|Managing expectations is one of the fundamental building blocks of service. And we are all in the service business.
A dozen years ago, before the airline passenger bill of rights, examples of long flight delays without explanation or recourse made the news . I was on a flight once where the pilot came on the intercom saying they needed to return the plane to the gate because a faulty part was discovered. I was glad the problem was discovered before the flight took off.
The pilot said it should be short delay. He then went silent for two hours, while worries about missed connections and getting home late mounted. After the first hour, our patience was wearing thin, and some passengers began to pressure the flight attendants for some answers. When the work was done, the pilot announced the problem was fixed and we would be pushing back. "So please take your seats." He apologized for the delay, but it was too little, too late.
What went wrong? We all expected the delay was going to be "short" as announced. That meant far less than the two hours that expired. The pilot committed a cardinal sin of service, not being candid with us and not keeping us informed.
I contrast this with a recent flight where during a similar maintenance issue, the pilot gave us 15 minute updates, whether or not he had new information. He also told us that connecting flights would wait wherever possible and agents were standing by to help us. It's hard to be angry when you're being informed and feel involved in the process.
Things don't always go right on projects and assignments, and delays occur. But how you manage expectations is critical to customer satisfaction, whether inside or outride the organization. In fact, the brand of your organization may be a stake.