Setting the proper expectations

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Whether you’re the business owner of an IT support company or whether you work in an organization’s IT department, it is essential that you learn the skills of expectation setting.

Many frustrations occur when expectations aren’t properly set. Clients (whether they’re external or internal) need to understand what they can expect from their technology, and it is up to you to set that expectation correctly.

For example, imagine your organization is going to change to a brand new wireless network. You announce this to everyone in a proud all-users e-mail. “We’re going to changing out to a brand new wireless internet system that will be 10 times better than the last current one!”. When users hear this, they immediately think of faster speeds. They don’t think about congestion, they don’t think about reliability, they don’t think about packet loss, they don’t think about collisions, they don’t think about security. All they think about is speed. What happens if the change isn’t speed related, but is done for congestion reasons ? Or security reasons ? Or because the new controller on the back-end is easier to manage and work with for systems administrators ? Once you’ve made the change, and users don’t see a dramatic improvement in speed, they get angry and ask what’s going on. Then you’re left trying to explain why the change was made and that they shouldn’t have expected any faster speeds. Trust me, I’ve been in this situation and there is no happy ending.

In a previous post of mine, I talked about a client that had 5 physical servers for a 4 workstation office. The way this infrastructure was sold (as was explained to me by the staff there) is that it provided complete redundancy. “If anything happened to one of the servers, the others would take over and you would notice nothing!”. Yes, while server clustering is a great feature and can make sense in the right environment, it doesn’t necessarily provide 100% redundancy, and certainly wouldn’t have in this particular configuration (in actuality, there was no clustering setup what-so-ever). However, the expectation of the staff when this was sold (no doubt utilizing large, grandiose sales promises) was that nothing could ever happen that would bring the network down. This wasn’t the case, as they experience numerous outages and problems before calling my company in.

You need to make sure that expectations are correctly set. When they aren’t, people get frustrated, angry, and start to become distrustful. Remember, you can always over-deliver on expectations without negative repercussions; you can’t do the same when under-delivering.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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