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  • Jill Helmer

Managing Expectations During a Heat Wave

In the middle of the Northeast heat wave this week, our upstairs AC took a summer vacation. We promptly called the repair company and began two straight days of visits to solve our issue. Currently, we are sitting in a 71 degree house, upstairs and downstairs. It feels good but that is not my reason for sharing. 


In this process, I was struck by something. The third technician who came out to our home, during the fourth visit from his company in 36 hours, discovered another issue with our system. This issue was not something that he could fix today, so he shared with me that he was going to do his best to "patch it up" and get us to Thursday when they could repair in full. You might imagine that this news was not what I wanted to hear and those of you who know me well understand that I don't play poker successfully. So as I repeated his words back to him (slowly because I was processing them and my emotions at the same time:), he looked me in the eye and shook his head in affirmation. The information was not what I wanted to hear, but it was what I needed to hear. It reminded me of my training with Andersen Consulting so many years ago...always manage the expectations of a client. 


This technician set the bar low enough that I was thrilled to come back from a basketball game tonight and see 72 degrees on the thermostat. And even if the temperature doesn't hold, I will remember that he told me his fix may not work. There is too little of this in our world today. We all want to hear (me included) that the person in front of us can fix it fast and now. And so I believe we "train" the sales person or repair person to tell us what we want to hear vs. what we need to hear. The other service people that had been out before him left each time with a "flex of the muscles" and a "see ya later" wave. One of them had to ring my doorbell three times in the last 36 hours with his head hanging low, because he had not managed my expectations and had led me to believe my AC was fixed with each departure. 


Moral of the story: be the professional who shares the information that the client needs to hear, even when it is difficult. They will respect you if your expectations are realistic and they will be delighted if you happen to exceed them.

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