The concept of under-promise and over-deliver sounds sexy, but if followed, it lowers your reliability (a key trust builder) in the customer’s eyes. For example, let’s say that you have told the customer that you will have his requested analysis to him in seven days. Let’s assume that the customer thinks this is reasonable because he believes it will take some critical thinking to deliver something of value on this issue that has perplexed him for months.
Now, let’s say you get the analysis to the customer in two days. On the outside, he will probably smile and say thank you for the fast turnaround. But on the inside, the customer might be thinking: That guy didn’t know enough about the issue to know how long it should take. I wonder about his experience? He must have just thrown something together to get it off his plate. I wonder about his commitment? Was he trying to impress me by under-promising and over-delivering? I see that as deceitful.
Those are not good thoughts, are they? So what will the customer probably think the next time you make a promise, for instance, doing something within 10 days? Probably something like this: Well, he hedged several days last time, so I guess I should expect his response in three or four days this time.
If you do get what you committed to do done in three or four days, you have confirmed that what you say is not what to expect. If you complete it in the 10 days stated, the customer will not know what to think. Either way, your reliability is damaged (and probably your credibility).
Let me reiterate: If you are trying to demonstrate reliability, do the job as close to what you described and as close to when you promised as you can.
There is one important exception to this, however. If you are dealing with something of high importance to the customer, for example, lives in danger, you ethically owe it to the customer to deliver the goods at the quality level that is appropriate as soon as possible.
Here is a Shining Example that demonstrates reliability: “I understand the criticality of your situation, and I promise to do what I can to bring resolution as soon as I can. As you know, this is complex and will involve several of our best and busiest people. I will start immediately after our conversation. As a realistic estimate, based upon my experience, this will probably take three to five days. However, if the stars align and the gears mesh, of course we will do it sooner. Tell me, how would you like me to update you on the status?”
Building Trust Best Practice: Do what you said you would do, exactly when you said you would do it.
This post was taken from my book, The Brilliant Service Professional: Building Trust, Creating Value, Having Fun.