Not long ago I returned from a trip to Brussels where we hosted a successful symposium for our customers (100% of survey respondents would recommend the event to others). Ask anyone who has been a part of these events what makes them successful and the answer will be three (3) things: planning, execution, and reacting to change(s).
We found ourselves in a bit of a conundrum when our vendor didn’t meet commitments they made. In our case, they said a conference room would seat one number of participants when in fact it seated 20% fewer. This lack of space was a problem… and we adapted successfully.
But it highlights one of the “golden rules” of customer service. Do what you say you will do. Meet commitments. There are 4 types of commitments one can make:
- No Hope of Keeping – Don’t fall into this trap. In this arena, I’m a big fan of a “one strike and you’re out” policy.
- Keep – This is the standard. Meeting commitments is perfectly acceptable for customers.
- Keep and Exceed – This is the goal. Do better than what your customer expects, or do better than the competition’s capabilities and you’re on the way to dominating a market.
- Determine Later You Can’t Keep – The exception… when this happens, fess up early. I have a friend who says “bad news doesn’t get better with time”. He is absolutely correct. If you find yourself in a situation where a commitment will be missed, let your customer know and apologize. (Ideally, have a new solution or prepare a revised timeline in advance of the discussion. That is, come with a solution, not just a problem.) Customers may be angry, but not as angry as they’d be if you surprised them later.
Individuals fear commitment; more so when their organizations are complex and rely on many people to deliver a solution or product on time. But commitments about your products and services are a key component of the value. Without setting and making expectations customers seek out alternative providers who will make and keep commitments.
If your company doesn’t make commitments, or routinely misses them, you know you have a big problem whose solution will depend on whether or not the company (1) views the misses as a problem and (2) whether they are prepared to correct the problem. If both of these cases hold, look for new work – your life will be miserable and your personal brand will be tainted by a poor company.
The pivot point (which I hope you agree is common sense) is that your company’s success depends on your ability to make and keep commitments.