The Boss would take issue with marketing and communications people that include “exceed customer expectations” in their mission statements (or those lists of core values you see hanging in company cafeterias). Why?
“Because I want them to come to my next concert,” he replied when a pesky reporter called him “ungenerous and almost stingy when it comes to encores.” She was commenting on Bruce’s propensity to perform a single encore after a great concert (the only kind he gives). While the boss admits he’s been known to cave to a second one, it’s the exception. Even when the fans are tearing the house down, he resists, packs up his guitar, heads for the back door – and leaves them wanting more.
We can all take a cue from Springsteen. Consulting firms should especially listen up. Marketing copy from IT consultants includes the “exceed expectations thing” more than anyone. But as Peter Block notes in his book Flawless Consulting, you might have to exceed the higher bar you’ve just set each time you deliver – or you run the risk of under-delivering …. when in fact all you did was fulfill your commitment. Before you know it, your costs have run amuk (and you were just trying to be a nice guy).
It’s like the consulting firm that discounts their initial engagement …. to get in the door. When they propose their next phase pricing, which they refer to as “fair market value” …the client is very unhappy. You’ve set the bar with your discounting pricing. Now you shift to what’s fair ….and it comes off as price gouging or bait-and-switch.
So before you get sucked into that seemingly harmless, almost flippant remark “we exceed our customers’ expectations” make sure you’re not setting yourself up. When you give it away for nothing, you’ve set the expectation that you’ll do it again ….and again and again.
Thanks to colleague Matt Goldman for inspiring this post.