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Are you managing expectations well?

Do you remember slot machines in the old days?

You sit down at one of the slot machines in Vegas these days, and it’s pretty different than when I was kid (not that I ever stepped on the casino floor as a kid). In the old days, you’d have to drop your hand into a plastic bucket (that was recycled and pretty dirty), grab a nickel, dime or quarter, and then place it in a slot.

From there, you’d grab the handle and pull. And then watch. And wait. And slowly, dial by dial, you’d watch a pair of cherries in column one, followed by a single cherry in column two, and at that point, all you wanted was any kind of cherry to show up in column three?


But instead, it would be a big red seven – only partially in the row with your cherries. And on that machine, it meant “try again.” It felt like “try again” was on every machine, every time. It was slow, and constantly filled with hope. It would drain you of your money, but at least not quickly.

Today, it’s pretty different.

Today you sit at a machine and insert a $20 bill (on quarter machines because you can’t find the nickel and dime machines). You get a digital display to give you credit. And you now can bet several lines at once (increasing your odds). But in doing so, two things happen.

First, you can’t watch all the lines at the same time, so there’s less anticipation. Second, you’re burning thru money quickly with very little interaction (the re-bet button makes it all really easy and fast). That reduction in interaction does the same thing.

There’s a lot less anticipation. And that means it’s harder to build up any expectation.

What makes it worse is the banners hanging on the wall twenty feet from you that says “98.1% pay back”, which is an easy way of telling you that we will drain you slowly of all your money. But nothing is slow about it.

Tomorrow’s Christmas

I don’t know if you celebrate Christmas, but over here we do. This year we’ve added an elf on the shelf. While I thought I would hate it, we had a long talk with “Charlie” that we expected him to model the same kind of behavior he was expecting of our children. So he’s been pretty tame and actually encouraging in his notes.

But something has happened in the years since I was a child at Christmas. I’ve started working more and more days each year – closer and closer to Christmas. Such that I was still doing work today – and tomorrow is Christmas.

You know the result, right?

A lot less time to develop any anticipation. And it’s harder to build up any expectation.

After all, I no longer write any letters to Santa because if I want something, I just go to the store and buy it (making me a pain for my wife and family).

Where are you going with this, Chris?

I get it. Right about now you’re wondering if I’m just writing to push out another daily post. But trust me, if I had nothing to say, I’d just not write.

Work with me here. Hear me out for just a second…

Because I think there’s a thread here – when you look at slot machines and Christmas. Yes, they have something in common.

They’re shrinking our capacity for anticipation, and limiting how much energy we spend building or managing expectations.

Are you doing the same with your clients?

If you’re a freelancer, or run a small boutique consulting company, you might have gotten into the habit of training your customers to just use text or email. It’s faster. It’s more expedient. It’s easier when you’re on the go.

But guess what?

There’s a lot less time to develop and manage the right level of expectations in email.

That’s why I encourage folks to get on a phone. A lot. Plan for it. Bill for it. I’m not suggesting you give away your time.

But I am saying that if you’re only using text and emails, you may be moving in a direction like Vegas and my work schedule around Christmas. And the result will be less managed expectations.

And when your customer’s expectations aren’t managed well, it will impact a lot of things. Including the extra cash you can take to Vegas, or the gifts you can give at Christmas. (See what I did there?)

So do me a favor. In 2014, plan to use the phone more. And figure out how much you have to charge, to enable you to spend part of your time on the phone. My guess is that you may have to adjust your rates for a few customers.

Either way, I hope this holiday season finds you well. And if you’re celebrating Christmas tomorrow, I hope you have a great day!

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