Perhaps you have an ingenious solution. Congrats! If the solution is likely to surprise your customers, make sure to set clear expectations about their experience in order to avoid disappointment. Otherwise, the customer might assume you made a mistake despite the solution's potential to solve their problem.

Near the end of an exhausting bike ride, I decided to stop by a grocery store to buy some juice to boost my energy for the rest of the ride home. Amongst the refrigerated beverages, I found a small bottle of mango juice. It seemed like exactly what I wanted at the moment.

I bought the juice and opened it up as I was walking to my bike. I took a big sip and immediately spit the juice out onto the parking lot asphalt. It was spoiled! It tasted like vinegar.

I was so disgusted and annoyed that I just threw the entire bottle in the garbage, took a swig from my water bottle to rinse my mouth, and then jumped on my bike to head home.

Later that day I told the story to a friend and was surprised by her response. “Abby, that wasn’t juice! It was kombucha. Fermented tea.” This was 2006 and the first time I had heard of or tasted kombucha. I haven't had a sip of it since.

If the appropriate expectations been set for my first taste of kombucha (i.e., if had I known it was a fermented drink), I might have enjoyed it. It could have been the solution to my problem of being thirsty and needing some calories. I might have even become a regular kombucha drinker.

But I didn't. My initial disgust and belief that either the manufacturer or seller had allowed a spoiled product to make it into a customer's hands have left a negative impression that has lasted over a decade.

Set clear customer expectations—from meeting agendas to products—especially if you offer a novel approach to an old problem. Even if you hand a customer a solution that is able to solve their problem, they still might be disappointed and assume there's an issue if it’s not what they were expecting. And that disappointment will leave a strong negative impression, one that might be impossible to overcome.

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