Keep your business promises, no matter how small they may be. Sounds like the most basic of business principles, doesn't it? Why then do so few businesses keep their day to day promises?
This is something we often take for granted in our business dealings, but all it takes is a bad experience to highlight how much of a real differentiator reliability can be to online and offline to businesses that excel in this area. If you want to make people remember and trust your brand, keep your promises, no matter how big or small.
Think about it this way. If your business website promises delivery within 24 hours, but your actual delivery time is 48 hours, what does that say to to your customers? Surely 48 hours is still a good turnaround time? Probably not to your customers, at least not any more. Simply put, you have created an expectation in your customers' minds, and your actual delivery has been 100% overtime on that expectation. If your site promised 48 hours, and you delivered on time, I doubt that your customers would pay attention nearly as much to the turnaround time as to the fact that you keep your business promises of timeous delivery.
Promises are the benchmark measurement
of good service delivery
It's easy to change a process and forget to update your related website content. As important as your word to a customer is verbally, people will look to your website to decide when to do business with you, and you need to be sure you can live up to what you promise online.
Now, when it comes time for your customers to assess that big expectation of a one year guarantee on the quality of your products, it will certainly be skewed heavily by your performance on smaller promises to date. When it comes to the big promises, your customer will probably be having some serious doubts about your ability to deliver. After all, if you cannot keep your small promises, it's much more likely that you won't keep your big ones. That makes it very unlikely that customers will believe anything more that you say to them, simply because you didn't even keep a very simple promise made up front. That is bad for referrals, bad for repeat business, and bad for the general reputation of your business.
On the other hand, keeping your word builds trust. A while back we had need to contract with a number of businesses for an event we needed to run. Of those that promised to phone back about some aspect of the event, some who made that promise never did. In one case a prospective supplier only got back to us weeks later. In some cases we had to follow up and make sure that they delivered according to their promised deadlines.
Are your website promises well-intended,
but overly optimistic?
By selling your products and services as what they are, while working to continually raise your standards, you will get a good match of customer expectations to actual results, which results in trust and repeat business.
One of the businesses that we contracted was a small, home-based catering business. When we visited them, we were treated like royalty, and we were promised a phone call on a specific date, a number of weeks into the future. Did we get my call on the specified date? Absolutely. In fact, unable to contact the primary contact person at the time, the caterer not only left messages on all available contact numbers, he phoned again first thing the following morning, before we had even had a chance to return the messages. So, when it came to worrying about our catering, do you think we did? Not at all. We knew that this was one service provider who always kept his word. So while we spent a great deal of time keeping close tabs on the progress of some of our other suppliers, this was one that we knew we could count on.
Check the promises made on your website carefully. Are they well-intended but overly optimistic when it comes down to your actual ability to deliver? Do you promise high quality products and services that are actually only reasonable quality, but at a very good price? Chances are that if you sell them as what they really are you will get a far better match of customer expectations to actual results, which results in trust. And the results of customers trusting you is that they will refer you to their friends and make use of your services again, because they got what they expected the first time around.
Small impressions, consistently delivered, create lasting expectations, and build your business' reputation for better or worse.
Remember the small things like punctuality, courtesy and efficiency. If you don't, your customers certainly will!
Another common mis-step relates to first impressions and your first few interactions with prospective and new customers. A "Contact Us" form on your website that doesn't work, or that is not monitored for submissions, is literally throwing money, and your reputation, down the drain. If a customer emails you with a query, reply promptly and efficiently, and that is how they (probably correctly) will expect your future communications with them are likely to be when they really have a pressing need. When you promise to email or phone a customer on a specific date or time, make a note of it and stick to it rigidly. When you promise delivery of a product or service in a certain way, by a certain date, you can be sure that your customer will not be as forgiving as you would hope if you do not deliver as promised. If you really cannot deliver as expected, most people are reasonable if you give them a call to explain the problem, and assure them of your fullest attention at resolving it. Most people will still prefer to deal with a business that encountered difficulties delivering, but explained the problem and worked hard to resolve it, over a business that makes promises and only delivers in their own time.
A few small basics that are neglected by your competitors can really make you stand out. Remember the small things like punctuality, courtesy and efficiency. If you don't, your customers certainly will!