Yesterday evening, arriving home from work late, a conversation ensued that went something like: “You know, you did say earlier you were going to try and leave work early. I’d rather you didn’t even say that to me as it gets my hopes up!”
And in that split-second as my Wife and I were talking, it hit me between the eyes. Despite the fact I already had the topic for today’s blog all figured out in advance, (see Day 9 for more on that,) I knew this topic resonated far more.
So look, here’s the thing. I try to live my life by the principle of “under promise and over achieve”. There are so many ways you might put this concept into practice. If you are due for dinner or a party, why would you commit yourself to arriving bang on time if you know you always run late by 10 minutes? Why not tell your host you might only arrive 10 minutes late due to (insert excuse here) and then surprise them by being on time.
Or, of course, you could just make a better fist of being on time. Be interesting to note how often you ARE on time if it’s a job interview or a first date that you’re heading to…! Tell me that ain’t the truth.
Seriously though, so many organisations get dragged through the press for customer service issues. In the UK, Sky customer service, as well as my former employer, Virgin Media and others like O2 customer service are often held up to the magnifying glass. Their standards are questioned. Believe me, being on the other side, receiving that feedback isn’t a whole lot of fun either.
Now, I’m not suggesting it’s a simple matter of under-promising that’s magically going to fix things. There are two parts to the equation. The second involves you actually surpassing your commitment. So, if you stated you would return the customer’s call or reply to their email enquiry within 24 hours, why not make it a habit that you make 24 hours the WORST case scenario rather than the best case. That way, when you actually respond inside 24 hours, (and it doesn’t have to be by much), you suddenly hit those service levels you set. That not only feels good to the customer, as you fulfilled your obligation, but not surprisingly, (hopefully,) it feels good to your people too. Customers will respond. They will recognise your achievements. It will figure in reviews.
Responsiveness is strongly correlated with decent and improving customer satisfaction scores. Fundamentally, what’s at stake here is an attitude. Too often I feel, employees are asked to over-promise. This in turn leads to under achievement. Think about it for a second. Isn’t it fundamentally more healthy to set expectations and then surpass them, rather than consistently fall short of the mark.
But of course, you have to try to get the balance right too. It doesn’t make sense to continually under promise and over achieve, because then people will expect you to achieve. It’s a delicate one. However, it is a practice I try to instil in the people I work with. It’s better to make promises you CAN keep or honour than to let yourself, and the person counting on you, down.
Maybe there’s a point here too regarding how you set the commitments in the first place. In a previous article in this series I talk about the importance of determining your Brand Promise. It is essential, in trying to get the (customer service) balance right, that you don’t ask people in your business to commit to things they can’t possibly deliver on or that are subject to a wide range of factors outside their control.
For instance, why not empower certain teams in your customer service or call centre function with the ability to spend any amount of money necessary to resolve customers’ issues – but don’t expect them to be able to rectify the underlying issues that are driving dissatisfaction or detraction, if those are not human factors, such as behaviour. If for instance there’s an issue with the way your invoices are designed, that’s going to take a little longer to rectify. Meanwhile the front-line people you have handling customer concerns can take steps to help appease your customers whilst the rest of the business carries out an improvement project to address the underlying issue.
Whoa. Got a bit work-focused there. Apologies. On a lighter note, and back to the topic of under promising then over achieving. Perhaps the England Cricket team are a case in point and the Australian Cricket team could take note, seeing as the Ashes 2015 have been won by England.
Has today’s article nudged you into taking a little action? Are you finding this series of any use? Please leave a comment below and do join the discussion on Twitter. Remember to use the hashtag: #CHA30DayChallenge
Thanks for stopping by and see you for more tomorrow friends!
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