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The relationship between a company or an organization and its consumers, or franchise, is based on trust.  Trust that the company or organization will do what they say, deliver what they promise, provide the service that has been contracted, usually, in return for a fee.

Consumers have choices, and have the option to do business from among several companies with similar offerings.  There is a general understanding of what an airline company or an insurance company provides.  Both examples have been around for decades and millions of people have taken flights and/or have purchased all types of insurance.

When millions of people have used your services, or those of your competitors, expectations are created, and a widespread, almost universal understanding of what your business is or does, is established.

Standards and Expectations

Standards and expectations are related, but they are far from being the same thing.

Standards are norms or established parameters/measurements/criteria that help ensure uniformity, consistency and quality.  So they are quantitative in nature, specifications that can be measured, checked and verified.  Standards are widely accepted across the broad population, often across the world.

Standard, (noun) 3. something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example : criterion <quite slow by today’s standards>  4: something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality 5a : the fineness and legally fixed weight of the metal used in coins    b : the basis of value in a monetary system <the gold standard>

Expectations are more qualitative, less defined, fixed and measurable, somewhat more subjective and personal as each individual has a slightly different interpretation of what they might receive, might get or what might happen.

Expectations, often also common or shared, are more an individual perception, and are likely to vary slightly from person to person.

Expectations (noun) 1: the act or state of expecting : anticipation <in expectation of what would happen>  2 a : something expected <not up to expectations> <expectations for an economic recovery> b : basis for expecting : assurance <they have every expectation of success> c : prospects of inheritance —usually used in plural 3: the state of being expected  4 a : expectancy b : expected value.

Standards for a cup of coffee would be hot, coffee-flavoured liquid in a cup.  Expectations might vary from instant in a paper cup, to a latte in a china mug.

I have long had a challenge with standards and expectations.  It is only after a dear friend, having listened to rants about my many and frequent disappointments due to unrealistic expectations or expectations set too high, who advised me to change my thinking and orientation to having  “High standards, low expectations.”  This has become my personal mantra and has helped me be a happier, more satisfied person.

But whether we talk standards, or, expectations, both United Airlines and Progressive failed miserably to deliver recently.

1.  It seems that United Airlines did not provide the promised escort for a 10-year-old girl transferring from one flight to another at Chicago’s O’Hare.  The child was abandoned in the airport for two hours and could not even find someone who would let her call home, despite repeated requests for help to airline staff.

2.  Progressive not only refused to pay out on the insurance policy following the death of a young woman in a car accident, they actually paid the lawyers that defended the person allegedly responsible for the crash and resulting death in the civil suit filed by the woman’s family.

Mistakes are possible, even inevitable.  It is people who work for and make up companies and errors, lapses, gaps, gaffes and blunders happen. The true measure of the quality and reliability of a company is demonstrated by how mistakes and problems are handled and how the people involved are treated, or restitution made.

Here, expectations and standards pretty much dovetail and the companies have failed these clients abysmally in both areas.

These stories stunned and saddened me, leaving me aghast at the poor judgment and lack of basic values exhibited by these two companies, and their management.

Would you trust these companies now?  Would you choose to fly United, if you had a choice?  Would you buy insurance from Progressive?  This is an instance when you can vote with your feet by taking your business elsewhere.

When you cannot delivery against standards, you will never be able to meet expectations, which, due to human nature, are naturally always quite high.



Let’s Set Some Boundaries for Social Media


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Photo Credit: click http://d3graphix.yolasite.com

Okay, am I the only person who feels that the situation with the use of McKayla Maroney’s image of her on the podium, scowling, while accepting the silver medal for the women’s vault in the Olympics is unfair?  That it is inappropriate? That the use of her not-to-pleased, would-rather-be-elsewhere expression used so extensively as a meme is akin to picking on her?  And isn’t picking on someone also called bullying?

Personally, I am surprising myself with this one. I tend to feel rather a lack of sympathy with U.S. athletes.  As a humble and “polite” Canadian, who according to @Stats_Can “says sorry over 45,000 times a day.”  I generally find the high level of confidence and self-esteem consistently exhibited by U.S. athletes comes across as attitude, bordering on arrogant and unsportsmanlike-like.

First of all, McKayla Maroney is only 16.  I don’t think we can hold her to the same level of maturity that we can her older counterparts.  She was suffering a huge disappointment, and interviews indicate the focus of her disappointment was herself.  Consensus is that she was the favourite to take the gold and had not missed the second vault landing in several months. As a result, any one of us in the same situation would have been pissed at ourselves.

I agree that it’s important to maintain a professional demeanor, however these athletes are human, under incredible pressure to perform, are far from home, in a different time zone, climate, environment and, some of them, like McKayla, are still only children.

How many of the athletes did we see express deep, even devastating disappointment?  One that I personally witnessed was Saturday in the men’s platform diving.   Favourite Qiu Bo, who led both of the preliminaries and semi-final as the top qualifier was beaten by American David Boudia in the last attempt.  I saw the 19-year-old give way to tears.

I admire how McKayla has not let being the butt of jokes and the subject of multiple parody’s get to her.  It’s a sign of maturity and resilience, being able to see past the last mistake, accept it and move on – even when faced with constant reminders.  She’s even had some fun with it.  Which is a good way of getting your own back and refusing to let others take your power away from you.

But I do seriously think we should have some ground rules for choosing the subject of our humour.  I believe there is some judgment called for in cases like this.  I would argue that we need to establish some limits.  That not everything that is “public” is free for the taking.

What a can of worms I am opening up!  Who should decide?  Who should enforce?  Who’s standards do we assess by.  All legitimate questions.  All difficult to answer.  I have a few initial suggestions for consideration.

For a start, I think there should be age limits.  For example in Canada, the legal age is 18 and over.  So McKayla’s image would not have been available for use, because she is only 16.  As there are exceptions to every rule, if the person is already a celebrity, in the public eye, or on a reality show, then perhaps their age can be disregarded.

I believe we need to determine a clear line where there would be some consideration or respect for privacy.  I believe that a photo taken in what is considered a private moment, should not be used to make fun of or belittle the subject of the photo.  For example, entering or exiting a washroom/dressing room/changing room.

I think there needs to be a sensitivity to disabilities, disaster and perhaps, death.

I would hate to be a part of Social Media that preyed on the young and the weak and the disadvantaged, the members of the population that are vulnerable, unprotected and ignorant.

Yes, it will be difficult to agree upon limits and it will be a challenge to resist sharing, but in Social Media, if it’s not viewed, passed on, tweeted or posted, the lifespan of news is short.  I guess what I’m advocating for is a “ban” on material that is tasteless, cruel, exploitative and derogatory.  I’m asking that we self-censor and just not pass it on.  Because if we don’t share, then it has no validation, no encouragement, no life.

There is so much good about Social Media.  But there is so much potential for bad too.  Let’s not make it easy for the bad, or allow it to be easily perpetuated.

On a personal note, and related to facial expression, I have a habit of rolling my eyes.  If I hear something that strikes me as improbable, ridiculous, patently untrue or insincere, I do the eye roll.  I swear it is totally involuntary. It used to drive some of my sales colleagues crazy and I got shit for it, but I am an adult, and I agree that, in theory, I should know better and be able to control my telling body language.

As a result, it irks me to no end that it was very an effective element in Anastasia’s Steele’s conquest of Christian Grey.  When she rolled her eyes, he found it provocative and sexy. I guess I will just have to wait and see how it works for me in other situations, as what ticks one person off, may be attractive to another.

I won’t hold my breath!