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How To Make 'Em Smile: Promise Less, Deliver More

Recently I ordered a new keyboard for my computer from an internet site. The price was great, it was exactly what I wanted. The site provided free shipping, but I would have to wait to receive the order: the confirmation page said two days for the processing and another 7-10 days for delivery. Since it was not a high priority, I was satisfied with this promise, and put a note in my calendar to expect the package two weeks from the order date.

To my great surprise, two days later I found a package at my door. It was my keyboard!  Of course I was delighted. The combination of great price and fast shipping turned me into an enthusiastic fan of this web store and I will do business with them again!

We want our clients come back and refer us to other people, too. Building this loyalty means building trust and credibility, which takes time and patience – two elements in very short supply especially when we need our business to grow fast.

Unfortunately, in a quest to speed up the process, it is very tempting to promise more, in the hopes that it will convince the prospect to sign up right now – and push me to actually deliver more. But does raising the commitment from me to my client translate into more loyalty from the client to me?

The trap is one of rising expectations. When a client first purchases from me it is not necessarily because of the thing or the service they are investing in, but rather because they have a certain level of trust with me. That first purchase tests the trust. If I deliver just what I’ve promised, it does not necessarily increase the trust, but it does not lower it either. So there is no change in the “trust capital” between me and my client, no matter how well I’ve done…because I’ve simply delivered on what I’ve done.

Now consider this: if I promise more than the average, but deliver the average, what happens to the “trust capital”? I am at least “competent” because I’ve delivered the average. But my trust capital goes down because I’ve fallen short of my commitment. Not good.

Domino’s Pizza learned this the hard way with their “thirty minute guarantee” in the 1980’s – it raised expectations so high, that as soon as they failed to meet that high standard, even by a couple of minutes, customers were not happy.

But if I promise the average, but deliver more – then my trust capital goes up, and both myself and my client win. I notice that when I order pizza from my local place, they promise 45-60 minutes (initial disappointment) but usually deliver in 30 minutes or less anyways (instant delight!).

Be like Chief Engineer Scott on the USS Enterprise – every time Captain Kirk asks Scotty to do something, Scott hums and haws and says it will take a long time. But he always manages to make it happen much faster because he knows he can.

It’s not the perks or gimmicks like price reductions or free gifts that wins the loyalty of your clients. It’s when the job is done right in a way that delights the customer. Build your trust capital. Undercommit and overdeliver – that is probably the fastest way to build your credibility and increase the trust people have with you – so you can attract more and better clients.

For more information

Article: Some Thoughts About Trust

  • Trust is the essential binding agent that keeps people working together. What is Trust? How is it generated and maintained?
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