Manager's Tips and Tools

by Manager Development Services

What are the Needs and Expectations of My Customer? (part 2 of 3)

All customers (whether external or internal) present two primary dilemmas for the business: “needs / wants” and “expectations.”  It is essential for anyone in dealing with any customer to discover the customer’s needs, deal with the wants, and make expectations realistic.

Needs / Wants:

The problem with “needs” is that often customers do not have a clear understanding of their “needs.”  Often, the customer has an idea of what they want to accomplish – to have happen – but does not know “how” to make it happen.  A customer’s “wants” are their emotional attachments to their “needs.”  At this point, assistance in determining what the customer’s real needs are is a valuable service to the customer.  We must understand the “wants” to discover the customer’s real “needs.”

Story #2: Larry’s Car

It started with the “need” for Cathy, my wife, to have a different vehicle in order to take our grandson various places when she watched him. At the time, her car was a two door, which made it very difficult for her to get him in and out of his car seat. Also, the backseat really didn’t have a very effective way to secure the car seat. With that in mind, I thought about having her drive my Ford Expedition and trading in her Explorer.

Since the Expedition is a large SUV, I thought of getting something fun (want) to drive as well as good on gas (need). I liked the white Saturn Sky sport car and thought that it would be nice to have something like that.

At the Saturn dealer, a rep came out and simply said (in a very bored tone) that it would take 8 to 12 months to get one. He then went on to say that the Pontiac dealer next door may have their version called a Solstice.

At the Pontiac dealer, a nicer rep came out and said that their car is hard to get, but should only take 4 to 12 weeks after an order is placed. I took a test drive in their one demo and was very pleased with the car. After returning from the test drive, I met with the rep and was told that the dealership was working on getting four cars from another dealer that had closed down.

It came down to both of us agreeing that she would keep me informed about the status of the vehicles.  I never heard back from her so I left a voice message. I eventually received a voice message stating that the status was the same and the rep would get back to me the following week.

I then realized I would need to look around outside of town if I was going to find one. That evening I went on the internet and found three other dealers that had the car I liked in red and in white. Red was what I was leaning towards. When I contacted these dealers the next morning (all out of the local area), one had already sold the car and another dealer had a car on its way, and I would be able to take delivery in two weeks. I finally contacted the fifth dealer with the white one.

Out of all the dealers I contacted, the one with the white car in stock was the only one that:

1.)  returned my phone calls in a prompt time frame.

2.)  really acted like they wanted my business – eager to serve.

3.)  asked questions discerning my needs and wants – interested in me (the customer) – imagine that!!!

4.)  discussed the benefits of white over red – not pushing it.

5.)  mentioned that they would be happy to locate a red one if I really didn’t want white.

6.)  offered me the best deal on my trade-in.

7.)  were truly enthusiastic in their approach to working with me, their “customer.”

My wife who was with me picking up the car even mentioned that someone must be really mentoring these young guys.

Bottom line:

I was very impressed with the level of service. I purchased the car there and it was a very enjoyable experience. This fifth dealer embodied the transformative model while the others followed the logistical model. It is interesting to me that the 80/20 rule was in effect again.


Customers base expectations on perceived product capabilities or service levels influenced by cultural values, marketing, advertising, and most of all…wishful thinking.  Unless a customer’s expectations are made realistic, “expected” outcome is often a “set-up” for disappointment.

(concept #8)

Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.

Having the best product or service on the market is irrelevant if the customer’s expectation of the product or service is unrealistic.  Once a customer is disappointed and a resentment develops, regaining trust and confidence is difficult.  There’s an old saying, “Word of mouth is the best advertising.”  But consider this; when a resentment has developed, word of mouth is the absolute worst advertising.  This is why it is so important to assist the customer in understanding the capabilities, and especially the limitations, of the product or service.

Whether external or internal, a customer’s expectations must be made realistic by the person servicing them.  This is essential if a healthy “working” relationship is to develop.  The first step in making expectations realistic is understanding the customer sees a completely different world than you.

(concept #9)

No one sees reality the way reality really is.

We only see reality the way we are.

Expectations are based on the customer’s perception of reality.  Understand: no one sees reality the way reality really is; we only see reality the way we are.  The way we view the world, and everything in it, is dictated by the sum total of our experiences and our interpretation of those experiences.

– excerpt from “The Manager as Engineer of the Work Environment”


March 14, 2010 - Posted by | Manager Development Tools | , , , ,

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