We all are aware that our words spoken mean volumes and in business can be the difference between solidifying a customer relationship or losing one. As a former facilities manager for over 3 decades, I depended on my vendor partners to keep me informed of what was happening and when it was happening.
If my vendor partner promised dates and then consistently had to change them, it would give me pause on just how much I could trust the information that was being provided to me. Now that I am on the vendor side providing service I am even more aware that the information given by me to my customers must be accurate and on point.
Thus I try to underpromise to my customers and then overdeliver with my results. You might say, “What does that mean?” or aren’t you just misleading your customers with your responses? No, I am actually trying to help ensure that the information provided gives me the best chance to deliver to the customer the correct information promised.
See, I know that when I pass along information to the facilities contact on the other end, he or she has operations people, support people, even sometimes C suite people that they must pass the information given. The only thing those folks will remember is the work performed on or before the promised time. If work couldn’t be completed or more parts needed etc., a customer will not like it but will live with those issues on occasion. What they wont live with is a promise, then a change, then another promise and maybe another change.
Underpromise then overdeliver means giving you the best chance to make things happen on or before the time promised without creating a bogus timeline. For instance, call comes in on Tuesday, you respond service will be delivered on Thursday, if there is any question in your mind, state instead to customer before end of day Friday, that way if something happens, you have some lead time built in and if not, you end up doing the service call on Thursday which makes your customer happy.
Tips to help with underpromise then overdeliver are as follows:
1. Set up expectations you feel confident you can meet or even exceed.
2. Allow some wiggle room if you need to, like end of day when call is scheduled for that morning, or following day if call is scheduled late in the day, in case something doesn’t work out as planned.
3. Consistent delivery on time or early promotes trust with your customer.
4. Having to continuously say I am sorry means not only loss of trust but ultimately loss of business.
5. Don’t be forced into giving answers to customers that you know you will have a hard time meeting.
6. People hang on the word even if it is just literal, don’t say call you right back, or be there shortly, or should be in less than an hour unless you know for sure that is the truth.
7. Don’t be bogus on your times either, customer will learn and not appreciate promise on Friday, deliver 3 days early on Tuesday, then it will become a game.
8. For some calls like an install at 6 am on a Tuesday when customer is meeting you on site, overdelivering is a bad thing, you must set the time and meet it on scheduled visits.
As a facilities manager, I tried not to dictate the time line of when service was to be provided, at best I would offer a time line of when it needed to be done and let the vendor set the schedule. That way I was letting vendor tell me when something would be done and then I could hold them to that promise. If I dictated the schedule, then the vendor would always have an out that they just tried to make what I wanted work.
Communication is always key in any business partnership so remember people depend on what you say and then are those words backed up in results in the timeline you defined.
As you hold others accountable, hold yourself to the same standard, deliver what you promised by overdelivering to your customer at every opportunity.