It’s easy to say yes to customers; say no and they’ll go elsewhere – so agree first and figure out the problems later. It’s also easy to promise much in advertising literature. However, what you tell your customers sets up their expectations of what they’ll get. Gap 4 is the one between what you say you can do and what you can actually do: over-promising and under-delivering.
- “No problem, we’ll have it with you tomorrow.”
- “Of course we can do it like that for you.”
- “How many do you need? No problem.”
- “Let me take a message and somebody will call you back within an hour.”
We’ve all had such promises over the phone – and I expect most, if not all, of us have been let down on them at some time or other. Think of your disappointment. Remember your annoyance after staying home for a promised delivery that didn’t show. And these can be quite small issue.
Most of the above can relate to telephone or Internet transactions. Think, now, about your organization’s marketing and sales team, or the advertising department. Their job is to promote the business, to get customers coming for your products or services. Their job is to sell and it’s easy to promise everything the customer wants; as I said at the start, say “no” and they might go elsewhere. But the promises have to be for things that can actually be done and delivered. And it’s just as important for everyone else who speaks to customers to present a realistic view on what is and is not possible.
If a delivery is going to be late, let the customer know in time to accommodate the delay; even if a delay will be difficult to address, it’s always better to know early than late. If you can’t meet the full specification, discuss it with the customer and, if necessary, get a dispensation; better to discuss it when there might be alternatives than when it’s too late. Even having to cancel an order will often be better all round than the haggling that will ensue later; and being honest about it early is likely to damage future order prospects less.
Some people call all this “managing expectations” – vital for customer satisfaction.
(Published as a blog 23rd April 2012)