Brian Tracy, business man and motivational speaker, is quoted as saying: “Winners make a habit of manufacturing their own positive expectations in advance of the event.”
What is the Gap?
“Exactly what are we confronting? We are stepping up to a: broken promise — a gap; a difference between what you expected and what actually happened.” So write authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler in Crucial Confrontations.
Worded for our purposes, we can say the gap is the difference between what your customer expected and what they actually experienced. The Gap occurs when you and your customer have a different understanding of your business relationship or the nature of a particular transaction. We care about the Gap because we want to use SNAP to set expectations at the onset of the customer experience. When looking at the Gap we will pay lots of attention to expectations, and to what we can do to set and influence expectations.
For our purposes in this user guide, “anyone you do business with or for” is your customer.
Tom Roberts worked for over 18 years in the travel industry. Dynamic. Fast paced. Where the dreams and expectations of customers are high. Alignment and managing the Gap was vital to his success. Tom says: “Communication is the key to properly implement SNAP. As I found out from personal experience, this is especially true when confronted by an irate client. I see a real need for an approach like SNAP.”
Here are common Gaps, which you may be aware of or experienced:
Ordering a burger and waiting too long.
Calling that 800 customer service number and being placed on hold.
Coming home from a long day at work and finding your cable signal is out.
Making a call to a company and getting a multilayered phone tree.
Sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room.
Leaving your car at the shop for routine work and finding it is not ready when you return to pick it up.
Sending a resume in for a new job and not knowing when you might get a response.
Volunteering to help at your local church and not getting a call back.
Coming to work only to find the user interface on your favorite program looks different.
When working with a financing agent, getting high expectation regarding getting funding for your project and then not getting clear answers as to status or next steps.
Applying for a license to operate a business and not receiving the permit within the expected time frame (and not explanation regarding the delay).
Add in some Gaps from your personal perspective:
All these experiences and many others similar to them have something in common. There is a Gap in what the customer experiences or thinks is going on compared to what the service provider thinks.
The Gap occurs when any two people engage in an exchange. The way we routinely communicate results in a Gap. The Gap happens when I make a request and you give me an answer; but, the answer does not fully tell me what I think I need to know.
What do customers want to know? Customers want to know about the status, the next steps, the approximate timeline for things to happen, and what the planned outcome is going to be. In short, customers want to know SNAP.
Let us look at one of the examples in a little more detail.
Ordering a burger and waiting too long. You go into your favorite fast food restaurant for lunch (let’s call it Favorites) and order a burger. You normally expect to wait about two minutes. Your wait is now five minutes. You look at your watch; it is now noon. How much longer? You start doing some “self-talk” telling yourself things that are not complimentary about the restaurant or service you are getting. Really, you are not sure why you are here today. You start counting the number of employees working behind the counter; wow, sure are a lot of people working back there. You just know something is going on and it is not good. You hope this does not affect your lunch. Why now? Why today? Why you? After all, you are in a hurry.
From a different perspective, this story might look different. Let’s say you work at Favorites; it is a good job and helps you pay the bills. The normal lunch crowd is arriving. You have been telling the customers that the wait is the usual two minutes, and you look at the timer on the register, noting the wait is a little longer. The manager circles through the back area quickly stopping by each employee. “We have a big order coming in,” he says. “A tour bus with a big country star is pulling through. We’ve been asked not to tell the name; they don’t want to be mobbed. Should be on the news tonight. Let’s get this order processed now.” How exciting. Checking your watch, you note it is almost noon, about five minutes before the hour. Excited, you start processing the larger order for the tour bus.
What is going on here? The Favorites employee does not think he is giving poor service. In fact, he is working harder than usual due to the large order that just came in. He thinks he is delivering great service and is stepping up to handle this challenge.
The customer is still waiting. He perceives he is getting poor service; all he knows is that he is still waiting. It may only be five or six minutes now, however, if the normal wait is two minutes, then a six minute wait is 3x longer than normal. Comparatively, speaking, that is a long wait. Any minute now, the customer is going to step up to the counter and complain and ask about the order. The moment this happens, we have an upset customer. In fact, we have an upset customer whether he asks what is going on or if he just keeps on waiting.
What are our options? Consider this: The employee who is taking orders and managing the front counter quietly goes over to the waiting customer and says: “Excuse me sir, I know you just placed your order, however, right after we put your order through we also got slammed with a very large order from a tour bus — some really famous country star, they won’t tell us who it is, but, I think it will be on the news tonight. Anyway, your sandwich is being made right now and will take a few minutes longer. Usual wait time for us about two to three minutes, we should be able to get your meal out in a little over five minutes. I hope that is not too much of an inconvenience. Will that be ok?”
The customer just got SNAPed; he heard the status of his order, he heard about next steps, he heard the approximate timeline and he heard the planned outcome. The customer says: “Sure, that will be fine. Who is on the bus?”
“I am sorry sir, I really don’t know, the only thing they told us was that it might be on the news; and we got a really big order. Hey, this is exciting, I gotta get back to processing it — your meal will be up in a few more minutes. Really appreciate your patience. If anything changes, I will let you know immediately.”
Better yet, he heard the promise of a follow up SNAP if things were to change. Mastery.
The employee at the counter shared a quick overview of STATUS, told the customer what the NEXT STEPS were, mentioned an APPROXIMATE TIMELINE and committed to a specific PLANNED OUTCOME. And, to seal the SNAP deal, the employee provided assurances that a SNAP follow up would take place.
What actually happens with the customer is the same, whether SNAP occurs or not. This customer is going to wait a little over six minutes for his meal. If, after two minutes, the customer is not briefed, Favorites will end up with an unhappy customer — and it matters not one bit how much harder or faster the employees are working. The customer only cares about his order.
Once SNAPed, the customer has a great understanding about what to expect, he no longer speculates, imaging all kinds of horrible or disastrous things about his order, the restaurant’s incompetence, or __________ (fill in the blank). The trouble with letting the uninformed customer fill in the blank is that the story about lunch will be the customer’s negative story, and will be told to many people. The story will not help Favorites’ reputation.
Once SNAPed, the customer knows what is going on and, in fact, in our case, has a new, exciting replacement story. Tonight, watching the news, he will say: “I was there!”
You now have a clear understanding of the Gap. Look for Gaps; you will see and experience them almost everywhere.