Mind The Gap… between Expectations & Experiences

24 Mar,2021


Sanjeev KotnalaBy Sanjeev Kotnala

It was a lovely breezy evening at Nirvana Cottage in Mukhteshwar, Uttrakhand. At 7,100 feet and some 72 Km from Haldwani, the temperature was a bone-chilling 2-degree centigrade. The bonfire and our favourite Old Monk was working overtime to keep us warm. I was facing a tricky situation in Life. The experience not even coming near the expectation. Everything was against me. Fight, Flight or Freeze! Action, reaction and Inaction! I expected everything to work against me. My friend, philosopher and guide, Vermajee; the marketing consultant was my last stop of confession and advice.

I was not to be disappointed. After the third peg of Old Monk with Coke, ever-dependable Vermajee opened up and the shower of gyaan started. ‘Life is an experience and a journey into unchartered terrain. We may be on the same train but can have different expectation and experience. After all, we have our own filters. After the two truths of Life, the birth and the certainty; death, everything is probabilistic in nature. Everything is a transaction. There are expectations and experiences. In fact, we are living our Life all around these two dimensions. Even emptiness, meditation, self-lessness too has these two elements of expectation and experience’.

I was impressed. It felt like Arjun with Lord Krishna. It was all about loyalty and dharma.

Having interacted with Vermajee, I sincerely believe that there is a market for a Corporate Swami. Let me park that thought.

Vermajee who chooses his battles well continued. ‘You must manage the E-Gap in your Life. Life is simple. Don’t complicate it’, Initially, I did not know where the discussion was going. Still, a part of me desperately agrees to what he was saying.

‘We all try to be responsive to changing expectations and have our expectations. For us to be happy and at peace. The experience must exceed expectation. That’s where the catch is because the expectations are telescopic in nature’.

Vermajee took another gulp from his glass, I realised it will need a refill soon. He looked up seeking answers from the milky way that was visible in the clear sky.

‘We all look for engagement and involvement, try to be innovative in finding solutions, create an ecosystem of family and friends as supporting audience. We use every trick Shaam (logic), Daam (price), Dand (Penalty) and Bhed (differentiation) get our view based on our past experience and re-negotiated expectation’.

‘We prioritise as per our needs and situation. Life is all more about what to sacrifice than what to do. We evaluate our potential and capabilities. Challenge the ever-present possibilities. Try balancing the narrative and POV’s of the stakeholders, hoping things will follow our expectations’.

He now looked me square in the eyes. With a smile, he said, Sanjeev, Life is two-dimensional; Expectation and Experience. The actions, reactions and inactions, strategically or otherwise, resulting from E-Gap; emotional gap between the expectations and experience. Nothing more’.

‘By nature, every episode in Life real or perceived, intentional or unintentional, selfish or self-less has an element of expectation attached to it. The expectation can be tangible or intangible, emotive or functional, numeric or expression-based. Even when our experience is not detailed out, expectation exists. Our rational arguments and logical inferences, along with emotive, irrational thoughts define our expectations’.

‘Unfortunately, we remain self-centred, lacking the empathy to view situations by getting into other party shoes. We ignore our critique and feedback. We tend to negate history, along with changing expectations and experiences. We must take them into consideration. Look at the pain and pleasure points of stakeholders in our ecosystem. They are the best indicator and directional pointers to future possibility. The pleasure points are our experience enhancers, and we tend to just become comfortable with them’.

‘To create likeability to satisfy our misplaced egos, which anyway results from past expectations and experience, we make Life complicated. We tend to ignore weighing the possible impact and relevance of our actions in the long term’.

‘We rarely voice our expectation, agreement, and prioritisation. And we expect the outer environment to understand the unsaid expectation and the experiences to follow it. The complete experience has multiple small prioritised experiences. In Life all, experiences have foreplay and follow-up. Hence, the brands must look at the complete scope of experience and expectations’.

The marketing consultant Vermajee toyed with my confused look. ‘Hence in Life, there is a premium on consistency and authenticity. Our repeat experience re-establishes, re-strengthens or negates the experience or the resultant perceptions. We know, perceptions, the resultant summary of expectation and experiences is more real than the truth. A recent experience is benchmarked against expectations and past experiences. Hence consistency and authenticity are a critical element in all our relationships’.

‘To make Life simple, we must constantly re-evaluate expectations and examine the experience feedback. We should Pause, reflect on the existing E-GAP. Absorb the learnings. Tweak, redraft-recraft wherever required and move on’.

‘Our capability to re-align experience to expectations and vice versa should be a constant process in today’s dynamic world of interlocked ecosystems of relationships. So, go ahead, and land evaluate your actions against not only your expectation and experiences but also other’s expectations from us and the experiences we deliver’.

I was surprised at the new avatar of Vermajee, and it was natural for me to ask, how did it happen? Where did you get these insights into Life?

Vermajee smiled and looked disappointed with my observation. He then told me the secret. ‘I am a brand and marketing consultant. A brand is a living entity just like you and me. A social entity which must appreciate realities.  What I told you is no different than what I will tell the brand. In case you feel different, just read the above by replacing you with a brand, and it will read the same’.

‘The whole branding and marketing game, sales and delivery, product design and innovation, service and recovery geared to create preferences and premium works around Expectation and Experience. Everything that any brand does is manage the E-GAP, the resulting emotional gap between the Expectation and Experience. Hence, the brand must manage expectation and experience. As the expectation results from many things that may not be in total control of the brand, it’s the experience that the brand must manage’.

I know my expectation from Vermajee was getting higher by the day and he is going to find it really tough to match it with experience. But, let’s keep it simple and leave it for the next time.


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