light by failing to meet basic expected outcomes. When rudimentary requirements are not provided, customers become ornery. The soured relationship creates new friction to selling them more products and removes all incentive to recommend products to other customers (which in the long run is the cheapest and most effective promotional tool available). Knowing and delivering customer necessaries is so basic I find Microsoft’s and Hotels.com failures on this front to be astounding.

Take Microsoft, please. One fundamental of software releases is to not change the user’s environment. Microsoft has provided a seemingly endless string of surprises, some of which were actually planned though most were not. The sidebar on my screen vanished for no obvious reason, and a dozen reboots never brought it back. However, upgrading from an ancient version of Microsoft Office to one made this century revived the sidebar while destroying two decades of my devotion to keyboard shortcuts that were the basis of my productivity (my mouse had gathered a nice layer of dust). Planned or accidental, unnecessary changes that move or remove functionality also remove the expected outcome and creates friction (let’s pray Libre Office rapidly matures and disposes Microsoft as the laptop productivity tool of choice).

Hotels.com, an alleged service company, failed to provide service. Needing to change a reservation, I was surprised to see that function absent from their web site (though one could cancel reservations outright). A phone call to their customer support line connected me with a woman in India who between speaking rapidly with a heavy accent and apparently eating her microphone for lunch, was completely unintelligible. After several attempts to make a simple reservation change, then asking to be transferred to someone who spoke less than seven hundred words per second, the call disconnected from their end.

Amusingly [not] canceling and rebooking the reservation via their web site took 1/12th the time than the “support” phone call.

Your customers have a set of expected outcomes, and they are of three levels:

Basal: These are fundamental outcomes, which if missing, immediately send customers in search of alternatives like Macs and Orbitz.

Operational: These are the outcomes for which customers actively look. This is where most marketers spend time pitching features and benefits, and for which your product engineers had better deliver consistently.

Exceptional: These outcomes enter the realm of customer delight via innovation, anticipating what a customer wants to achieve and not what they say they want to achieve. It is the difference between poking my old Nokia to enter appointments into my calendar and asking Siri to do it for me.

You have to deliver basal outcomes just to survive. You create and provide operational outcomes to remain competitive. You invent exceptional outcomes to dominate your markets.


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