The only surprises you should give are good surprises.

by Trudy on October 21, 2011

Truer words have never been spoken.

This is something that I learned very young, when I worked in radio. Turns out there is no room for the “surprise” of dead air (Program Directors REALLY hate that).

I also learned it as a young account manager in an ad agency. Clients so do not like to be surprised by a typo in their 100,000 printed brochures.

I also learned it when a fellow co-worker and presenter had an epileptic seizure during an annual franchisee meeting, and SURPRISE I got nominated to present her material – site unseen, right now.

I learned this painfully, and never forgot. It was the biggest lesson on how to think ahead and prepare for the unexpected.

Clients/customers/audiences/bosses just do not like to be surprised. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Clients/customers/audiences/bosses just do not like to be surprised.

So tell me, how is it that we can almost daily see these surprises still occurring all around us, and some on a spectacularly grand scale?

Like Netflix.

In case you have not followed it, Netflix is a company that had a solid 10ish year business based on mailing DVDs to your home. As their name implies, they then moved into digital streaming distribution online. But then, some not so well thought through decisions occurred that are widely considered a multilayered communications bungle. In a very short span of time they had: a re-branding (new name), service change (down-scaled), price change (increased), and an add-salt-to-the-wound attempt at an apology by the CEO. Four surprises too many for customers. This netted them the info that 55% of members planned to discontinue their subscription, and discombobulated investors handed them a stock price down 57%.  I am thinking the resulting “surprises” for Netflix were equally unappealing.

Sigh.

If we have customers, we all need to think it through, all the way through, pop our own bubble and really consider all the different ways people could react to something we plan to do, and manage it. You may not be able to change your decision, but how you work through the change makes all the difference in the world.

Will you (purposefully or mistakenly) create any surprises today? Will they be good surprises?

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