Make Sure Reality Meets Customer Expectations

An easy path toward a disgruntled customer is not having all members of your team on the same page and failing to meet the standard of service the customer believes they’re going to receive

Make Sure Reality Meets Customer Expectations

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill

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Here’s a personal story that showcases the importance of setting as well as meeting customer expectations in your business. 

My family recently went on vacation to New Orleans and spent a week in the French Quarter at an old, refurbished hotel. It was great. The staff was friendly and helpful and went out of their way from the very beginning to help my wife and me at every turn. In fact, the evening we arrived, the bellhop told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to lug any luggage or other bags and water up the two flights of stairs. He said, “That’s what we are here for!” The expectation was set.

Then the day before we were set to leave, I received a message that they were having a tree cut down the morning of our departure. They asked if I could please stop by the front desk to make the necessary arrangements to get our car out of a special lot so we could leave as scheduled. I went by and spoke to the staff to make those arrangements, so I knew what to expect the next morning.

Then while heading back to our room that evening, the bellhop that was so helpful went out of his way to make sure we had all the right information and then assured us we would get taken care of by the morning bellhop during our departure. Wow, I thought. What a great way to mitigate an inconvenient but unavoidable situation. These people have got it together.

Then someone, and it only takes one, didn’t get the message.

The next morning came. Right on cue the morning bellhop was outside our door where I had put a couple of bags. He stuck his head in the door and asked, “Are these bags the ones?” I replied from the back, “Yes, those are the larger bags.” Then I walked up to talk with him further, but he was gone. And I mean gone. I walked out the door and tried to catch him, but he had already gone down the stairs and out into the driveway.

So what did I do? I went back in and got my backpack, my wife’s computer bag, two shopping bags of items bought on the trip, a sandwich out of the refrigerator, a jacket, and two bottles of water.

On the way down the stairs, I dropped a couple of things so I had to stop and get resituated to make sure everything was balanced and I could get down the stairs safely. When I got down to the drive, I found the bellhop waiting for me as he asked me, “What took you so long?” Then he took off around a corner, through another courtyard toward the front of the hotel on the other side of the tree surgery that was going on. I thought, “Finally. We’ll get to the front of the hotel, he’ll bring our car around and it will be OK.”

Yet, as I followed him like a pack mule, strapped down with all the items I was assured someone other than me would be carrying, he went right by the front of the building back down the driveway toward where the tree was coming down. He took another turn into yet another courtyard, through a couple of planters that the luggage didn’t fit through, and across a grate where one of the rollers got stuck. He yanked it loose and took off again over a terrace and through another doorway leading to a small lot where our car was parked.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I was not happy by the time this 15-minute ordeal was over. And when the bellhop turned to me and said, “Unlock the car,” I was in no mood to let him touch another item we owned. I dismissed him and told him to go away and that I would load the car myself.

I did not curse at him, nor did I throw a fit. I simply told him I was a great tipper but not today. Another person came out and opened the garage door so I could drive out and go around several blocks to get back to the front and pick up my wife.

As I thought about this incident on the way home, it dawned on me how many times it takes only one person not playing off the same sheet of music to make a bad impression. They were supposed to come to our room, get all our stuff, and take it to the front desk. They would then go get our car out of the back lot and drive it to the front so we could load up and go. Yes, it was that simple.

Was this bellhop an outlier and just wanted to do things differently? Maybe he didn’t get the message? Whatever it was, he turned what was a great experience into a not-so-great one, and just like that, he became the last thing I remember about our stay. Unfortunately, it’s always the last impression that most people recall about their service experiences.

I came home and went through the hotel’s reviews, which, for the most part, were good. However, when I read the ones that were 3 stars and below, in almost every case, just one thing was cited as the reason for the negative review.

Then something interesting came across my desk. It was a review about one of our Spark Marketer clients from one of his customers. Well, not just one. It was a series of reviews, and our client could not figure out why this person was still angry after four months. After all, he rectified the situation and noted that a technician did not do the job he said he did, doing a total refund for the job as well as firing the tech. Why after all this time was the customer leaving all these bad reviews?

Since they had done everything they knew to do to placate this customer, they blocked him on the social channel that he was blowing up. The customer then went to another channel and publicly revealed that he was promised to receive his money back but never did. Yes, he expected them to refund the money and when he never got it, he went to the reviews and blasted the company.

This is what happens when A.) we set an expectation and then fail to meet it, and B.) aren’t making sure everyone in the organization is trained to the same customer experience standards and always playing the same tune together. Unfortunately, sometimes a bad review is earned. 

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the authors of Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love and the owners of Spark Marketer, a "no bull" digital marketing company that’s been getting sh*t done for home service businesses across the nation for a decade. They’re trusted thought leaders in the industries they serve, which is why you’ll find them regularly speaking at service industry trade shows and conferences and writing for trade magazines. Tired of empty promises and ready for focused digital marketing and balls-to-the-wall dedication that gets your business seen? Visit


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