Home > Articles > Software Development & Management

  • Print
  • + Share This
Like this article? We recommend

Like this article? We recommend

Negotiating and Managing Realistic Customer Expectations

While heading an extensive IT customer service effort at a major defense contractor, my team and I developed a simple but effective method for negotiating and managing realistic customer expectations. The first part involved thorough preparation for face-to-face interviews with selected key customers, and the second part consisted of actually conducting the interview to negotiate and follow up on realistic expectations.

Changing the mindset of IT professionals can be a challenging task. We were asking them to focus very intently on a small number of customers, when for years they had emphasized just the reverse. The criteria described in the previous section helped immensely to limit their number of interviews to just a handful of key customers. Getting the IT leads and managers to actually schedule the interviews was even more of a challenge for us.

This reluctance to interview key customers was puzzling to our team. These IT professionals had been interviewing new hires for well over a year and had been conducting semiannual performance reviews for most of their staffs for some time. Yet we were hearing almost every excuse under the sun as to why they couldn't conduct a face-to-face interview with key customers. Some wanted to do it over the phone, some wanted to send out surveys, others wanted to use email, and many simply claimed that endless "phone tag" and schedule conflicts prevented successful get-togethers.

We knew that these face-to-face interviews with primary customers were the key to negotiating reasonable expectations that in turn would lead to improved customer service. So we looked a little more closely at the reluctance to interview. What we discovered really surprised us: Most of our managers and leads believed that the interviews could easily become confrontational unless only a few IT-friendly customers were involved. Many had received no formal training on effective interviewing techniques, and felt ill-equipped to deal with a potentially belligerent user. Very few thought that they could actually convince a skeptical user that some of their expectations might be unrealistic, yet still be considered service-oriented.

This realization temporarily changed our approach. We immediately set up an intense interview training program for our leads and managers, which specifically emphasized how to deal with difficult customers. Traditional techniques such as open-ended questions, active listening, and restatements were combined with effective ways to cut off ramblers, negotiate compromise, and agree to disagree. We even developed some sample scripts for them to use as a guideline.

The training went quite well and proved to be very effective. Interviews with key customers began being conducted by leads and managers from all across our IT department. From the feedback we received about the interviews from both IT and our customers, we learned what most felt was the most effective part of the interview. We referred to it as the notion of validate, negotiate, escalate.

We stressed to interviewers that when their interviewees were in fact key customers, they should validate that the customer did indeed critically need and use the services that we were supplying, and ask about their current expectations for the levels of service provided. If the expectations were reasonable and obtainable, then the type and frequency of measurements to be used were discussed and agreed upon. If the expectations were unreasonable, negotiations, explanations, and compromises were proposed. If these negotiations didn't result in a satisfactory agreement, as would occasionally occur, the interviewer would politely agree to disagree and move on to other matters.

Afterwards, the interviewer would escalate the unsuccessful negotiation to his or her manager, who would attempt to resolve it with the manager of the key customer. This method proved to be exceptionally effective at negotiating reasonable expectations and realistic service levels. The hidden benefits included clearer and more frequent communication with users, improved interviewing skills for leads and managers, increased credibility for the IT department, and more empathy from our users for some of the many constraints under which most IT organizations function.

This empathy that key customers were sharing with us leads me to the second universal truth concerning customer service and expectations:

Most customers are forgiving of occasional poor service if reasonable attempts are made to explain the nature and cause of the problem, and what is being done to resolve it and prevent recurrences.

As simple and as obvious as this may sound, it's still surprising to see how often this basic concept is overlooked or ignored in IT organizations. IT customers and providers alike would all be better served if it was understood and used more frequently.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020