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The DBAs Guide to Expectation Management

Your customers expectations are their primary measure of your success. How well are you managing them?

You’re reading The DBAs Guide to Expectation Management, day 4 of 5 Days to Outstanding DBA Customer Service. What prompted this journey into exploring what is Outstanding Customer Service for the Data Professional?  Good Question.  You can find exactly why in day 1 here.

Juggling expectations

"Juggling expectations"

Why Expectation Management?

From a customer perspective there’s nothing worse than not knowing what’s going on with your project or query. We’ve all been in this position ourselves at one time or another. You start asking yourself questions and having thoughts such as:

  • Has my query been received? I’ve not heard anything back in some time.
  • When can I expect delivery?
  • How long is the project going to take?
  • Is anyone even looking at my query?
  • I wonder what’s going on with my project.

“In your clients mind, their level of satisfaction with you is determined entirely by how close you have come to their expectations.”

It should be clear then that managing your customers expectations effectively is an essential requirement to providing outstanding customer service. If neglected, your service level will only ever be perceived as something short of satisfactory. Is that what you really want?

How to Manage Your Customers Expectations

Managing expectations is about ensuring your customer:

  • Understands and is aware of precisely what service you are providing.
  • Understands what your communication process is. How you can be contacted. How you will contact them.
  • Is always aware of the current status of their project/query.

You can formally achieve this by:

1. Setting Expectations

Expectations can be set by a wide variety of means. Whether in conversation, defined by action, formal process documentation or even something the customer picked up from somewhere else. Understand that not all expectation setting is under your direct control. All the more reason to ensure you are confident of your own setting of expectations.

2. Capturing / Monitoring Expectations

There’s no way for you to know what the expectation setting is if you don’t search for and record it. With internal customers, like for many DBAs, this can be as straightforward as discussing what the current expectations are with them. Alternatively, consider if the customer were a client for a consulting engagement. Then certain expectations may require more subtlety in order to establish, such as dropping hints or clues.

3. Influencing Expectations

Once we know what the expectations of our customers are we now need to make sure that both theirs and ours are in alignment. This is what our managers are talking about when they say to  “manage their expectations”.  There may be no adjustments required but if there are, you will need to engage your customers directly to influence their expectations. Consider also that it may even be our own expectations that need adjustment.

Exceeding their Expectations

Providing outstanding customer service requires more than just managing expectations well. It’s about surpassing them. Demonstrating a high level of professionalism and showing your customers that they are important to you. We’ll look at this and more in the next post in the series, Day 5 - Taking it to The Next Level.

Managed customer expectations are what drive your success. Everything else is secondary. I hope that you can use the guidance provided here to assist you on your path to achieving outstanding customer service.

John Sansom - SQL Server DBA in the UK

John Sansom (Blog | Twitter) is a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) of SQL Server and publisher of the free SQL community ebook DBA JumpStart, an inspiring collection of advice for Data Professionals, written by 20 SQL Server experts. Awarded the Microsoft Community Contributor(MCC) award, John is a prolific blogger and can be found regularly writing about SQL Server and Professional Development over at www.johnsansom.com.


Posted by Steve Jones on 1 April 2011

Excellent comments. I would argue that setting those expectations first and up front is the most important thing, but the idea of not forgetting about the expectations and continuing to monitor and work on improving them over time is a good idea.

Posted by John Sansom on 1 April 2011

Thanks Steve.

Absolutely. The journey is a whole lot easier if you start out on the right path.

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