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What on earth did you expect?

When I read through this brilliant report the theme that kept popping up for me was around ‘expectations’.

The expectations we have of one another

The expectations we have of ourselves

The expectations we have of the service we receive for the money we spend

The expectations we make up in the absence of any information.

So, in this little article I want to talk to you about ...

Your Chimp.

You weren’t expecting that were you?

The Chimp is a character created by Dr. Steve Peters in his amazing book ‘The Chimp Paradox’ - a recommended read.

The Chimp represents a really old part of the brain called the Amygdala, also known as our emotional centre. It’s the part that causes the fight, flight or freeze response most of us have heard about.

You see, everything we do creates an emotional response in others even though we often don’t realise it. When things go as we expect, our Chimp (the emotional centre of our brain) stays calm and we are lovely to each other (well maybe not lovely, but we are decent human beings).

When things don’t go as we expect in a less positive way or we don’t hear from others when we expect to, our Chimp either starts to play up (coming across as annoyed) or goes berserk (losing its temper, shouting, sometimes swearing and maybe thumps the table, definitely writes a stinky complaint and gives you an appalling review).

So it’s best to manage expectations and you can do that through fine-tuning your communications, considering the Chimp and just thinking for a moment - what would I expect and if I expect this or that why on earth am I treating my clients differently.

Let’s take a few examples.

Why on earth don’t you keep me updated?

It’s never been easier to communicate and sometimes it can be plain annoying with the range and intensity of communication one receives everyday. There is no escape. I can call (not so popular with the younger generations!), email, WhatsApp, slack, tweet, insta ... the list goes on.

As consumers we are often given the option to track our parcel delivery, track the route we are taking with our Uber driver and track the progress with our pizza order…. So why can’t we track the progress of our house purchase, divorce or partnership agreement?

A real time progress clock as part of an app is not necessary, a simple email or telephone call will be fine thank you. We don’t expect any fancy communication, we just want to know.

Here’s why.

When most of us get involved with anything legal we’re nervous, Clare’s 2020 What Client's Want research described how clients had less positive emotions at the start of their journey with you.

Most of us don’t know what’s involved in the work you do, we don’t know how long things take, what we are expected to do and that makes us anxious. We seem to be OK with this uncertainty if you keep us informed that everything is going as planned, or it’s not going as planned but here’s what you are doing about it.

But not to hear is the equivalent of handing our Chimp a can of RedBull!

Here’s why.

When we don’t hear from you when you said you would contact us or when we expect to hear from you we fear the worst is happening.

This is because of something called ‘Negativity bias’ - we are wired to think the worst in the absence of any communication so that we are prepared for survival. I realise that this sounds daft, but that’s how we are wired.

Here’s what to do.

Contact us when you say you will, even if it’s to say that there is no progress to report right now, but we will be in touch in three days with an update. While this point might seem like a nonsense - you might be thinking I don’t have time to keep people updated, I need to get on with the actual work, it takes more time, I am strongly recommending that the Chimps will be grateful (and so will your colleagues) when you set a little reminder in your calendar to send a message or make a call.

The juggling act!

Our perception of time and how we use it has changed dramatically in the last two years. Many of us have been working from home, home schooling, looking after older relatives and trying to juggle all of the issues that come with the Pandemic itself. This means that time is even more precious and our behaviour as consumers has changed dramatically as a consequence. We want to be able to contact you, have our questions answered and we don’t want to wait long for a response.

We became a 24/7 society well before the Pandemic. We saw a growth of chatbots, the introduction of more self service online and also better organised FAQ so that we could obtain answers to common questions easily (and those answers were in plain English so that we could understand them).

Not only do we expect you to be available into the evening, we expect you to be on-hand for part of the weekend too. We don’t think that’s unreasonable as other companies we use in other aspects of our lives do this and why wouldn’t you?

Let’s face it, the weekdays are busy and we need to really focus, we need to be present when we talk to you because:

  • We expect that you’ll tell us something important and we want to hear it properly so that we can respond appropriately. We don’t want to get anything wrong.

  • You might expect us to answer questions or find more documentation and we want to get this right too.

If you call me while I am on a call or in a zoom meeting and I wasn’t expecting you to it’s likely that the Chimp will start to feel unsettled. Why are you calling now? Is everything OK? If you are there when I want to speak to you and I can call you back when I know I can focus, the Chimp is quiet.

We can’t drop everything when you call as more often than not our calls are scheduled and we’re in meetings, so it’s best to schedule a time for us to speak, send an email so I can answer it when I am focused and let me call you back when there is some peace, quiet and the ability for me to focus (which is often when the children have gone to bed and before Strictly starts!)

It would be brilliant if the scores on communication look more positive in next year’s research results and so I invite you to look at just two things - manage my expectations and make sure that I can contact you when it works for me. We don’t expect you to take a call at 1am any day but we do expect you to consider how busy we are and the benefits of having a shorter, considered and focused conversation.

Keep the Chimp happy and off the RedBull we say. It’s not difficult to do but it does mean that you’ll need to refresh your expectations of one another and be explicit in the way you manage the expectations of your clients.

They will thank you for it.

This article features in our 2021 What Clients Want Research. For details on how to access the report click here:

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