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Communication: When Expectation Doesn't Meet Reality

Have you ever wondered how a conversation can spiral out of control so quickly, even when you think you're being polite and not doing anything to trigger the person you're speaking to?

Consider this example: A customer orders a pair of shoes from your store. When she sees the shoes in person for the first time, she believes she received the wrong color.

Your initial reaction might be to tell her that is the color she ordered. You might even offer to order her a different color.

Still, she is stuck on the fact that she does not like the current color.

She repeatedly express her displeasure.

Tensions are rising.

You wonder why your customer is still upset when you did nothing wrong and have a solution for her.

You ask yourself...

Why are we still talking about this?

How did the conversation arrive here?

It's because...

Our instinct as business professionals is to go straight to the facts. In this instance, to tell the customer, that is the color you ordered.

When we do that, though, we're not helping the customer feel heard or valued.

The customer is emotionally stuck on the fact that the color did not live up to her expectations. In order for her to emotionally move forward, she needs to know that you hear her and understand her concerns.

An alternate way for the store employee to communicate the same information would be to say: "I can totally understand the color isn't what you thought it would be. The great news is, I've talked to the designer, and we can get a new pair of shoes out to you in a new color right away."

Can you feel the difference?

"That is the color you ordered."


"I can totally understand the color isn't what you thought it would be."

The latter evokes a relatable experience without coming across as overly defensive. It communicates that you are on her side.

The former makes it seem like you don't care as much about her order as you do about defending yourself or proving her wrong.

If you want your customers to feel valued and open to a solution from you, you need to start by communicating that you hear them and have their backs.

To learn more about building stronger customer relationships one word at a time, contact me here.

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