Expectation: The Root of All Heartache . . . and Success

Set reasonable business expectations and resist agreeing to every customer request to avoid the 'yes' trap.

April 12, 2019

6 Min Read


Bryan Reynolds

By Bryan Reynolds, director of sales operations for TBI

Part I

“Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises; and oft it hits, where hope is coldest, and despair most sits.”  — Shakespeare, “All’s Well that Ends Well,” Act II, Scene 1

Elegant yet gloomy, right?

For those of you who are not English scholars (I am certainly not), trust me that when I say that we, as business professionals, can learn a lot from these words. You’ve probably heard the often-misquoted phrasing of this same passage — “expectation is the root of all heartache” — which is a little bit more straightforward.

Shakespeare’s words had deep significance hundreds of years ago, but now they may hold even more value due to a “revolution” of the customer psyche. We are rapidly seeing our space (and virtually all others) transform into an experience-driven standard, meaning that competition is no longer solely driven on the newest/shiniest technology, but rather the experience around gaining and consuming that technology.

Your customers are no different.

Commodity is dead, experience is critical and relevancy is not centered around having the ‘newest’ technology.

There are years-old sources stating that many businesses think they compete solely on customer experience more than anything, and some outlets are even saying that by next year (2020), the experience the customer has will overtake price and product as a key differentiator. This ideal drives revenue and (perhaps more importantly) keeps revenue. A study conducted by the Temkin Group, found that companies earning $1 billion annually can expect to earn an additional $700 million within three years of investing in customer experience. For SaaS companies, that $700 million figure goes up to $1 billion.

Creating a good customer experience does have its hurdles, though. We have to take a step back and understand what actually drives experience, and for this, we again turn to our pal Bill (Shakespeare) and his words of wisdom that began this blog. The operative word in his sentiment is “expectation.” To keep up and remain relevant in this fast-paced industry, sometimes we do weird things. The first to note is that we often find ourselves falling into the failure-avoidant silo by being quick to say “yes” to anything and everything to win out amongst our competition.


I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve been told “We need to get this (insert extremely over-the-top complex solution here) installed in 15 days because the customer has someone else that is promising that” or “We will lose this customer if we don’t provide (insert extremely unreasonable request).” Lose the customer now or lose them later, you still lose them. I’m all for being able to provide a solid…

…deliverable, but every miracle that I’ve tried to perform in the past has failed miserably.

Set a reasonable expectation and don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t invest in luck — miracles don’t put food on the table, experience does.

Watch for Giant Blueberries

 In many presentations, in an attempt to paint a vivid picture of the detriments of “yes,” I often use the example from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’sViolet Beauregarde, the gum-chewing, snobby, self-centered child who boasts about holding the record for chewing a piece of gum the longest (when my exec team reads this, they will roll their eyes because they’ve heard this a thousand times). If you remember, from the book and the movie, Violet comes across a piece of gum that Mr. Wonka is developing that never loses its flavor. Violet, being the go-getter that she is, cannot control her ego and takes the gum without hesitation and swells into a giant blueberry, eventually having to be rolled away by the Oompa-Loompas to have the juice squeezed out of her.

Violet knew the instant she started to swell that she shouldn’t have committed to it. Maybe she learned her lesson, maybe not. Regardless, this situation frames the do’s and don’ts when it comes to expectation — setting and creating an experience. If you ever hear me refer to a situation as a “blueberry,” you now know exactly what I’m talking about.

If you see one rolling down the hill, run away.

Exception ≠ Expectation

 Saying yes over and over again, with no expectation set, sets an expectation of exception. (Did you follow that?) What I mean is that any and all exceptions that are made may enhance the short-term experience but will have negative effects on the long-term relationship with the customer. Not to mention the additional time you are spending on tasks to get something done faster than typical as well as the other tasks that must wait behind the “prioritized” task. It adds up fast, so don’t fall into this trap.

I remember being in a band rehearsal in college and every time the conductor stopped us he had to wait for people. Many musicians would continue to play or talk immediately after he stopped, resulting in a few seconds of time before he started to deliver the correction. He explained that 10 seconds here and 15 seconds there might not seem like a lot of time now, but if you add up all of those times at the end of the rehearsal, you suddenly have lost 5-10 minutes of rehearsal time, and in an hour-long rehearsal, losing 16% of your time is a lot. Translating that to business, considering how much each day, hour…

….and even minute costs you, losing 16% of that time can sink you.


 Remember this: Scalability is indirectly affected by customer expectation (you won’t find this statement in any business course), and scalability directly affects sustainability.

When your business is smaller, you are a great deal more agile and able to accommodate more of those exceptions. However, that is only sustainable for so long, if you want to grow. As you grow, so do your opportunities to become a blueberry. Maybe you can turn something around in minutes now, but as your business grows and you have more deliverables, that time will (not may) increase. Get ahead of it now, because if not, you’ll find yourself in a bind.

Saying yes to everything, while ambitious, isn’t helping you or your customers. While it may have short-term rewards, the long-term effects are detrimental to your growth. In Part II (coming soon) on this topic, we will take a further view into Shakespeare’s poetic advice and look at how to overcome the “yes” trap.

And don’t forget: Run away from giant blueberries.

Bryan Reynolds is director of sales operations for TBI, where he leads an organization of more than 75 individuals who provide TBI’s partner community with unparalleled back-office support ranging from quoting and solution design to implementation advocacy and project management. He pushes the boundaries of service by implementing ways to continuously add value for TBI’s agents. Bryan is an avid writer and speaker within the industry, serves as a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Channel Partners as well as a member of the board of directors for Channel NX2Z, an organization dedicated to the advocacy of the next generation of channel leaders. He was recently selected by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of Chicago’s Notable LGBTQ Executives and is TBI’s self-proclaimed “Chief Millennial Officer.” Follow Bryan on LinkedIn or @TBImasteragent on Twitter.

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