By Doug Sheridan, EnergyPoint Research A lot of life is about expectations. When expectations are not met, people tend to react negatively. Business is the same way. While it might feel good to make lofty claims concerning the reliability, value, or benefit of our products or services, if doing so leads to unrealistic customer expectations, we’re doing ourselves and our customers a disfavor. One of the questions EnergyPoint gets most often concerning its survey results is why certain providers perceived as having strong technology fare so modestly, or even poorly, in our annual customer satisfaction rankings of oilfield suppliers. The answer has to do with who’s setting customers’ expectations around the technology — the company or its customers? If it’s the company making the claims, the low customer satisfaction in question likely stems from a perception that the company’s claims are unfounded or exaggerated. In other words, the company has overpromised and under-delivered, with low customer satisfaction the result. On the other hand, if a supplier has legitimately earned a strong reputation in the market place, evidenced by confirmation from existing customers that its technology is in fact value-adding, first-time customers will understandably have elevated expectations. If the supplier in fact provides the superior technology incoming customers expect, chances are they will be satisfied. Problems arise, however, when suppliers strong in one particular technology, product, or service make unfounded claims that their strengths automatically extend to other areas as well. We can think of at least one industry supplier that claims to have superior technology across multiple product and service lines despite evidence to the contrary. Again, it’s over-promising that hurts the company’s (and the industry’s) customer satisfaction. So, should top performing suppliers be concerned that their satisfied customers might become too accustomed to high levels of performance? In other words, by performing well on a regular basis, can the resulting high expectations of satisfied customers come back to haunt a company? No, just the opposite. Research shows customers with elevated expectations based on past positive experiences with a supplier are actually more forgiving than the typical customer. The supplier’s history of meeting expectations in the past creates, in effect, a reservoir of goodwill. Thus, psychologically, these customers tend to view an occasional poor performance by the supplier as an aberration. Clearly, managing customer expectations to realistic levels, and then working like hell to meet or exceed those expectations, is not something that comes easily to most growth-oriented organizations. It’s not in their DNA. Nonetheless, it can mean the difference between high levels of customer loyalty and crippling negative word-of-mouth. Still unconvinced that failing to meet customer expectations can be a problem for your organization? Click here to see the lengths a couple of very clever people went to document a poor experience they had at a hotel here in Houston years ago. It’s classic stuff that demonstrates, in a humorous manner, the lengths some customers will go to when dissatisfied.