Promises: Easy to Make, A Must to Keep

Do you ever think about the bottom-line impact of not keeping your promises? Of failing to meet customer expectations?

On one day last week I received emails from two companies who are supposed to be providing services to me. I had inquired about the status of my projects.

  • One email read: “I hope you are well. We’ve had an unusually busy fourth quarter. We’ll get to your project next week.”
  • The other read: “I was in the ER yesterday with kidney stones. I can send you the paperwork to prove it.”

These don’t sound too bad, right? We all understand busy-ness and certainly health emergencies can happen to anyone.

However, the first company had already promised me that they’d get to my project “next week” two previous times and the second company had already relied on my understanding to excuse a two-week delay earlier in the month.

They’ve abused my trust and my good nature. They made promises they did not keep, not once or even twice, but three times or more.

Exactly Meet Expectations

Every company has one valuable asset that they fully control. That asset is its reliability; its commitment to delivering on every promise and commitment every single time. When a company blows that, they’re throwing away years of goodwill, relationship-building and a ton of money.

I recently read a book, Purple Goldfish, whose authors state that a company that meets expectations isn’t doing enough. Unless a company over-delivers their buyers will think they’ve under-delivered. Although there is a lot in this book that I agree with, this is one sentiment I disagree with.

You’ve also probably heard many sales experts insist that you should “under promise and over-deliver.”

I disagree with that idea as well.

Your company should align every necessary resource to exactly meet expectations. Whether you set expectations high or low is up to you and varies given the unique circumstances of your industry and your buyers. I prefer high levels of expectations because that’s where the best profits are, but that may not be your goal for a particular product or service or groups of buyers.

Whatever you choose, tell the customer what to expect and then make sure they get exactly that.

When you do this, your reputation grows. Wouldn’t you like customer feedback that sounds like this:

  • “They’re so reliable.”
  • “I can set my watch to their delivery.”
  • “When they say they’re going to do X, they do it.”
  • “I never worry about getting what I need when I need it and exactly how I need it.”

Meeting Today’s Expectations Leads to Tomorrow’s New Sale

The best part of meeting expectations is that you can easily and confidently go back to your buyers and ask them what else they need that you could provide to them. This is the essence of the cultivating and nurturing that I work on with every company. Talk to your buyers, really ask them meaningful questions, and develop new offerings that meet new needs.

Can you imagine having that kind of conversation with someone that you’ve disappointed; whose expectations you’ve failed to meet? Would they give you their limited time and attention when you clearly didn’t give them everything they were expecting? No.

Choose or Lose

The provider who has told me several times that they’re so busy that my work must be delayed made a choice somewhere along the way. They knew my work was in their queue and how many resources are needed to get it done, yet they took on other work.

They have two choices if they’re going to keep their promise to me: turn down or delay other work or add to their staff. In either case I get my project completed and I think highly of them. Since they didn’t do either, my feelings about them are significantly less positive. This is particularly wasteful to them because I believe quality of their work is excellent. But if they don’t meet their promises, that quality is undermined.

The provider who was in the ER seems to be in the habit of making promises and then waiting until the last minute to start the work. So, if anything unexpected happens, they’re going to deliver late. This is not just poor planning; it feels to me like an attitude that promises to customers don’t really matter. It’s telling that they have not yet resumed my work, even though the owner said she was only in the ER for one day.

Planning Planning Planning

Everywhere I go owners and executives talk about planning. Strategic planning, financial planning and sales planning. Rarely do I hear about customer delivery planning. If you don’t deliver to the customers you have, no other plan is going to make a difference.

I challenge you to set aside one hour today to think about your company’s customer delivery planning. Every industry, every company and all buyers are different so one size does not fit all. Start somewhere and make a comprehensive plan for meeting every single customer expectation in that narrow slice. Get it right, keep at it until customer feedback is 100% positive and glowing. You can then add another area until your company is meeting expectations every single time.

The company that meets expectations every single time will generate more repeat buying and referrals will flow in. This is the ultimate “Think INSIDE the Box” where the riches are.

If you’re eager to meet expectations and feel curious about how to actually do it, we’d love to have a discovery conversation with you. 703-801-0345.

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