Look up “under promise” and “over deliver” in any online search engine and you’ll come up with conflicting results. Some business experts advocate for this business strategy, others caution against it:
Myriad more examples for either opinion can be listed; however, the common thread is that client satisfaction entails a delicate balancing act that focuses on one key concept: reliability. Reliability serves as the fulcrum upon which you balance customer expectations.
There’s a subtle distinction between trust and confidence, although people often use the two words interchangeably. As explained by DifferenceBetween.com, “Confidence refers to the assurance that we have on someone. Trust, on the other hand, refers to the firm belief that one has on another individual.” Confidence means you can delegate something to someone else and know it will be accomplished. This indicates an assurance in that person’s or company’s ability to do what is asked and to deliver as promised. Confidence develops based upon the evidence of past performance and can be enhanced by the recommendations of other highly regarded individuals. Trust, on the other hand, requires no evidence. Confidence is earned; trust is given.
Confidence, in short, arises from reliability. This is how brand loyalty is built.
A successful business depends upon the confidence of those who purchase its products and services. That confidence can be built by establishing and maintaining a reputation for integrity and consistent performance. People find consistency reassuring and a strong based built on confidence can withstand the occasional setback, because–as we all know–we cannot control every aspect of our lives and sometimes things happen that we cannot avoid. Trust, once broken, may be impossible to re-establish.
The Heggen Group offers past and prospective clients a viable track record of delivering on promises made. We help our clients to manage their customers’ expectations by analyzing what the do and how they do it to establish feasible processes that guide the delivery of top quality work as promised, on time, and within budget. By implementing processes that ensure reliable performance, clients can then build or increase their customers’ confidence which contributes to brand loyalty.
Thanks to big box stores and a pervasive “not my job” attitude, today’s expectations for customer service set a low standard and still clients aren’t happy. Whether you’re selling a product or service directly to the public or a product or service to another business that sells to the public, your concern lies in ensuring that the satisfaction of the end-user of that product or service. This opens up opportunities to improve upon client service and set your business apart from competitors. However, unless your clients deliver pointed feedback, you may not know your clients are dissatisfied until they’re gone, never to return.
In their June 30, 2015, blog, InfoSurv reports the insightful results of research conducted by Forrester Research, Inc. They cite the top four causes of customer dissatisfaction:
That of course, just tells you what your business should ward against, not how to discern whether your current customers are considering taking their business elsewhere.
The first thing to remember is that you cannot make everyone happy. Customer relationship management seems to forget that little caveat, but bending over backward and grabbing your ankles to make each and every customer happy will flout your company policies and frustrate your employees. Yes, sometimes, you must stiffen your spine and tell a customer, “No.”
The trick is to make sure the right customers remain happy. Writing for Layer Cake Creative, Kimberly MacArthur Graham’s September 8, 2015, article “3 Early Signs Your Client Is Not That Into You,” specifies the following indicators that should ring those internal alarms warning you that you’ve got an unhappy customer.
All four early warning signs merit follow-up with the client. They may result from a single bad experience or consistently poor delivery. If your company fails to honor its commitments and treats customers as though they’re all the same, then it’s time to improve your client service model. Open a conversation to gently probe into the source of the client’s dissatisfaction, ask what you can do to make their lives better, and then commit to keeping your word with follow-through action.
The Golden Rule is alive and well in business today, despite increasing opportunities afforded by modern technology to lie, cheat, and steal. With constant exhortations to verify references and perform background checks, it’s become even more important than ever to mean what you say and do what you say you will do.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. explores first the reasons why a person makes promises and doesn’t keep them, often using excuses like, “I forgot” or “I’m afraid I won’t do it correctly.” She breaks those reasons down into two categories:
1. Fear of disappointment. Basically, one agrees to do something so as not to disappoint the person making the request.
2. Resistance to control. One resents being controlled and rebels against that control by not doing whatever one agreed to do.
Paul suggests that the tug-and-pull of requesting tasks from someone who agrees and does not perform those tasks sets up a power struggle that cannot end until one of the parties takes responsibility for himself (or herself), “rather than trying to control the other or resist being controlled.”
In her article “5 Reasons to Do What You Say You Will Do,” Paul lists those five reasons why keeping one’s word holds such importance: integrity, trust and reliability, respect, self-worth, and personal power. No school of business teaches these traits; however, they’re just as important–if not more important–than knowing how to manipulate a spreadsheet or analyze a process. If your clients cannot trust you, you can be sure they won’t refer to colleagues and they might damage your already shaky reputation further by warning colleagues against you.
Honesty and integrity build customer loyalty. Keeping your word means not promising what you cannot deliver. The American Management Association states, “When individuals and companies don’t deliver on their brand promises, they fail to create or maintain uniqueness in their brand categories. That translates to a lack of brand loyalty among your customers. That means they’re just as likely to buy someone else’s widget over yours.” The last thing your company should do is over-promise and under-deliver.
That respect for your clients and customers must also translate into like respect for your employees. Employees who suffer from management’s broken promises and lies turn in lackluster performances until they find employment elsewhere.
The failure to do what you say you will do often results from an inability to tell people “No” or a habit of telling people what they want to hear because doing so sets up unrealistic expectations. Mark S. Putnam’s article “Ethical Communications: Keeping Your Promises” puts it bluntly: “Take the issue seriously, call it lying, and resolve that you will not do it.”
To help yourself to break that habit, you may need to post reminders about what you will say. Rehearse what you will say when you feel the urge to capitulate to requests so that you can explain the circumstances of your refusal. Don’t obfuscate. Be clear and straightforward.
“Remember that your words have meaning. People take what you say at face value. Being clear in what you say doesn’t just make you look more intelligent and in tune with the situation,” writes Putnam. And when you do fail, take your lumps and remember that only honesty can save the relationship.