Great Expectations… a good or a bad thing?

Emma T - 25 th July 2019

The affect of expectations on Customer experience

Without a doubt our expectations affect how we feel about an experience, so a brand must understand and manage the expectations of their customers.

However, many brands do not have insight into what customers expect from the sector in which they operate, let alone their brand or their customer experience, and even if they do have insights they don’t take them through each point of the customer journey. Even more worryingly, many make the classic mistake of overpromising and underdelivering!

Understanding expectations

A common mistake is to just look inside your category. I was disappointed recently to see a review of the re-vamped Boots store in Covent Garden compared it to Superdrug – customers won’t be comparing the experience to Superdrug they’ll be comparing it to bars, restaurants, clothes shops, leisure attractions…

Another is just to look at foundation insights for the category and not understand the subtleties of their brand or area. The classic example of this is when Pepsi rejected an energy drink idea akin to Red Bull because it didn’t meet their stringent market research taste tests. Customers did not love the taste. What they failed to understand is that it was actually a good thing. We don’t expect stuff that is doing us good/giving us energy to necessarily taste good and thus may not believe it has benefits.

Aligned to this is a need to understand how customers expect to feel at each stage of the journey. This is why we always seek to understand how customers want to feel throughout their experience. It is only through understanding this and how they currently feel that we can develop a truly motivating Cx and, importantly, amplifiers that exceed those expectations.

Managing expectations

Obviously, marketers want customers to come to their shop, attraction, bar and buy their products, especially when many are targeted by awareness, consideration and sales and so they will obviously promote the best qualities that they can.

However, it stands to reason that if we approach an average restaurant with really high expectations having been told how ‘the delicious food is freshly prepared by our experienced chef’ and ‘the relaxed atmosphere will make us feel at home’  we will be disappointed, but if we approach it thinking ‘it is a mid-market chain restaurant so the food may well be pre-prepared and it will feel like all the others’ then we may well be happy and so rate the Cx more highly. We are rating it against our expectations rather against the actual experience.
If we accept that the new era of marketing is not what we say but how we make people feel, and that word of mouth, especially via social media, is the key way to gain consideration and purchase, then surely it stands that we should under promise and over deliver? A difficult pill for conventional marketers to swallow and perhaps yet further evidence that those marketing departments that still sit in glorious isolation from the rest of the business, designing logos, marketing messages and advertising, should become a thing of the past.

Another big influence on expectations is price but that is a big topic in itself…

My evidence

A load of old stones or England’s story?



I have driven past Stonehenge on my way to the glorious West country a hundred times but not since a wander around the stones as a bewildered child have I visited. A few years ago I presented at a leisure conference and one of the other speakers was a lady from English Heritage who talked passionately about the new multi- million pound visitor centre at Stonehenge with a state of the art multi-media 360 degree film where you feel fully immersed in the stones.

A look at the website with promises of being able to…

‘Walk in the footsteps of your Neolithic ancestors at Stonehenge – one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. Explore the ancient landscape on foot and step inside the Neolithic Houses to discover the tools and objects of everyday Neolithic life. Visit the world-class exhibition and visitor centre with 250 ancient objects and come face to face with a 5,500-year-old man.’

With an admission price of £20 I thought it must be good and I decided it was worth joining English Heritage for. So, on a warm day in July we diverted off the A303 and joined the many hundreds of other tourists flocking to Stonehenge.



Arrival & welcome

  • The visitor centre building has a very interesting design and blends in well with the landscape which is good to see, although on closer inspection we realised half of it is a café and shop!
  • About a 10-minute wait to buy tickets and even though we were members we still had to queue, but it wasn’t too bad
  • There was quite a lot of pressure to become an English Heritage member with loads of sales signage as well as Heritage staff approaching individuals in the queue

The Stones

  • Shuttle buses to the stones. Option of walking but a fair distance.
  • Bus was fine with some commentary on the way but only in English and as half the bus didn’t seem to be English speakers they were talking over it so hard to hear. I was also surprised that they were not electric buses
  • The buses had ‘step into England’s story’ written on them which I didn’t quite understand as this was not on the website or written material at all and no explanation really of what it meant

Of course, the stones are impressive and really quite eerie – even with loads of tourists taking selfies.

Important to note here that we did not have an audio guide which was a free option though rather a self-select one which you had to download rather than being directly offered it. If we had done so I feel we may have got more out of the actual walk around the stones though there were a few standard information boards to give you some of the history.


Visitor centre – this was the big disappointment

Instead of

The rest of the exhibition was very standard, objects in glass cases with numbers on them and a key telling you what they were even the ‘forensic reconstruction of a man from 5,500 years ago was in a glass case and looked like a bad wax work! There was an interesting type of film on a long wall which was promising but seemed very muddled and with people wandering past, it was hard to follow.



I went with high expectations set by the presentation I had heard, the website and the admissions price. I was disappointed.

There was nothing fundamentally wrong however– there has been a lot of money spent, the development had obviously been led by people really passionate and knowledgeable about the area, guest flows had been thought about and the facilities were good.

It just didn’t live up to my expectations, there was nothing that wowed me, no moments to share – my experience rating - poor!

Switching energy suppliers


I’ve had a letter from my energy supplier sat on my desk for at least 6 months telling me that my electricity bill is going up and I may be able to save money by switching to another tariff. I have a real aversion to paperwork and don’t even like changing my insurance provider let alone something this complicated, so I keep looking at it but have done nothing. A couple of times I have gone online as they suggest in the letter but it tells me that I cannot check my best tariff online and have to phone up and, as I only ever get around to doing this on a Sunday morning and the lines are closed then, on my desk it has sat!

Another letter in March eventually stirred me into action. So, with great trepidation I went on some comparison sites…

The Experience

Much to my surprise I soon found some providers who seemed a lot cheaper than npower, especially one from a company called Bulb. A quick check on Trust Pilot and look at their website made me feel good about them especially as it is all green energy.  They also promised me a seamless transition which they would handle and even said that if my old supplier charged me for leaving they would pay the costs so that was it – I signed up!

Below are the e-mails I’ve received from them during the process all written in a really friendly tone of voice, with a touch of humour and kept very simple. All in keeping with their website. Even entering my meter reading was easy!


…And no complicated passwords and memorable dates to remember in order to log on!!

The first email very clearly told me what to expect and even gave me access to a tracker so I could track the switch over process. They were right, I have literally done nothing apart from cancel the direct debit with npower (who interestingly I have heard nothing at all from!!!)


Low expectations, good experience, nothing out of the ordinary, not the most exciting product but there were a few unexpected surprises and guess what? I rate it highly and I am sharing…

Emma has had a very successful marketing career spanning a range of industries. This enables her to truly understand, and help overcome, the challenges her clients face in developing and operationalising winning brands.
Find out more about Emma T