Vail Valley: What are you expecting? |

Vail Valley: What are you expecting?

Some people believe they can get away with putting in a 90 percent effort because all their co-workers claiming to deliver 110 percent are making up the difference.

I have noticed recently that the service in my favorite Vail Valley coffee and bagel shop has been slipping. Some days I go in and they are already out of plain bagels at 6:30 a.m. Other times I have gone in and paid for my coffee only to find out that my preferred coffee urn was empty and would need another five or 10 minutes to brew. Most recently I went in and they were completely out of half and half.

My overdeveloped sense of obligation and loyalty keeps me returning to the same establishment several times each week, hoping superior customer service will one day again shine through. Am I setting myself up for disappointment, setting the wrong expectations, or am I just a glutton for punishment? I would hate to be forced into going to that other coffee shop with that really bitter and burnt-tasting coffee.

While I can’t change the level of service, I can adapt my own expectations for the morning experience, for the staff, and most importantly for myself.

In an economy where businesses are being forced to do more with less, my expectation is that each merchant will still maintain enough support to provide value, or at least make every effort to create a delightful customer experience regardless of the challenges they face. The owner of a restaurant where I was recently dining had made the decision not to bring in as much seafood as usual until business picked up a little more as he didn’t want the excess laying around. I can’t blame him there.

When I ordered that dish, and couldn’t get it, I was informed of the restaurant’s decision and the owner actually came over and explained his decision, assuring me that soon enough he would have it back on the menu. More important, he went out of his way to make sure that my dining experience that night was fantastic. It usually is anyway.

I didn’t need the extra attention, but the fact that the owner faced up to his challenges and still created an amazing evening tells me that he understands meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

Worrying about how others will either put in the 90 percent or be a difference-maker and go the extra mile is not as important as how we determine or set our own expectations or how we choose to respond. As much as I would have liked to have given the coffee shop staff some serious grief, especially after the third week in a row of poor service, they still would have been out of bagels, out of coffee, and out of half and half.

Tolerance is a virtue these days but we shouldn’t be expected to settle. Being prepared with proper expectations while having a direct and firm but fair communication with everyone will usually help change mindsets about new expectations and, hopefully, impact behavior change as well.

How those around you deliver on promises is up to them – how you respond is up to you. Whether you feel like being 90 percent tolerant or 110 percent grateful that choice is also up to you. Work toward meeting and exceeding your own expectations relative to how you respond in all situations and you can significantly improve your outlook and minimize disappointments.

Tell me what you expect in our community and from our merchants at and make it a better than good week!

Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker, and CEO of He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

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