How to Manage Expectations

expectations productivity Sep 21, 2021
How to Manage Expectations

If you don't have expectations, you can't manage the expectations.

Expectations are critical.

They serve you and your clients, prospects, friends, and your family.

Most people, if they even have expectations, they keep them in their head. They haven't told anybody what their expectations are.

Do you have expectations that are only in your head? That you've never let anybody know about? When others don't meet your expectations, do you get upset?

Here are some ideas about setting expectations.

Let's do the easy one first: new customers, friends, acquaintances, or colleagues. These are the most accessible people to set expectations for because they don't have a history with you. So when you say, Here are my expectations. They go, Okay. Because they don't think, Wait a minute. Last week you did this. Or, Last year you did this.

And then there is everybody else: your current customers, family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc. These are people which you, in all likelihood, never set any expectations for. When you start setting expectations, they're likely to give you some pushback.

Getting down into the dirt.

Let's say people contact you via email or DM. If you don't set expectations, people will assume that when they email you or when they send you a DM, they're going to have their expectations in their mind about how quickly you should reply.

It seems everybody looks at instant messaging or direct messaging as if, Well, if I send Sharon a DM, well, I know she's looking at her phone, in great anticipation of me DMing her. But Sharon's not doing that. The sender thinks she is, but she's not. Part of the problem is when people DM or text people today, they expect a speedy reply.

With email, the reply is a little longer, but not by much. I want you to think about what expectations you want to set for your clients and prospects.

I teach my clients is to set these expectations early, like before they even sign on as a client. You tell them, For email, please allow 48 to 72 hours, or 24 to 48 hours (or whatever time frame you pick), before you get a reply from me. If you email me on a Friday, allow up to 96 hours (because you probably don't work on the weekends). If they know this upfront, they won't email you Monday at 10 am and wonder why, at 11:01 am on Monday, they haven't received a reply from you. You've already set the expectations that it will be 24, 48, 72, whatever number you pick.

Same with text messages. If you tell your clients to text you, please set the expectation for when you reply. "Please allow 4 to 8 hours for my reply." Again, you get the pick those numbers. 

A warning.

If you set the expectation, you will reply to email correspondence within 48 to 72 hours, and you find yourself caught up on your work, but it's only been four hours, resist replying. Because when you do, you may very well reset their expectations. They may not remember the expectations you set. They're going to remember how quickly you just replied.

Same with text messages. If you tell people to expect a reply from you in four to six hours and do it in 30 minutes, you reset their expectations. 

I know this is difficult to do in an age when the Internet is on 24/7/365, and you can receive emails or text messages any hour of the day, including holidays, vacations. Resist, resist, resist. It's going to serve you and them in the long run.

Whatever expectations you set, please honor them. Don't reply too early or too late. Instead, have a window. For example, don't say "within 60 minutes", instead say "within one to three hours." Give yourself a buffer window in case you get a whole bunch of emails or texts, or something else happens. People are understanding, but you've got to give yourself a big enough window.

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