Stop Breaking Promises to Customers

by | Jul 13, 2016 | Customer Service | 0 comments

breaking promises to customers

Photo by Nathan Cowley

“Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep”. – Denis Waitley

We will begin with an oft-repeated cliché – there can be no business without customers. Every business has the responsibility of keeping its customers happy. They remain happy when a company lives up to their expectations and does not break promises to customers. Every business makes promises to its customers – either explicitly or implied through its brand and culture. Whatever the nature of the promises, the fact is the fulfillment or not, of these promises will lead to the company’s failure or success.

A company that builds a reputation for keeping its promises to customers gains the trust and loyalty of customers, unquestionably. Conversely, breaking promises made to customers would speedily and surely affect the reputation of a company. It leads customers to explore partnerships with other companies. Since your customers are part of your valued assets, you need to ensure that they have access to the right information. You can use a tool, and one such example of this tool is interactive decision trees.

Keeping promises to customers builds strong relationships

As long as there is a relationship, a company would be making promises to customers. These promises begin at the time of a sales pitch and would continue during the entire duration of the association. Most companies put together a service level agreement (SLA). It clearly defines and specifies the level of service the company would provide to its customers. These SLAs are promises to customers about product/service delivery timelines, timelines for responding to queries, and other customer service standards.

Customers know what to expect. They can demand the service stated in the SLAs if a company should fail in certain respects. Keeping its promises is what would make a company build a rapport and durable relationship with its customers. It makes them loyal and profitable over time. Most company promises are woven into their mission and vision statements and the values by which they claim to run their business. Customers hear of top-class service and experiences, and superlative products and services. Prospective investors are lured by the promise of accelerated growth strategies, bringing in maximized returns for them. Employees are promised a great work culture with several growth opportunities.

Breaking customer promises leads to a company’s failure

The fact is that a company does not only make promises to customers but to several people. These SLAs, and statements the company issues are now easily accessible and highly visible, owing to websites, social media sites, and other online media. This, in turn, makes it even more imperative and critical for a company to deliver on these promises. Otherwise, failure to do so leaves them open to large-spread criticism that would be visible to a much wider audience.

It is strange to note then, that some companies blatantly flout their commitments or struggle to keep their promises to customers and others. Companies seem so caught up in managing their competitors and meeting crazy deadlines. These critical to business and success promises are often neglected. A company that’s known to not deliver on its promises can quickly lose market share, damage its reputation, lose customers, and face high attrition amongst its employees. Failure becomes inevitable.

Lack of trust

The fact is, a company that breaks its promises to customers and its other critical ‘partners’ is hard to trust. From previous discussions, research, and surveys, we know that customers prefer to do business with a company they can trust and depend on to keep its word. Failure to deliver on promises erodes that trust and violates the general code of work ethics. It leads to a complete and irreparable breakdown of the relationship a company may have with customers and others. Companies often make promises to customers to entice and lure them into forming an association by convincing them of their ability to serve them in the way they expect.

However, if these promises are only ‘lip service’, a company would not be able to sustain them. It leads to disillusionment and customer ire, which can prove extremely detrimental to a company. Research reveals that a very large number of customers believe that companies have failed to keep their promises and deliver on the commitments they may have made. At least 40% of customers state that the companies that they associate with have broken their promise. In fact, they claim ignorance that they are doing so.

Do not overpromise

It is an oft-repeated statement in business – it is better to underpromise and over-deliver, rather than the other way around. That is if you wish to keep customers. Customers are a lot smarter and well-informed now. They know a promise and a commitment when they see one – even if it is not explicit. When a company claims to have the best products with the lowest prices, customers expect these ‘promises’ to be true. A company that makes a statement such as “our customers are valuable to us”, implies that customers are treated with respect, are important, and are provided with the best service at all times.

The truth is that customers hold a company responsible even for implied promises. They are unwilling to accept anything but the best. A company that keeps its promises to customers can strengthen its relationships with customers. It becomes a preferred partner, even in the highly competitive market of the current times. This trait can take a company to greater heights.

Companies need to make promises they can keep

Customers expect that when companies and their representatives make recommendations for products or services, they would do so keeping the customer’s best interests in mind. The recommendations should be based on what the customer needs, rather than with the sole aim of selling. They need to feel reassured that a company is acting as a trusted partner and an advisor for them. One that puts the needs of customers before its own.

A company must take the time and make the effort to genuinely understand its customers and their needs, and fashion the company’s SLAs and commitments around those needs. It would be easier for customers to trust and for the company to deliver on the promises it makes. It would be better to make fewer, yet robust commitments. Rather than a long list of promises that a company never intends to keep or would be unable to keep sustainably.

Keeping customer promises builds loyalty

Given that a company would have several customers, each segment of customers has different requirements. The company should maintain a database of these requirements versus the commitments, in order to keep track of and fix any problems. It can be before they occur or at least as soon as they occur. Employees and leaders of the company must be trained to understand the company’s capabilities and refrain from making promises to customers that they cannot keep.

It is also necessary to maintain an updated tracker of promises, the timelines agreed, the promises fulfilled, and the ones that may be ongoing or yet to be delivered. As customers perceive a company’s commitment and dedication towards their needs and the effort it puts in to deliver on its promises, customers would be more than willing to stay with the company. They provide repeat business and are willing to pay slightly more for the company’s products and services.

Companies that keep their promises to customers instill confidence in their customer base, but also in all others that associate with them, and in the ‘marketplace’ at large. Companies can garner unflinching support from all their business ‘partners’, giving them an added edge of competitiveness. In addition, a company would also reduce its workload, which would otherwise arise from repeat queries, complaints, reputation management, and efforts to gain back lost customers due to a loss of trust. It makes more sense for a company to keep its promises to customers. In return, the company gains its long-term trust and support.

Improve Customer Service using Decision Trees

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