Does your business deliver your promises?
Key message box: The best way for a business to impress its customers is to under-promise and over-deliver.
We all know the truth of this really, but we’ve probably all been tempted to over-promise in our rush to get an order. Then we end up under-delivering – not from any bad intention but because business and personal pressures force us to cut corners.
When we’re in intense competition with other businesses, and we suspect them of over-promising, it’s extremely tempting to do the same. We know they can’t do as they say, so we reason that the customer is no worse off.
Unfortunately, this results in an increasingly cynical customer, who doesn’t believe anyone’s service promises any more and therefore buys solely on price – which isn’t good for anyone who is trying to deliver a quality service. And a business which consistently under-quotes on price will find its rating on some review sites going down, because they check whether the final invoice matched the quote.
Four signs you over-promise:
Do you quote ideal delivery times you know are unrealistic?
Do you under-quote on price to get the job, then end up charging more later?
Do you promise you’ll do the work personally, knowing you won’t?
Do you pretend to have expertise you haven’t got?
One of the limitations of being a small business offering a service is the expectation of customers that you will do every job personally. Yet you may be trying to expand the business by taking on an employee so that you don’t have to do every job yourself. Customers frequently report annoyance that the knowledgeable person who came and talked to them about doing the job was replaced by an inexperienced junior when it came to the actual work. There’s an easy way round this: explain that you won’t be doing it yourself, and make a promise you can fulfil that you will personally supervise all the work that is done.
While “stretch” targets may seem like a great way to get the most out of your staff, they can result in unrealistic commitments that will never be met. Similarly, countless mis-selling scandals in the last few years have happened because sales staff were trying to meet impossible sales targets and found the only way to do it was to cheat. People hate the feeling they’ve been taken in, so treat them with respect by always telling them the truth.
If you tell people you can get a piece of furniture in two weeks, they are delighted if it arrives in ten days. But if you tell them you can get it in a week and it takes ten days, they’re fed up. Actually, it probably matters little to them whether it’s one week or two. In one scenario you have an unhappy customer; in the other you have one who is very pleased. Yet you did exactly the same thing. The crucial difference is between under-stating and over-stating.
Avoid over-commitment with this checklist:
Don’t make commitments you can’t fulfil.
Rein in over-enthusiastic sales staff.
Don’t set targets that no one can meet.
Be honest with customers and emphasise what you can do.