The Importance of Managing User Expectations

Apple holds a press conference every year, and each event is always packed with excitement as the company CEO goes on stage to reveal new product announcements. The Cupertino-based business strategically uses this time to rattle up their stakeholders and customers, and set thrilling and promising expectations for the future to come.

However, back in 2011, Apple’s stock rapidly dropped 5 % after one of these conferences. As you might recall, the whole world was waiting on the announcement of the much anticipated (and hyped), iPhone 5. So, when Tim Cook got on stage and revealed the iPhone 4S instead, investors were highly disappointed. So much so, that the company’s stock dropped almost 20 points in a matter of hours.

Despite Apple’s reason for delaying the iPhone 5, the world was expecting one thing and received something else, and it resulted in a huge disappointment for many people.In other words, Apple failed to properly manage expectations.

When it comes to software development, your end-users behave in more or less the same way. If your app does not meet their expectations, then they will drop it. In fact, failure to manage expectations is one of the biggest risk factors for teams developing new applications.

App users are surprisingly demanding. When they click on the download button, they expect an attractive and easy to use interface, infinite updates, great customer support, full documentation, and a fast solution to whatever problem it is they are trying to solve – all of this for .99 cents or less. If their requirements are not met, then they can easily delete your app into oblivion with the mere swipe of their index fingers.

Yet, in many development teams paying attention to the end-user’s expectations still seems to be an afterthought process.Perhaps a decade ago the “users will use whatever we give them” attitude could work. However, in today’s world users have choices, especially in the software industry. A user’s ability to choose is the main reason why developers must pay close attention to their expectations.

The path to correctly managing a user’s expectations begins with education. While not all users are going to be sympathetic about the hard work and dedication that goes into building an application, some will. They need to understand the processes and constraints that come along with building the applications they use. It is better for end-users to understand potential limitations early on rather than to be surprised with a disappointing end-result.

Similarly, it is crucial for the development team to be educated. Developers should understand the users and industry associated with the software they are working with. The education of both parties helps ensure a clearer communication and understanding of requirements.

Additionally, a user that understands the efforts that took to build an app is more likely to appreciate its value, especially if they bought it at a very low price.

This makes it easier to generate more revenue through in-app purchases, ads, and subscriptions.

When it comes to applications, “almost” is never good enough for the end-user. The difference between meeting expectations and almost meeting them is everything.

Just take a look at RIM’s Blackberry. Five years ago, it led the mobile OS market with a 41% share. Today they are down to 2%. Their response to increasing customer expectations was virtually zero. They ignored their customers until they left, and then came up with weak survival plans that failed.

On the other hand, Apple, despite its mistake in the 2011 conference, has kept up with their customer expectations quite well. They currently own 42.5% of the mobile market and keep growing every year. It is evident that in the technology field, especially in the software sector, there is a big difference with companies that manage customer expectations and those that fail to do so.