Over Promise, Under Deliver– Initiate Meltdown Sequence

angry-kid-1Spending an entire day indoors with young children can be brutal.  We are constantly finding ways to get out of the house and be active.  For those of you who don’t live in Southern California, I am sorry for this post.  On Saturday, a friend asked if we wanted to go hiking with them.  I responded with an “absolutely” and he indicated they would drop by our house really soon.

It was at that point that I turned to my kids and said “Hey, do you guys want to go hiking?”  If you haven’t been around many 2-year-olds, they have no concept of time.  If you say you are going to do something, you had better be ready to do it that very moment.  They immediately got into the car and buckled their seat belts.  I figured it was no harm since it would only take about twenty minutes for my friends to arrive.

Twenty minutes later, I received a text saying “We’re on our way.”  It’s at that point that I had to face my boys and admit that I had over-promised and under-delivered.  The 5-year-old understood but wasn’t happy.  The 2-year-old however, went into his complete meltdown sequence.

Isn’t customer service just like this?  If you haven’t heard the old adage of Under Promise, Over Deliver, you need to commit it to memory.  Over promising is a surefire recipe for angry customers.  Here are just a few tips for preventing this error:

1. Do not promise anything to a customer if you aren’t 100% confident that you can deliver and in the expected time frame.  If you tell a customer you will resolve their issue or contact them back on or before a certain time, you had better make sure you are able to keep that promise.

2. Be careful making promises that require you to depend on others to fulfill.  If an issue is being fixed by someone else in your organization, you are not in control of the resolution.  It is very dangerous to start making promises.

3. Under-promise does not mean under-communicate. If you have a sensitive issue with a customer, it is important to communicate often with them.  This gives them a sense that you are working with them and are just as invested in the resolution as they are.

As individuals, this is a critical customer service skill to learn.  You may also be aware of cases where your company over promises and under delivers.  Perhaps your company sends incorrect shipping estimates to customers or routinely bills them incorrectly.  These cases of unmet expectations are the recipe for a terrible customer experience and unfortunately, the front line customer service team gets to hear about it.  If you are aware of these issues at your company, make sure management knows about them.  They had better be listening and responding with a “thank you” every time you do!

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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