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Mind the (Service) Gap

by Randall Craig on August 24, 2010

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Retention

Tagged as: ,

How often have you been disappointed by an experience with a supplier? When it happens, it is usually because of a very basic problem: a gap between your expectations of service (or quality), and their expectations when delivering the service. Reducing frustration and disappointment is easy… if only you could get rid of that pesky gap.

Here are some ideas:

1) Set reasonable expectations: You expect five-star service at a five-star restaurant – but what is a reasonable service level for a three-star diner? (Hint: not five-star!) Often, we set ourselves up for disappointment by unreasonably expecting more than a supplier is capable of providing.

2) Communicate your requirements: Too often, a gap exists merely because the two parties don’t understand what each needs. Does “next in line” mean a 10 minute wait, or an hour? Ensure that there is understanding by being clear about your requirements, and finding out beforehand if there may be a problem.

3) Solve problems early: For larger “transactions” find ways to monitor the progress periodically. If there seems to be an issue, it’s always less expensive – and less frustrating –
to address it earlier in the process.

When we reduce the gap to zero, and exceed client’s expectations, an interesting thing begins to happen: our great performance becomes the new norm. Then to exceed this new norm requires even stronger performance. And so on. While some may see this as a problem, the opposite is true: we have created a virtuous cycle where the mere interaction with others causes us to improve.

This week’s action plan: Whenever you communicate with others, you are either setting an expectation, or delivering against it. Before you blame others for disappointing (or frustrating) you, consider your role in the matter: did you set reasonable expectations, communicate your requirements, and solve problems early?

Social Media bonus idea: Expectations are set in the Social Media world as well. This Tipsheet comes out every Friday, and has for almost six years. What expectation am I setting in readers minds? Consider your own Social Media posts: if you were reading them, what implicit promises are you making? What expectations are you setting? Set the right expectations, and you’ll never have to worry about the gap.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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