Speaker | Entrepreneur | Author

Sam Davidson's blog

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When Expectations Aren't Met

What happened today? I bet it was detailed.

People never talk about the McDonald's order that wasn't messed up. Or the same songs that were on the radio for the drive to work and the drive home. Or the 5K that was average. Or the laundry detergent that cleans like the bottle promised. Or the donation experience that got them a feeling of satisfaction, along with a standard appreciation letter.

Well, maybe they do, but those conversations are boring, and no one's listening.

People only talk about one thing: when their expectations are not met. Often, this is when things go wrong and their expectations aren't met because they received less than they expected. The bags got lost during the connection in Dallas; they forgot the fries at Burger King; the musician didn’t play two of his best songs at the show; their building isn't properly marked so I got lost; the woman at the mall was so rude.

People love to talk about this stuff. It doesn't do anything for your brand or your business as viral stories like this get told and retold, getting worse with each rendition. As a result, you get branded among a certain group, and you may not even know it.

You can try to fix this and pay attention to every media outlet, every social networking site, and every conversation in the coffee shop. And then you can apologize, set the record straight, and hope that they'll come back and buy something again. Good luck with that.

People also talk about when their expectations aren't met, but are rather exceeded. They got a whole can of Coke on the flight; the jewelry store owner called and thanked me for buying the engagement ring and asked how the wedding planning was going; the CEO of the nonprofit sent me a handwritten note, even though I only coughed up $20; the singer covered a song I thought she could never pull off and amazed the entire crowd; the person at the store remembered my name.

People also love to talk about this. They like when they're treated like royalty. Of course royalty and the perception of royalty are two different things. And, to treat someone like royalty only takes about three minutes by my calculation. The beauty of being in this second grouping of missed expectations is that you've also got a slew of viral stories being told about you. But, you don’t have to do anything to correct it or fix it or slow it down. And the cost was very close to $0.

Zappos does this. So does my mom. And there's probably a million stories like this out there.

What makes shopping and flying and eating such a hassle these days is that people are so afraid of being in the first group, so they standardize things so they have a smaller chance of screwing up. But, by doing this, there's no chance they’ll ever be in the second group.

If you don't want to run the risk of being talked about, then all you have to do is meet expectations, take the money, and go home. But, if you want to grow, thrive and succeed for the long haul, you'll need to dream a bit bigger and see what you can do to get people talking.

Let's face it: the day is in the details.