Catalytic Management Consulting
Accelerating Growth, Driving Performance

Promises, Promises: When You or Your Clients Say One Thing But Do Another

Your sales team tells clients that the new product will be released to the market in three months, and that next month they’ll get all the specifications on the new product—a full two months before this information is released to the public. Clients are thrilled that they’ll be able to beat their competition by getting this information in advance.

Your customer service team tells callers, any caller, that the new product information will be available in 60 days. But your marketing department has just updated your web site to include this new product release and has highlighted details and specs about the product in an effort to prime the market.

Sound familiar? This misrepresentation to customers of service promises is made every day by many organizations—and probably made occasionally at your organization, too.

During an exercise on service promises recently delivered to the home healthcare division of a non-profit organization, the group discovered that their web site had just posted an explanation of a new service they were planning to offer—“planning” being the operative word. “Oh my God” were the director’s exact words when they reviewed the web site as part of the exercise. “We haven’t even worked out the process yet for delivering the new service. I need to take a break right now and talk to marketing.”

The Service Promise

Your clients are receiving information every day that tells them what to expect from your organization. These expectations are your “service promises.” Whether you consciously create, define and communicate service promises or not, they happen every day and these service promises determine exactly how satisfied or dissatisfied your customers are and will be with your company. Disconnects in service delivery promises occur unless you have put in place the following things:

  • A clear definition of your “service promise”
  • An understanding of the role of service in your organization
  • An organization-wide commitment to service led by senior management
  • Clear communication across all functional departments within your organization regarding your company’s service standards
  • Assigned responsibility for service within your organization

The Role of Service in Your Organization: Brand, Promise or Luck

“We’re Job One!” “The Customer is our Business!” “The Customer Comes First!” These are all well known branding statements that were built around the belief that differentiated customer service drives profits. And they’re right, IF and ONLY IF those promises are kept.

Most businesses today claim to be committed to the customer and claim to make service a high priority. Many go so far as to make service statements like those above to differentiate their brand. Your company may not have chosen to use service as a branding component but I’d bet that service is “talked about” and emphasized enough that your staff has gotten the message that “we need to promise great customer service.”

Your staff may be making service promises every day in response to management comments. Here’s an example of how an executive can talk about service one day in a speech only to see it translated into a promise that the staff then carries directly to the customers.

The senior management of one of our clients recently attended an internal sales meeting and talked about management’s efforts to work with suppliers to reduce the number of back orders and to secure a commitment from suppliers to fulfill back orders within 30 days. The next day, sales people began “promising” customers that they would get their back-ordered items in 30 days. Even though the issue of back orders had not been totally or officially resolved, the intent quickly became a promise—a promise that the company was not ready to keep. But if you make such promises, they must be kept. If not, your customers will eventually move on to your competition. Here are some basic steps you can take that will improve your odds of keeping your service promises:

Create a “service leadership” team, which includes representatives from senior management, operations, product development, marketing, sales and finance.

  1. Create a “service leadership” team, which includes representatives from senior management, operations, product development, marketing, sales and finance.
  2. Define your company’s “service promise” and incorporate it as part of the organizations mission and vision statements.
  3. Define and distribute specific service standards for each department.
  4. Train the entire company in those standards and in how to deliver superior service.
  5. Develop a formal service recovery system and monitor failures for process improvement.
  6. Define and assign the responsibility for monitoring your service promises.
  7. Develop an ongoing service improvement methodology.

Keeping Your Promises Protects and Increases Your Bottom Line

Committing to delivering high levels of service that will truly drive your bottom line is difficult and requires real discipline. If your organization is willing to make a long-term commitment to the hard work of delivering differentiated service, you should begin by developing a service quality program that includes the key elements of service quality improvement: define, measure, innovate, train and sustain. Here are the key steps:

  • Define your service promises and standards and build those standards into job descriptions.
  • Measure your success at meeting those standards and include service performance in performance evaluations.
  • Reward those who exceed your standards.
  • Innovate by continuously improving and refining your service.
  • Train the entire company and develop on-going programs that will keep the company focused on service.

Most importantly, listen to your customers. Your customers will tell you what they expect and how you can meet those expectations. Delivering differentiated service is not an event; it’s a journey that starts with keeping your service promises today.

Back to top ^