In my dealings with an independent government agency over the last couple of weeks, I have been reminded of the dangers of continually focusing on setting realistic expectations.
The agency spends so much time making sure I know what they cannot do for me, that they have completely forgotten about:
- Delighting the customer
- Making it simple for customers to use what services they do offer
- Identifying problems and working out if they can solve them
This descended into farce when I received a customer service survey prior to the service being completed – the third different organisation in the last month to do this to me, one of which has still not responded at all to either the original request or a follow-up other than to acknowledge receipt. And people wonder why we warn about the dangers of too much focus on measurement!
The first time I was involved in preparing a major tender from the bidder’s side, I learnt the benefits of taking an aspirational approach rather than an expectational approach. The steps the organisation took were:
- Identify the client’s values, aspirations and expectations
- Demonstrate that you share their values and are willing to work to meet their aspirations
- Deliver on the expectations as far as possible and meet the requirements of the tender
- Add value by offering some ideas and methods for exceeding the expectations and meeting (or moving closer to) the aspirations
- Explain clearly why particular expectations cannot be met and demonstrate your willingness to work with the client to find other ways to meet these expectations
- Check the tender to ensure you have shared client values, are helping them move towards achieving their aspirations and meet current expectations as far as possible
This particular bid involved an annual return for the client in the seven figure range. Financially, the bidding organisation was behind competitors by an annual seven figure sum, so most would consider they were way off the mark and hardly worth considering.
Yet they made it to the last two, and the clients gave every opportunity to move as close as they could to the financial return. In the end, they were still a large six figure sum away from the mark and didn’t get the contract.
That organisation did get a major lift in reputation in a brand new market, one that set them up for major successes less than 12 months later and keeps that organisation front and centre in the minds of potential clients. The feedback from the client about the bid was fantastic and the disappointment of not being able to appoint the organisation because of the extreme difference in the financials was made very clear.
Ensuring that you keep values and aspirations front and centre is an approach that has attracted plenty of attention and praise. Continually communicating your boundaries and being content to meet expectations makes the customer feel as though you are an impersonal organisation, not willing to help individuals unless they meet your terms. That is never a great feeling for a customer to have.