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Do you know what you promise, and do you live up to expectations?

It was 19 o’clock and we had gone into town to first eat and then walk down to the northern harbor. They promised a sound and light show with hot air balloons. There was a winter festival and lots of activities going on, including hot air balloon rides over the city and archipelago.

We thought the show was exciting, and it turns out we weren’t the only ones who thought so. My guess is that a little over a thousand people were gathered on the ice and on the quay to participate in this show.

We waited, and waited. The clock passed and nothing happened. People started to look curious and some walked away. After a while, vehicles came driving over the ice. They unloaded baskets and balloons from their trailers, and then began to inflate the balloons.

It got a bit cold standing there waiting. Everyone had probably expected that what was advertised as a 19:00 show would start at 19:00 and not that they would roll in with their cars at 19:10. Even more people started to leave the area as they were probably freezing.

In my mind, I had an image of the balloons floating 30-40 meters in the air, with a mix of pulsating music and other sound effects, with maybe a laser or something lighting up the balloons and the sky. So my expectation level was about there. The rest of the family was about the same level, so we stayed put, dancing lightly to keep warm.

The balloons were inflated with the burners and slowly rose up. The tension increased.

Then they stood there, the balloons, straight up. Then we heard someone walking around down there on the ice with a horn. One of those that some people have at sporting events, powered by gas. Tut-tut-tut-tut, it sounded. Then we see that the burners on the two balloons “respond” with a svoch-svoch-svoch, which caused hot air to rise and the balloons to stay inflated.

This was repeated three to four times, and then the balloons were lowered again… That was the end of the “sound and light show”, or whatever you want to call it.

We stood there confused. But when they started packing up the balloons, we knew it was time to go home. Still confident, we left the area and we were obviously not alone in this feeling, because there was a lot of chatter between people.

What does it look like in your business; do your customers, whatever you call them, have the same expectations of what you deliver to them as you do? What have you “promised” them in your communication (marketing) and how does it match with what you actually deliver?

It is definitely worth checking what products you deliver and what you communicate about them. And yes, even the public sector has products. This is what you deliver to your customers, whatever you call them.

It is through knowing your products that also allows you to be clear in your description of what you are delivering. This ensures that expectations are at the right level.

If it’s at the wrong level, then it’s easy for the corresponding expectation of pulsating music, lasers and floating balloons to be disappointed by tut-tut-tut and svosch-svosch-svosch for a few minutes.

According to the Shaper of Business Excellence improvement methodology, the identification and description of business products is done in both phase 3 and phase 4. All to create clarity, which in turn creates the right expectations. This in turn means, firstly, that you yourself have something to develop further to add more value. And, secondly, ensure that you don’t have to deal with disappointed customers.

Are you interested in learning more about the Shaper of Business Excellence methodology? Check out our website for the Certified Improvement Manager training. New course starts in September.