How to Create Realistic Expectations for Customers

Expectations Are My Responsibility, “The Buck Stops Here”

In March of this year I wrote about the home my architect niece is planning to build, using two grain bins. This project has been in the planning stage for several months and the dreaming/idea stage even longer. She and I discussed how we could both blog about this simultaneously from differing perspectives. This project is going be fun on a bunch of different levels.

Hannah posted her first blog at earlier this week. In that post she wrote about her reasons for delay in getting started writing.

As I read her post it got me to thinking about the reasons that things often don’t meet our expectations. I’m aware of several projects currently that customers are feeling this way. Some I’m involved in and some not. This sense of disappointment is way too normal, when it should be rare.

We need realistic expectations.


Why does this happen?There are several reasons for this issue and some simple solutions, that if done, would make expectations more realistic for everyone involved.

• Lack of or poor communication

I think this is the number one reason for unrealistic expectations. With most projects having so many moving pieces and different people involved it is next to impossible to set and maintain an accurate schedule. When things are proceeding slower than you would like if you were just updated it would help tremendously. This goes both directions – from the service providers and suppliers to the contractor and from the contractor to the customer. It is like waiting for your teenager to get home and they’re late. Your mind begins to go to all kinds of scenarios that rarely are even close to reality. Even though we know this, it doesn’t make us feel any better. Communication makes a huge difference.

Solution –
Be as realistic as possible at the start. Often, the customer expectations are unrealistic in the beginning. Many times, this is their first experience with this kind of project. It is the contractor’s responsibility to be as realistic as possible, even if we know the customer doesn’t want to hear it. When things aren’t meeting the expectations; make the call, go by the job, let all parties know what’s going on. I know that delivering unwanted news isn’t what you want to do. The longer you wait, the worse it will be.


There’s a lot of room for improving communication.

Here are some additional posts about this comunication – 

Can Communicating Too Much, Be Too Much?
The Importance of Good Communication
What We’ve Got Here, Is A Failure to Communicate


My expectations for this week’s post weren’t realistic. This is a case in point. I thought I could write this in a couple of hours this morning…didn’t happen. With the size of this issue and to cover it properly I kept writing and writing and writing. Finally, I decided it needs to be split into more than one post.

Next week I will post “How To Create Realistic Expectations for Customers – Part 2”

It will cover –

  • Everything taking longer than you think
  • Saying yes to too many things
  • Details are worth the wait


Who knows, by next week I might come up with more. If you think of any additional reasons, feel free to share them in the comments.


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