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Talent & Recruitment
The Importance of Setting and Delivering on Customer Expectations
Sep 21, 2012 | Michael Nick lock

I bought a new car about a year ago. When you buy or lease a new car, you are shuffled off to some little concrete office, with no windows and two uncomfortable chairs to meet with the finance guy. This is the guy that puts the several hundred pieces of paper together for you to sign. It really is getting as bad, or worse, than buying a house.

While we were sitting there talking, the finance guy brings up some additional services we can "roll into our lease". This particular dealership has a prepaid service program that includes Silver service, Gold service, and Platinum service. Each level of service has a rewards program, oil changes, unlimited car washes, discounts on accessories, and some member-only events and giveaways. The finance guys are better (or at least more ruthless) than the actual car salesman at selling these add-ons. Just when I thought we were done negotiating, I have more decisions to make. This guy shows me how I can save on oil changes and get free car washes for the life of the car. It all sounded great. I was sold and signed up, hence my expectation was set.

I left the dealership feeling pretty good. I got a new car, lifetime of car washes and a pre-paid oil change every 3500 miles. What more could a consumer want?

Well, you know where this is going. I drove in about two weeks after my purchase to ask a question about a feature in the navigation system and requested a "free car wash" just as I was promised. The service guys looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. "Well, Mr. Nick, we are the service department, we don't do car washes here. You have to go over to the dealership across the street. I think they do them there."

I obediently drove across the parking lot, then across the street to the showroom where I purchased the car and asked the receptionist about my promised free car wash. This time I got someone that knew something. She said, "We lost the car wash guy last week and don't have anyone that can do it today. Maybe next week if we can hire someone." Expectation buster!

The next time I visited the dealership I got my prepaid oil change. It was a 30 - 45 minute wait, and they still didn't have a car wash guy.

Today, I drove in for an oil change and they tried to charge me for it. They told me everyone gets the first oil change free, but after that they have to pay $37.00 for it. Are you kidding me? It all got straightened out regarding the oil changes, but it has been a year and I have yet to get a car wash.

Ok, I am not so petty that I care about the free car wash. I am trying to make a point here. I had an expectation of a 15 minute oil change and a car wash. In and out and done. This is not even close to what I got...ever!  I find it very disturbing when you think about a major B2B buying decision and the buyer ends up disappointed about what was promised to them. I know the car incident is small potatoes. But when you think about the impressions and expectations you set, and then you or products/services don’t deliver, it becomes more of an issue.

We hear so often that sales people lie, or they over sell or they don't set expectations accurately. This is an organizational issue. The expectation that is set and met should come from the top down. If I would have talked to the general manager at the dealership, he would have had someone go out and wash my car. I believe in most organizations if you get to the right person you will get satisfaction. Why does it take that amount of effort on the customer’s part to get satisfaction? Also, is it too late to keep them loyal if they have to go way above your head to get something resolved?

Here is what you need to know. Set your customers’ expectations as to what you are going to deliver. Pretend you are the customer: Ask yourself what do you want? Be sure to deliver it. Ensure your whole team (from the top down) is trained and has the appropriate resources to provide a level of support that is consistent with the expectations set.

About the Author:
Michael Nick is author of the book, ROI Selling, which became the standard for developing sales tools and using them throughout the sales process. He is also author of Why Johnny Can’t Sell and The Key to the C-Suite. Michael can be reached at 262.338.1824 or

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.

Recommended Reading:
Are you really customer-focused or just pretending?
Protect Your Customer Base: 3 Strategies for Retaining Your Most Profitable Accounts
How To Be Customer-centric From The Individual To The Organization

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