Make Sure You Set Achievable Expectations When Rolling Out New Services

Mar 18, 2021 • Featuresfield serviceLeadership and StrategySam Klaidman

In this new article for Field Service News, Sam Klaidman, Founder and Principal Adviser at Middlesex Consulting, discusses the importance of setting realistic and achievable expectations when rolling out new services.

In 1988 Michael R. Mantell wrote a book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all Small Stuff.” Now we know that Mantell was wrong when it comes to Field Service.

Here is the real story! In the coming months and years, it is likely that your organization will be implementing a steady stream of changes to the way you do business. Some of these changes that are on most service leader’s minds are:
  • Touchless service
  • Blended workforce
  • New business models – XaaS, IoT
  • Circular economy
  • Digital transformation
  • Servitization
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Artificial intelligence


Before we jump into the details, it is necessary to understand an idea and three definitions.

The ideas expressed in this article originated in “How small service failures drive customer defection: Introducing the concept of microfailures” by Sean Sands, Colin Campbell, Lois Shedd, Carla Ferraro, and Alexis Mavrommati.

Service failure – any service that fails to meet a customer’s expectation. They come in two varieties – macrofailure and microfailure. Because services quality is influenced by individual’s emotions, the following definitions are imprecise and may leave you a little uncomfortable. Don’t worry!

Macrofailure – Sands et al define a macrofailure as a “negative service encounters in which customer expectations go unmet by a wide margin.”

Since each of us will react differently to any specific outcome, the best guidance we can provide is to quote from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward in a 1964 decision about whether a movie was pornographic:

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

Until you get customer feedback that a particular transaction did not meet their expectation, you or someone who works with you must be the internal judge as you design services and set the expectations you will share with your customers.


An example of a service technician going to a customer whose product equipment has failed and the production line had to be totally shut down.

A macrofailure - When technical support decided that a service technician had to be dispatched, the support person said “Joe Brown has just finished up his job and will be at your facility within 30 minutes.” Unfortunately, the dispatcher did not tell Joe that the whole factory was shut down, so Joe stopped for lunch. He arrived 45 minutes late. The plant manager was really mad and after Joe departed, she called the SVP Field Service and totally blasted him.

A microfailure – Another day, the field technician showed up within the promised window and immediately got to work. One of his repair steps was to reboot a controller. This step usually takes 8 to 10 minutes. During that time, he called the office to update his status, but the customer only saw Joe standing about 20 feet from the equipment talking on his mobile phone. She didn’t say anything to Joe, so he never had the opportunity to explain that the repair was still going on while he was on the phone and that he was watching the controller and ended the call as soon as the reboot was complete.


When a customer experiences a macrofailure, their usual reaction is to complain to the company. And service departments are exceptionally good at quickly and efficiently solving big problems and communicating their results back to the customer. If done well, most customer’s either stay as loyal as they were before the incident or actually increase their loyalty! After all, the customer now knows how their service provider will act in a messy situation and the customer comes away with increased peace-of-mind.

But when a microfailure occurs, the customers usually suffer in silence. Usually because they are embarrassed to make a big deal over a minor problem and they don’t want to create a reputation of being a complainer. But there is another set of factors that come into play:

1. We remember negative situations and forget positive ones

2. The negative situations grow in our minds and the ill-will accumulates

When it comes time to renew their contract, the customer who has experiences a small number of microfailures blows them up in their mind and finally unloads on the service seller. Typical outcomes are:

  • The salesperson is depressed or demotivated
  • The customer declines to renew their contract
  • The customer demands a discount before renewing
  • The customer shares their frustration with other customers or prospects
  • The service organization does not have an opportunity to make things right before the become highly visible at an inopportune time




Detect microfailures

·      Encourage customer complaints

·      Reassure customers that you hear them and the concerns

       are valid

·      Train staff on how to deal with complaints

·      Track complaints

Repair microfailures

·      Offer a small gesture & nonmonetary compensation

·      Train staff about how all failures are important

·      Empower the team to solve the problems in real-time

·      Make sure there are no repercussions for the customer

Prevent microfailures

·      Try and predict when a microfailure is likely to occur

·      Enhance your continuous improvement efforts

·      Consider under promising so you can over deliver

·      Cocreate services experience with your customers


A final comment

In the July-August 1990 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Christopher W.L. Hart, James Heskett, and W. Earl Stasser, Jr. published the classic article “The Profitable Art of Service Recovery.”

The second paragraph of the article states:

“While companies may not be able to prevent all problems, they can learn to recover from them. A good recovery can turn angry, frustrated customers into loyal ones. It can, in fact, create more goodwill than if things had gone smoothly in the first place.”

This is true for both macrofailures and microfailures. If you treat both of them the same way then you can’t go wrong.

Further Reading: