The psychology of expectation management in customer service

Written on: 6 February 2024
The psychology of expectation management in customer service

Psychology: Managing Expectations in Customer Relationships (expectation management)

In the world of customer relations, one aspect is crucial: expectations. Managing these expectations effectively is the key to creating sustainable, positive experiences for customers. But what psychological mechanisms play a role in this and how can we manage them effectively? You will find out in our blog on the psychology of expectation management.

The Psychology of Expectations: Why Are They Important?

The expectation effect, also known as expectation bias, is a well-known psychological phenomenon in which our expectations have a significant influence on how we ultimately experience or perceive an event. Expectations largely colour our perception, and this perception in turn determines our experience. Logically, we prepare for different scenarios and look for clues in our environment. Expectations therefore form the basis of any experience, including that of customers.

What Are Expectations Exactly?

Expectations are mental representations or assumptions about future events, outcomes or behaviours. They are based on our experiences, knowledge and interpretation of the environment. Expectations can affect how we approach situations, how we judge others and how we behave.

What is Perception in This Frame?

Perception refers to the process by which individuals take in, organise and interpret information from their environment. It includes not only sensory perception, such as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling, but also our brain's interpretation of these sensory stimuli. Perception is subjective and can vary from person to person, depending on factors such as cultural background, upbringing and personality.

How to Manage Expectations and Avoid Dissonance?

Managing expectations starts with keeping promises. Although this sounds logical, it often goes wrong. For example, many online shops promise "ordered today, delivered tomorrow", but cannot always deliver on this promise. This undermines customer trust. A better strategy is to promise less and deliver more, or "underpromise and overdeliver". This reduces the gap between expectations and perception.

Managing for changes

Customers value honesty and transparency, especially when changes occur. For example, if there is a delay in delivery, it is essential to inform customers in a timely and complete manner. However, make sure that the promises you make can be kept.

Case study

A customer facing a cyber attack was repeatedly promised that orders would be shipped within two weeks. However, this ended up taking eight weeks, resulting in multiple broken promises. A better approach would have been to inform customers that a specific shipping date was not yet in sight, but that every effort was being made to communicate this as soon as possible.


Psychological effects play an important role in customer relationships. Managing expectations is an essential strategy to avoid dissonance. By promising less and delivering more, companies can build and maintain customer trust.

Who are we?

We are SpangenbergGroup! And we can help you make your customer service a good customer service to make. Just good customer service where the basics are in order. Where customer contacts add value to the customer experience. We unburden you in the area we are good at (customer service) so you can concentrate worry-free on what you're good at. Sound good? Get in touch. 

With over 25 years of experience in optimising customer contact and customer experience SpangenbergGroup can help you. The optimise customer service or outsource? Use the form or see our contact page.

Also with other questions about customer contact and customer service you can always contact with us!

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