The Myth of Under Promise Over Deliver

Neal SpencerBy Neal Spencer 3 years agoNo Comments
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The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. – Michelangelo

We all want happy customers. If we can manage expectations and give folks a little more than what they’re expecting – or so we think – they’ll be more impressed, spend more money with us, and we’ll be more successful.

Tom Peters introduced the philosophy of “under promise over deliver” in his 1982 book In Search of Excellence. So why not follow this line of thinking?

Well, for one thing, recent evidence shows it doesn’t really work.

Shortening the Track Won’t Make You Run Faster

In a 2014 study, a pair of researchers set out to learn how people respond when promises are broken, kept, or exceeded. While broken promises did result in low satisfaction, exceeding a promise had no impact on satisfaction.

So what’s the key takeaway? Sure, being late really is bad for business. But being early wins you no more brownie points than being on time.

Author Rick Barrera calls underpromising a “one way ticket to oblivion.” In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, companies who promise excellence will win the business over those who promise something less. Barrera names American Girl Dolls, Google, and Hummer as brands who have built their success by making “outrageous” promises and then exceeding those.

Promise Excellence and Deliver Excellence

Instead of promising mediocrity up front and hoping to wow your clients later on, keep the bar high. Promise excellence, and challenge yourself to deliver on that.

Remember, promises are a social contract. Start by just plain doing what you say you will do. Keep your client informed. If something goes wrong, accept responsibility, learn from it, and do better next time.

By consistently promising and delivering excellence, you’ll earn loyalty and goodwill for the long haul. Both you and your customers will Thrive and not Just Survive!

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