Last fall, I wrote an article about the importance of establishing trust with your customer base. In it, I spent a lot of time establishing that trust is a foundational element of success in this industry. I mentioned that keeping a promise was an important way to show you are trustworthy. Keeping a promise, or, more specifically, doing what you said you were going to do is an equally important fundamental principle.


Our company has experienced a fair amount of success over the years. We have garnered local and national recognition many times over. Occasionally, someone leaves our organization to go to work for a competitor or maybe even themselves. When these people leave, sometimes there’s talk around the office that the person leaving may take some information, policy, or procedure with them to another company and use it to compete against us.

I usually dismiss this talk, citing that the one thing we do here that truly sets us apart from the competition is something that even if they know about it, very few companies or individuals are able to pull off. And, what is this silver bullet, you may ask? Hopefully you are sitting down while you are reading this because I don’t want to risk injury or bodily harm when your knees go weak. Here it is: When we say we are going to do something, we do it. I’m sure you cannot imagine the amount of time, money, customer service seminars, focus groups, psychological training, master’s degrees, and company retreats that were required to come up with this groundbreaking, innovative concept. But, I digress; it’s probably something our parents taught us or we learned in Sunday school. Why is simply doing what they said they are going to do so difficult that most companies’ reputations are built on just the opposite?


Have you ever watched a movie that was built on an element of suspense? Suspenseful movies usually lead you down a path of the unknown. There are things happening that are different from what you know should occur. In other words, given a certain setting, there is a path or a sequence of events, sights, or noises that are normal and expected. If these happen in the way you expect, you are relaxed and at ease. On the other hand, you become tense, anxious, and suspicious when things don’t go the way you were thinking they should.

When you open a closet to retrieve a jacket, you’re not really expecting someone to jump out with a machete. When we choose to watch a suspenseful movie, we are choosing to experience these feelings. How about when you gamble? Have you ever sat down at a table and spent time putting your money at risk? If you choose to sit at a Blackjack table or a roulette wheel, you’re playing a game and taking a chance on a hand dealt or a number coming up. The thrill you feel when you win and the anxiety you shoulder when you lose is exciting. People choose to engage in these activities every day, but no one wants to live there. We should never expect a customer to place their feelings or their hard-earned money on a roulette wheel.

When you tell someone you’re going to do something, whether you spell it out or not, you’re setting up an expectation that things are going to happen in a certain sequence or in a certain timeframe. We do this all day long in our businesses. You make promises and set up expectations every time you set an appointment, sit down to explain a problem, order a part, schedule a job, etc… These are all examples of times when customers or associates (and employees, for that matter) are told something is going to occur, and now they are going to find out if it actually happens that way.

When a promise is made, the path starts out and you have a choice. Is your customer going to wander down the desperately hoped-for path of relaxation and ease, or are they headed for a white-knuckle roller coaster ride? Your customer knows what is supposed to happen, and, as soon as the process starts to veer off the expected path, an uncertain and uneasy feeling is on the way. Of course, every time something unexpected happens, just like in that horror movie, your customer starts to wonder what else is around the corner.


Now that I’ve exhausted how important it is, here’s why I think it’s so hard for companies to perform on an acceptable level. It’s mainly due to insufficient processes that make it impossible for a simple promise to be kept. If you’re not organized sufficiently and/or have the proper communication systems in place to make sure techs show up on time, parts are ordered on time and correctly, and jobs are completed when promised, you’re doomed to fail. That’s right, you better get organized and staff your organization properly to enable the good people you have working on the front lines to actually do their jobs as promised.

Now, you might be thinking that you can use that old, familiar, tried-and-true tactic to overcome your lack of organization. Of course, you know what I’m referring to — the practice of managing expectations. Well, good luck with that. The phrase that comes to mind is: “That’s a cop-out.”

Publication date: 2/15/2016

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