Winning with Promises...and How to Say Sorry!

Hi, I've been travelling quite a bit lately and on the last flight something struck me which promoted sharing this...

When safely on board the aeroplane I always seem to be hearing the same basic three-part announcement.

- Thank you for flying with us

- We're late taking off

- We're sorry for any inconvenience

This has happened so often that I began to doubt whether anyone really is sorry!

If you have caused someone inconvenience and you really regret what happened, a great way to demonstrate that regret, is to provide some kind of compensation to try and make amends.

So I was thinking "...ok if you're truly sorry, what will you do about it?"

I could not demand any compensation because no airline (that I've ever flown on) promises to take off on time or they'll suffer a penalty.

Forget the practicalities of making that particular promise - despite the fact that I think it's possible - here's a question for you?

What can you promise, and how can you back it up?

What promises can you make to your customers that would give them a high confidence level in dealing with you, and how can support those promises with some kind of compensation if you fail to keep them? That last bit gives customers even more confidence when giving you their business.

Research tells us that the magic number of promises is three. Three beats two and four. Customers need three solid reasons to deal with you.

Picking your promises...

Here are my top three guiding principles:

  • Make promises that really matter to customers. I could promise to wear an orange bowtie and a top hat to meetings every time. It may be fun, but it wouldn't matter to my customers.

  • Make promises you can keep. Hopefully that's common sense but if it means adjusting your systems and procedures to tighten things up, do this before you make your promise.

  • Make promises you can measure. If you can't measure whether you're keeping your the end they're just words and the customers will see through you.

Your Guarantee...

And finally...what is the compensation your'e prepared to surrender if you fail to meet your promises? It doesn't always have to be money but to be effective it has to be painful for you.

If you can meet the three criteria above and back them up with your guarantee (which will be painful for you if a customer chooses to exercise it) then this will:

  • Differentiate you from the competition

  • Give customers tremendous confidence in dealing with you AND

  • Help you improve your business performance because you never want to pay out!

One of my favourite examples is Granite Rock. They provide building supplies and their guarantee is a that if any of the items in the delivery fall below standard, deduct that from the invoice and pay the balance no questions asked.

This is painful for them. If it happens, they work like crazy to make sure it doesn't happen again! Better procedures, higher quality, happier customers and reduced risk for new customers who might be thinking of giving them a try.

Lastly what you don't promise...

This is just as important.

  • Ikea don't promise convenience and a speedy purchase

  • Starbucks don't promise the best tasting coffee

  • Southwest Airlines don't promise luxury and comfort

But these immensely successful brands remain that way, because they're clear on who they're serving and exactly what promises really matter to them.

Brand promises are a crucial element in a company's strategy. Find out what yours are and execute with focus. It'll be worth it.

My very best and keep Scaling.


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