<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/coyotejack/">Martin Kingsley</a>

Grr! by Martin Kingsley.

There are many ways to annoy and anger your customers, but I am only going to focus on one of the most common ways —- it’s about lack of clear EXPECTATIONS.

Don’t set realistic expectations.

An example of setting unrealistic expectations are the overly-hyped informational products that are sold over the internet. When you over-promise and under-deliver, or when you paint a picture that is not an accurate description of what the customer can expect, that’s a recipe for huge disappointment. And, when customers become disappointed, they often become angry.  Guess what happens to an angry customer who knows how to use the internet? They love to tell all their friends online how angry they are at you and your company. What is posted on the internet, stays on the internet forever.

Don’t communicate expectations.

This especially applies to service providers like doctors, lawyers, accountants, realtors, and consultants. Don’t tell your customers what they can expect. Let me give you a personal example. A few weeks ago, I went into a hospital for a biopsy. The radiologist brought me into a private room and explained what I could expect during the procedure. I asked a few questions and she assured me that all was going to be well.

Soon after the procedure,  a nurse told me that she would be taking some x-rays of the location where the procedure was done. Now, when someone is about to cut into your body, you tend to pay very close attention to what they are saying to you. I was certain that the radiologist had neglected to tell me that there was going to be an x-ray immediately afterwards because that is a very important detail. So, I asked the nurse what was the purpose of the x-ray and she said, “Oh, it’s to make sure that the marker is in place.”

I felt like a deer caught in front of the headlights of a fast moving vehicle. She proceeded to tell me that a titanium marker was left in place so that if they ever needed to return to that location on my body, they would be able to easily identify the place with the marker. The word anger would be an understatement of how I began to feel. I then asked the radiologist why she failed to inform me about the marker. She quickly apologized and said she just forgot to mention it. The words, incompetence and deceptive immediately came to my mind.

Don’t put expectations in writing.

I signed several documents prior to the surgery, which I thoroughly read.  No where on any of those documents did I read anything about a titanium marker insertion.  A foreign object was placed into my body without my knowledge or consent by a service provider whom I am paying to look out for my best interest! The radioligist downplayed that she forgot to inform me about the marker and brushed it off as if it was no big deal. A few days later, I began to wonder if the titanium is like the mercury in our teeth.  I began to explore gender roles. What if I had been a man?  Would they have forewarned me that they were going to place a titanium marker inside my testicle?  Or was this some kind of medical experimentation on women?

Now, I realize this is an unusual example on expectations, and hopefully, as a small business owner you would never do anything close to this because you genuinely care about your customers.  You would instead, do the opposite and remind your customers of all the set expectations if you needed to. You would also respond in a timely manner to your customers’ concerns without defiance. Lastly, you would never focus on the problem. Rather, you would spend your energy on providing a solution versus defending your stance.

This incident reminds me of a large business conference I once attended many years ago where one of the marketing speakers recommended doing something unto someone else or taking something from them that was unbeknownst to them.  And, if they found out about it, you could always ask for forgiveness later. In other words, don’t ask first, just do it or take it, and if you get caught, just apologize. The problem with that mentality is that it is arrogant and shows a complete lack of respect for others. We are human beings. Let’s never forget that.

Any other thoughts on how to piss off your customers? Please leave your comments below.  By the way, biopsy results were negative.

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