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Sunday, 10 July 2011

Unhappy Customers? Under Promise and Over Deliver!

My wife, Hilary, told me of an experience that she had this last week which caused me to ponder on the need to set realistic expectations.
In brief, her office broadband went down which was a total tragedy and something that needed to be corrected as soon as possible.  The engineer promised to be there within the hour and eventually turned up 45 minutes late.   Simply because Hilary takes her promises to her clients very seriously indeed and never breaks them, she quite reasonably expects the same from others.  Result?  She had the job done satisfactorily and was still furious.
I gently pointed out that had the engineer said that he would be there in two hours she might have tried to negotiate a better deal but in end accept his estimate.  Then when he turned up 15 minutes early, she would have been delighted. 

Same time, different response.
My old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the Sage of Wythenshawe, used to say:
“Always under promise and then over deliver.  Set their expectations and then beat them”.
Phil’s approach to commercial life was based on his absolute commitment to building relationships which in turn were based on honesty and transparency.  He would never, and I mean never, discount a price, and on reflection, he never discounted a delivery promise either.
“Far better” he would say: “to be firm, have an argument with them at the outset, set their expectations for when the goods are going to be sent, and then deliver early”.
How many times have your sales people (or you, for that matter) been battered by a customer who says that they absolutely the goods in a metaphorical two weeks?  The sales person (or you) knows categorically that they can’t be shipped in less than four weeks, but capitulates under pressure and says: “I’ll see what I can do for you – I’m sure we will be able to do something to improve delivery (or words to that effect)” in order to please the customer.  It will please him but certainly not when the good arrive in four weeks.

A little gentle but firm questioning at the start can very often make the customer come clean and admit that his demand for quick deliver is based on little more than a macho approach to negotiation and in reality, the goods aren't needed in anything like that time.
So many times in business life we set unreal expectations especially when we are under pressure.  It is essential to set expectations which can then be realised and the result is that we have a satisfied customer or client.
As Phil Copp said: “Under Promise and Over Deliver” and that will ensure that you give consistently great service, and more to the point, build a reputation for honesty and consistency.  An outcome not to be sneezed at.

For more information visit www.vistage.co.uk and www.maa-uk.co.uk
To contact us, email to ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk
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1 comment:

CB said...

Morning, Ivan - thanks again for your wise words. This reminds me of the difference between "Sorry, no, we can't do it till Thursday afternoon" and "I guarantee we can do this by Thursday 4pm" - just the difference between bad news and good news!