I was consulting for a luxury car dealership not knowing what to expect. I'm one of those people who think "just get me from point A to point B - fancy hubcaps won't make it drive better". I drive an economical car and don't really lean towards branding. I wondered if that belief would be swayed at this first visit. Here's what happened.
Being a woman of a certain age, the first thing I did was to check out the restroom. I was delighted to see one of those motion sensor garbage cans where you wave your hand over the can and it magically opens. I have one of those in my kitchen. Wow! Now that is class! They don't have that at my dealership.
Well, much to my distress, the motion sensor did not work; maybe the batteries were dead. I had to touch that yucky trash can to discard my paper towel.
If I bought a car here, I mused on how my car would be handled in the service bay. I mean, they had trouble maintaining a simple garbage can. How is this luxury dealership even better than my economical one?
Here's what really happened.
At the sight of the motion sensor, I had an automatic expectation. Trash cans were not even on my radar or why I was there. Yet, this first impression of the dealership informed my perceptions and became the first foundation of my relationship.
I have to tell you that these luxury cars were pretty impressive. Despite that, my thoughts about the garbage can kept coming back. They were not aware of my reaction or how another potential client might react. They were busy doing other things than checking batteries in a restroom.
It is human nature to notice when our expectations are not met early in a relationship. Then doubts creep in. Can you spot what small unmet expectation might erode the relationship you have with others? Or are you busy taking care of business? After all, met or unmet expectations are the foundation.
Hubby should open the door for me like when we dated. My boss always gives us a Christmas bonus and throws us a generous party. When the job is bigger than outlined, I feel some resentment unless we talk about it and renegotiate. My kids expect me to drive them when there is a snow storm so they don't freeze at the bus stop and I expect them to show gratitude for this small service. And, fancy trash cans should work.
In your valued relationships, how do you know what they expect? Making sure little dissatisfactions are being resolved pronto is part of good relationship building.
What can you do?
Ask them about how things are going between you. Is there anything surprising or that is missing from what they anticipated? It may be outside your comfort zone to ask such a question, but it can open the floodgates of communication.
Whatever they say, thank them for honestly letting you know. Now you have the data you need to make things better, if you can. Here's what's interesting. Many times, they will apologize for even bringing it up because it suddenly seems inconsequential to them. That is probably because they needed to be acknowledged and feel validated. Receiving their complaint with grace and gratitude will go far in elevating your value to them. Often, without needing to change anything that has happened.
When we are going at 500 miles an hour, trying to stand out in a competitive market and hold onto customers while keeping our best people excited, there is no time for complacency. Good relationship building is a pro-active endeavour.
It important to review the experience and memory you want them to have around you and what you want it to mean to them. Be curious to their expectations.
That is the recipe for long term relationships. Give new people who are entering your life or business world what they expect. And if you can change the batteries; DO IT!