Have you noticed that companies seem to be deliberately managing our expectations downwards? I’ve run across this a couple of times lately :

When I traded in loyalty points for lift tickets for a recent ski trip, the web site said it would take about two weeks to get the reward certificate by mail. The confirmation e-mail I received shortly afterward downgraded that to three to four weeks. The certificate actually arrived within a few days.

Calling a government ministry to make an appointment to replace an I.D. card, I got a message that “All our agents our busy. Because we are currently experiencing a higher than usual number of calls, it may take more than five minutes to answer your call.” (As an aside, the same message ran when I called at different times, leading me to believe the higher number IS the usual number.) Having set my expectations for a longish wait, they actually answered within two.

There’s nothing wrong with under-promising and over-delivering; it’s way better than the reverse, which just about guarantees customer dissatisfaction. But I’m suspicious. The examples here sound like these outfits are trying to artificially set expectations so low that an average performance will seem amazing and the customer will be “delighted.”

Here’s a thought. Give an honest estimate of how long it will take to deliver good service. Meet that timing. Try, as I always do, to bring the service/product/project in early. But don’t double your estimate to make meeting a normal deadline look like a miracle.