Published: 6 months ago

What Expectations Are You Setting?

Imagine a scenario with me, will you?

You’re out to dinner with a group of friends. It’s not a particularly huge group of people, but it’s not a small gathering either. Let’s say that there are fourteen at your table. After being seated everyone examines the menu, narrows their meal choices down to their top three, and plays the “What are you going to get” game with the person sitting next to them.

With fourteen people, fourteen meals, and one solitary member of a waitstaff, what expectation do you have? In a group that size and an order that large, something is going to get lost in translation, right? The sandwich that should’ve had mustard instead of mayo…it’s going to have mayo. The friend who wanted to sub in sweet potato fries instead of the regular shoestring fries…they’re going to have to send the shoestrings back. We have certain expectations in certain situations, and when those expectations come true, they’re not as annoying as they are predictable.

But now imagine that your waiter comes to take your order. You notice that he’s focused: narrowed in like a laser beam listening to every special request. He repeats each order back as each member of the dinner party gives it. But then you notice something else…he’s not writing anything down. He’s conducting fourteen separate verbal transactions, juggling umpteen special requests in his mind, and answering six random questions from the two people in your group who insist “I’m not ready…come back to me.”

When you realize that he’s committing your entire table to memory and nothing else, something else happens. Your expectation gets turned on its head, and you have one of two thoughts: either He’s totally going to mess this up or This is going to be epic if he pulls this off.

Something similar happened to me recently, and I chose the latter expectation. Here are three things I learned from that encounter…things you can apply to the guest services ethos at your church:

1. Expectations shouldn’t be trumpeted.

At no point did our server say “Here’s what’s about to happen, folks: I’m going to take your order, but I’m not writing it down. I’m going to use my mind powers to wow you and get a 35% tip.” Nope, he simply did his thing and if we noticed, we noticed. His focus was on making our experience a good one, not on telling us how epic the experience would be. Application: as churches, how many times do we promise that THIS WILL BE THE BEST EVENT OF YOUR LIFE? Statistically, that can happen once. And yours probably ain’t it. 

2. A high bar demands high delivery. 

When our server started his schtick, he set himself apart from 98% of the other servers in any other restaurant I’ve ever been to. Because he did something special, I expected something special. But if he ended up getting 100% of our orders wrong, I might have been the first to buy the kid a notepad and a pencil and tell him to start writing. Application: in your church, underpromise. Then overdeliver. Don’t position yourself in a way that you can’t follow through. 

3. A “wow” experience makes the small things forgivable. 

Spoiler alert: the experience wasn’t flawless. Our server had to come back to the table to clarify my side item. My son’s burger didn’t have the bacon that the menu promised (and arguably, that was probably the kitchen’s fault). But we were so impressed with all the things he got right that we were more than willing to overlook what he got wrong. To pull one of my favorite quotes from The Power of Moments, “To maximize customer satisfaction…you don’t want to be perfect. You want to get two things wrong, have the customer bring those mistakes to your attention, and then hustle like mad to fix those problems.” Application: in our churches, do we do the normal so well that the abnormal is easily overlooked by our guests?


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