I recently called a company to inquire about a service and the outcome was completely different than what I was expecting. It is a great example of what not to do when setting expectations with your clients or future clients.
So back to the company I called… I called to ask about a service I wanted and if I could add it to my account. They said they did have it and that I could upgrade my account to receive the new service.
Great! That was good news! In order to get the change on my account, I only needed to sign two forms. So the helpful gentleman on the line said they would mail the forms right out to me. Great! They had good customer service, too.
However, here is where the problem occurs…
What he failed to mention on the phone, and what I didn’t think to ask, was how long it would take for me to receive the forms.
When someone says we’ll send it right out, what does that mean to you?
In my mind, snail mail usually takes about 3 working days. It was Monday, so surely I would have it by Wednesday, Thursday or Friday at the latest.
Fast-forward to Friday, and I still didn’t have the forms that were promised to me so quickly. By now I’m feeling a bit surprised that I didn’t have my paperwork, and I was anxious to get the ball rolling on it. So I called, and after several minutes of pushing appropriate buttons to get to the appropriate department, I found out they were closed for Good Friday – certainly understandable.
Okay then – I typed in a reminder on my calendar to remind myself to call them on Monday. I waited to see if the forms were in the Monday mail. No luck, they were not there.
So I called again. And again I went through the process of pressing all the appropriate buttons to reach the right department. Then I waited on hold for about six minutes, but that was okay because I worked while I was on hold.
I spoke to a new person this time that seemed as competent as the first fellow I spoke to. She had to go through all of the verification procedures on my account information, and once she confirmed who I was, she had my account information pulled up.
I explained that I had spoken to one of her counterparts the previous week and I was waiting for some forms to arrive. I also asked if she had record of the conversation. Yes, she indeed saw the conversation noted and the request for the change on the account. I explained that I was surprised that I didn’t have the paperwork that was promised to go out so promptly to me.
She explained that the turnaround on outbound forms is usually 7-10 business days. What?! 7-10 business days? What were they using, the Pony Express?
Needless to say, I was a bit frustrated by this news. No paperwork meant no progress on my request. If the first gentleman I had spoken to had simply given me a timeframe on the front end, I would have been fine waiting for it. Instead it turned into a negative experience of following up only to find out the paperwork hadn’t even been sent yet.
So why does any of this matter? It’s simple. If you aren’t setting the proper expectations on the front end, you may be setting up your clients or potential clients for disappointment.
Are you setting proper expectations with your clients? Are the people in your firm setting the right expectations? Are you fulfilling on those expectations, or are you instead letting down your customers?
The morale of this story is that it’s extremely important that you’re on the same page with your clients right out of the gate. Whenever there’s confusion due to a lack of communication, it can turn a would-be positive experience into a negative one.
By being upfront and setting the right expectations from the start, you can eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, the chance for any misunderstandings. In turn, clients or potential clients should appreciate your transparency.
And one more thing, make sure your entire team understands the importance of this system and operates on this basis with every interaction they have. Make sure they are clear on what is going to happen next, when it will happen and how it will happen. In fact, this could be a wonderful topic for your next team meeting if you see opportunities for improvement in this area.
Sanford M. Fisch
CEO & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555