Customer unsatisfaction: Promises in a “perfect world”


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If it’s true that customers are happier when promises are kept and expectations are exceeded (and it is), then the opposite is also true: break a promise and customers become (rightfully) angry, and the company loses credibility. How is it that appointments get missed, orders get lost, schedules get blown, or follow-ups are forgotten?

One root cause of broken promises comes from over-trying to satisfy someone by telling them what they want to hear, and then hoping and praying it will somehow come true. This can be called a “perfect-world” promise, which works like this: in a perfect world, the order always goes through, the product always leaves the factory on the correct day, the driver is always 100% healthy, the truck always manages to avoid traffic and shows up exactly on time, the parts are always damage-free, the colors always match exactly…you get the idea. In a perfect world, a chain of events that could potentially work out always does.

However, you and I both know that we don’t live in a perfect world. Orders get lost, parts are ordered incorrectly, shipments don’t show up on time, people get sick, traffic happens, and yes, promises are broken.

The challenge for us is to be the experts in our respective fields by anticipating the imperfections that we know are inevitable in the “real world.” This way, we are only committing to what we know can actually be accomplished. Then, and only then, IF we are graced with a “perfect world” string of events, and things happen to work out more quickly, expectations can be beaten and satisfaction increases.

Make a commitment to avoid perfect-world promises with everyone, especially with other employees. If a promise is made to help someone else, actual follow through is essential. It’s much too easy to just say we will help in the “perfect world” and then get too busy with other things in the real world. Because, whether it’s with a customer or teammate, a promise that isn’t kept in the real world ultimately was never really a promise to start with; it was simply something we hoped would happen.

Just for fun…

“Isn’t it strange? The same people who laugh at gypsy fortune tellers take economists seriously.” — Cincinnati Enquirer

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


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