Susan 🐝 Rooks, blog
Expectations: Lessons Learned from Frozen Food Boxes

Expectations: Lessons Learned from Frozen Food Boxes


I often buy frozen “dinners” because it’s easier than cooking for just one person. They keep well in the freezer, there are seemingly hundreds of choices, and many of them are actually not too bad for us in terms of nutrition.

How do I choose which to buy?

Well, usually based on the type of food I’m looking for – meat or no meat – but also by looking at the cardboard box cover.

What do I mean? Well, when I see several large pieces of chicken or five meatballs on the cover, that’s what I expect inside. I’m likely to choose that one over its competitor if all else appears equal like price and/or past experience with taste, or if the competitors’ covers don’t show as much good stuff.

If you’re not a meat eater, you might choose depending on the size and quantity of the veggies you see. Five big mushrooms? Huge broccoli pieces? Mmmmmm.

So, we take our choices home, throw all but one in the freezer, and rip open the cardboard box. Can’t see much through the plastic wrap, so into the micro it goes! Timer on! Waiting. Bell rings! Open door, tear off cover … and see what?

Sad to say, sometimes the reality doesn’t match the expectations that come from that cover photo.

Only four meatballs, not five. Chicken pieces the size of my baby fingernail. Two small pieces of mushrooms when the picture shows six or seven whole ones.

Now, this isn’t the end of the world as we know it. We adjust our expectations or buy from the competition – or decide to cook our own. We make decisions based on the path that gets us the best outcome.

“So, Susan,” I can hear you saying, “what’s this got to do with my business?”

Um. Everything?

Do we always remember how powerful first impressions are? Not just the INSTANT ones that Melissa Hughes, Ph.D., wrote about in her recent article, but others that gather steam as we show our stuff?

Do we live up to the expectations we set up?

Do we:

  • Ever say we can turn a project around in X number of days, and then fail to do so without having a decent reason?
  • Promise to fix everything in the project perfectly, ensure the client never has another issue like it … or fail to respond when something doesn’t go well?
  • Set reasonable expectations of both parties based on our history with many others, taking into account what went right and what might not have … and why?
  • Say we’re available every morning from 9-12 or on weekends, but not actually?

Don’t misunderstand me: I am not perfect, nor do I expect anyone else to be. But I do realize that how others see me, how they experience working with me, and whether  they recommend me to others depends largely on how their experiences live up to their expectations based on what I promised.

Yes, as Dennis Merritt Jones mentioned in his recent article, “life is lumpy.” Stuff happens. But when it keeps happening and we don’t or can’t routinely keep our promises, likely enough our clients will move on to other folks who seem more reliable. And they might not be shy about saying why …

I’ve learned over the years to see how I’ve expressed myself, how my clients did or didn’t understand what I said, what they’ve appreciated, and what they might not have. What I did right, what I could have done differently, and what lessons I learned.

And with the internet and all the possibilities of finding others – thousands of others – who do what we do, we really need to be on our game at all times.

All in all, I’d rather be known for keeping my promises than not.

How about you? Have you been on either side of expectations whose realities surprised you?

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Not meeting expectations and not fulfilling promises can ruin a reputation. Bad news travels fast and once the word is out, it may be too late for recovery. It's good to see you on beBee Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks, The Grammar Goddess.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 year ago #3

Welcome back to beBee, Susan! The frozen food box is an excellent analogy. There is much other food that doesn't look like what's on the package. False or misleading advertising in the food industry is a common thing. This topic reminded me of some LinkedIn profiles (advertisement) and real persons behind those profiles (reality). :-)

Ken Boddie

1 year ago #2

I’ve seen this problem time and again throughout my consulting career, Susan, when the delivered service doesn’t match the client’s expectations. Poor performance on the part of the consultant aside, this mismatch is often due to the scope of work not being clear in the proposer’s documentation or, if there’s a proposed variation from the original client’s brief, it’s not clearly flagged and there’s no option for negotiation. Poor communication with the client during the proposal stage, and lack of communication when plans and timing start to go wrong, invariably end in invoices not being paid and/or no repeat business. BTW good to see you back here on beBee, Grandma Godless. 😂🤣😂

John Rylance

1 year ago #1

Susan your name came up in my inbox. It was a surprise. Having enjoyed both reading your posts and trading comments with you in the past. Mainly on LinkedIn. My expectation was this will be good, I've read it and it is as I expected was well worth the read. I agree we need to look not just at own expectations, but those others have of us. Reading through this came to mind "Never judge a book by its cover"

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