Managing Customer Expectations

By Tom Reilly, author of Value-Added Selling

Customer satisfaction is a function of how you perform vis-à-vis the customer’s expectations. Satisfaction is often expressed numerically as a ratio: performance to expectations. Customer satisfaction is an attitude and attitude drives behavior, including retention which is a measure of the likelihood that someone returns as a repeat customer. So, what affects expectations?

Promises. Salespeople trade in promises. It is the currency of the profession. When salespeople over-promise and under-deliver, the result is predictable—dissatisfied customers. When salespeople under-promise and over-deliver, customers are surprised. But, here’s the problem: If you under-promise, as some gurus suggest, will you ever get the buyer excited enough to become a customer? Under-promising lowers expectations, but who buys something expecting the least from the experience? Over-promising raises expectations, and these expectations may be unrealistically high. Is that a good idea? No. So, what’s answer?

Promise a lot and deliver more.

Managing customer expectations means promising a lot but delivering more. Promise only what you can deliver. Even a loyal customer misled by a salesperson that over-promises will abandon the seller once they fail to perform. There is no reason to dumb down the customer’s expectations unless you feel that your solution will not deliver on your promises.

Managing expectations is as important as monitoring your performance. Buyers want equity—they want to feel that they get at least as good as they give. Equity strikes a balance between expectations and performance. Promise a lot and deliver more.

Tom Reilly is literally the guy who wrote the book on Value-Added Selling, (McGraw-Hill). You many visit him online at

Specialists in Value-Added Sales Training