“In today’s competitive landscape, companies need to keep their promises to ensure they retain the trust of their customers”- Ernan Roman
It would be safe to say that keeping promises to customers should underlie everything that a company does, and is at the core of customer service excellence. Customers understand that there would be service lapses and problems. Customers are ready to forgive if they know that the company tried its best, and that it would do anything to make amends. Customers must perceive effort and commitment from the company in keeping its promises to them. Breaking promises to customers is a sure shot way of driving them away, and ensuring that they never come back. We know that customers become profitable and loyal for companies that they like and trust and these feelings come about only when a company is able to do everything it said it would do at the start of the association.
Keeping promises to customers is a business necessity today, in order to achieve customer loyalty. In today’s competitive business scenario, customers have a huge number of choices and they are unlikely to stay with a company that is unable to inspire confidence and trust. When beginning an association with a new customer, it is imperative for a company set clear expectations. It is also essential to ensure that the sales staff do not over promise and narrate half-truths when making their sales pitch to customers. In addition, it is vital that customers are kept informed in case of inadvertent delays, such that customers are not kept waiting and guessing. Customers hate to wait, especially if a company may have promised certain deadlines and service level standards. In order to remain consistently successful in keeping promises to customers, companies must promise only as much as they can deliver. In fact, one of top business mantras is under promise and over deliver for customer satisfaction – not vice versa.
While a company may have one broad service level agreement for all customers, there could be certain specific commitments and promises to some. It is important for a company to keep a written note of these commitments, and keep the particular customers informed about them too. Things like due dates, some additional offers, and other such specifics must be written and not entrusted to memory. It would be better to use technological tools that provide updates and reminders to ensure prompt deliveries and keeping promises to customers. In addition, everyone in the company must be aware of and understand the promises the company has made to its customers. Keeping promises to customers must be a norm and culture in the company, such that everyone pulls their weight to ensure that the company delivers on these promises consistently.
Promises cannot hold if they do not have a due date attached to them. This ensures that the customers know what they can expect, and when they can expect to get what they want. Ambiguity creeps into promises that do not come with a date – as soon as possible is not a due date, but rather it reeks of doubt and a lack of commitment. In order to keep customers at ease, it would be better for a company to let customers know for sure – removing ambiguity inspires trust and confidence in customers, which over time leads to loyalty, and today’s competitive environment gaining customer loyalty is a major achievement for any company.
Part of keeping promises to customers is ensuring that during the processes of promoting your company, and branding, the one thing that companies must keep in mind is ensuring that they form a connection with their customers. Creating emotional experiences for customers would change their perception about a company, and lead them to believe that the company would not only keep promises but would ensure that its customers receive the best of service and products. While promotions must show customers the benefits of associating with the company, it must also be able to display the company’s commitment towards its customer’s feelings and emotions, which in turn would draw customers close, and encourage them to interact and engage with the company for a long time.
Keeping promises to customers is all about ensuring that a company begins with promising only what it knows it can sustainably deliver on, and get customers to think only about its brand. By delivering on promises made to customers, a company is able to create a sense of belonging and oneness with its brand, in the mind of the customers. We know that today’s business market is extremely crowded and it would be very easy for a company to become over-shadowed and lost in the melee. However, companies that would be consistently capable of keeping promises to customers would be able to differentiate themselves, stand out from the crowd, attract a larger number of customers, and ensure that customers they are able to attract and retain, become long-standing loyal customers.
Companies that succeed in keeping promises to customers often, gain a reputation of being reliable and trustworthy. This in turn enhances the reputation and reach of a company since existing customers tend to share their great experiences with others. This ‘ripple effect’ radiates in several directions, reaching markets and customers that a company may not even know existed, thereby enhancing the chances of a company to gain new customers. However, the same is also true for companies who fail at keeping promises to customers – the customers dissatisfied with the company would let others know of their less than satisfactory experiences, creating an unhealthy ripple effect that would go against a company. A company’s ability to keep its promises to customers is inextricably tied to its reputation and brand image, and inability to come true on promises damages both.
It is essential for a company to remain open and transparent in its dealings with the customers. The customers of today are smart, intelligent, and know how to use the information at their disposal, and hence would easily be able to see through lies or a false image that a company may try to portray. By trying to imitate, or be something that it is not, a company would in essence not be keeping promises to customers of sincerity, integrity, and trust, and customers are unlikely to stick with such companies. Breaking promises is disrespectful to customers and goes against business ethics, and such companies cannot sustain themselves for too long. It is important to treat customers as individuals – people with feelings, emotions, and the right to be treated courteously. Not keeping promises to customers is akin to treating them as objects / or only a sales number, and in doing so a company may gain short-term, but in the long haul it would not be able to sustain itself and retain its customers.
Creating a brand and building its image is all about showing value to customers. Value comes from keeping promises to customers – both the ones in the service level agreements, and those the brand may subtly imply. As mentioned keeping promises to customers is not only the responsibility of the leadership or the customer service teams, but rather it must be part of the culture and values of the company, ensuring that everyone in the company works towards building an impactful and lasting positive image of the brand. How does your company fare in keeping promises to customers?