Expectations: Managing Them is Critical | The Zebra Blog

Expectations: Managing Them is Critical

a man talking and gesturing to two women

Every customer has an expectation when buying a product or service. Most of us don’t even think about expectations… until there is a problem with the product or service we have paid our hard-earned money for.

In real estate sales the expectations are numerous. We have all worked with buyers who expect you to find them their perfect house for the least amount of money possible; they expect to write a low offer and have you do your magic and get it accepted. Sellers expect you to walk in their home and agree with them that their home is worth a lot more than what the neighbors just sold their home for. They might expect you to list their home and have it sold within the week with multiple offers resulting in an above full price offer.

The reality is that everyone has expectations, but it is our job as real estate professionals to manage those expectations. It is your job not only to tell sellers their home may not be worth more than their neighbors, but also be able to explain why. Also, it is your job to set realistic expectations for the buyer who believes they can buy a mansion on a starter home budget. Honest communication and open discussion is essential when setting realistic expectations.      

Let me share a recent experience I had with a car rental company which illustrates my point. Recently I found myself needing to rent a car while I was attending my daughter’s equestrian event. My daughter had driven to the event with her trainer and her horse, and I was going to fly in and meet them. My flight arrived at 9:15 am and her event was at 11:00 am. The equestrian center was 25 minutes from the airport. So, when I booked the car I phoned the rental car company to make sure I could get the car in time to make the event. I was concerned about the line at the rental counter and was assured that there would only be an 8 to 10 minute line at most, as they had plenty of staff at the airport location. My first expectation was that I would not have to wait longer than 10 minutes, but I even planned for 30 minutes in case there was a longer line. I had given myself a nice long buffer and, because I didn’t check any luggage, I felt very confident that I had more than enough time to make it to her event. The rental car company also told me that I could go directly to their Gold Members line if the other line was long.

  • Expectation #1: Because I had phoned the rental car company and told them of my time crunch, they had set up an expectation that I would have no problem getting my car quickly.
  • Expectation # 2: When I asked about how a long line would be handled I was assured that they had plenty of staff and that my wait time would be only 8 to 10 minutes.  I expected to see enough staff at the rental counter to handle any line.
  • Expectation# 3: I expected to be dealt with professionally and in a timely manner.

Each of these expectations is reasonable and what anyone renting a car should be able to expect, especially when they had called ahead to check.

Unfortunately my expectations were not met.

I arrived at the rental car company and noticed that there was only one person behind the counter. My first expectation was immediately challenged, as there were clearly not enough staff to serve the people in line in a timely manner. When looking around at the other car rental companies, I noticed that they all had between 3 and 5 staff members working their front counters. I decided to remain calm and wait and see what would happen. At the 10 minute mark another staff member appeared much to my relief.

However, the second staff member was fairly slow and did nothing to alleviate my wait. The gold members line, which had been given to me as an alternative, was closed with no personnel to help. We were now at the 25 minute mark and the line had hardly moved. At 35 minutes I was anxious. Then, after waiting 50 minutes I was not only anxious, I was downright upset as my window of opportunity for making my daughter’s riding event was rapidly closing. The lady behind me was crying because she was late for an Oncologist appointment that she had flown in for. Although the tension in the line was palatable, still only two people were there to help us. That is until the third staff member came out. He slowly sauntered up to the counter, texting on his phone. In fact, he didn’t even open his counter right away lest his texting be disturbed.

When I finally got to the counter at the 55 minute mark, I shared my frustration that I had phoned in ahead of time to avoid the exact situation I was now in, and needed to hurry or I would miss my daughter’s event. Rather than apologize (which was my expectation) he actually said to me, “Well, you are not the ONLY important person in this line” with a condescending tone.

Since I had now officially passed the point of being able to get to my daughter’s event without speeding and possibly hurting myself or others, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would miss her event. I not only wanted to cry because I had just flown all this way to see her ride and was now going to miss it, but I was furious that this person felt he had the right to be so rude.

I asked to speak with his manager who then came out to the counter. As I was explaining the situation to the manager the agent who was “helping” me originally piped up again and continued to be rude. Unfortunately the manager didn’t appropriately deal with his agent. I could see that the manager was not strong enough to handle the situation and frankly I didn’t have the time time deal with it anymore. So I took my car and drove to see my daughter. And yes, I did miss her event.

Every expectation I had regarding my car rental experience wasn’t met. To top it off, I was treated very rudely and I decided I would NEVER rent from this company again.

But expectations go two ways. If an expectation is not met we lose trust in a company. But if an expectation is surpassed we gain trust. When I returned the rental car I expected to go in, hand over the keys, pay my bill and be on my way. But a funny thing happened when I returned the car…

As I was paying for my car, the woman behind the counter asked me about my experience with the company. I wasn’t in the mood to get into it and I just wanted to get away from this whole experience. So, when I answered her I only said, “It was okay.” She looked at me and said, “That is not good. Okay is mediocre.” And then she asked, “What happened? Why was it only okay?”

This agent not only took the time to notice something was wrong, but also asked me further questions about my experience. And when I told her the story, she immediately picked up the phone and called her head office and explained the whole experience to them. I was quite impressed with this (as this was not the expectation given my previous experience) and I appreciated her taking the time to do it.

This agent took my keys, refused to take my money and told me she would be working with the head office to lodge the complaint on my behalf. Wow, I wasn’t expecting that! And certainly I wasn’t expecting not to pay for my rental car. But expectations are a funny thing… I went from NEVER wanting to use this company again to having a great deal of respect for the way they handled my situation.

Although there is no amount of money that could make up for my missing my daughter’s event, I did appreciate the company trying to do the right thing.

In real estate you have buyer and seller expectations that need to be managed. And if you find a buyer or seller withdrawing from you, or perhaps not answering your calls, you might want to ask them what expectations they might have that you did not meet. When you can manage expectations you can help your clients have a positive experience with you. In the event you do not meet their expectations, then listen and try to correct the situation for your client. Or set their expectations straight, if it is a matter of their expectations being loftier that what is reasonable to deliver. People are naturally forgiving when you take the time to do the right thing.

Remember! Expectations go both ways and surpassing your clients’ expectations will set you up for a long and fruitful relationship with them. Every time you walk into a seller’s home or meet with a buyer ask yourself what you can do to exceed their expectations.


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