BUSINESS MARKETING: Promises, delivery and managing expectations

2012-12-09T00:00:00Z BUSINESS MARKETING: Promises, delivery and managing expectationsLarry Galler Times Business Columnist
December 09, 2012 12:00 am  • 

No matter what business you are in, no matter whether you sell products, services or both, no matter where you are or who your customers are, there are two sides to every transaction: the promise and the delivery.

For your customers to be satisfied with their purchases, the promise and delivery need to be about equal. To make your client into a referral agent or cheerleader, the delivery needs to be substantially greater than the promise. However, if the promises outweigh the delivery, you will have an unhappy customer, maybe an ex-customer.

Half of the equation is easily stated in that old cliche about “underpromise and overdeliver.” But a more subtle and more believable consideration is to manage your customer’s expectations by being careful not to overpromise and be rigorous with your delivery of quality, timeliness, reliability, benefits and value. Often it isn’t what you actually promise but how you make your promise.

  • "We’ll be there tomorrow by 10 a.m." – if you show up at 10:30 the customer is angry. Manage their expectation better by saying you will arrive between 9 and 11 a.m.
  • "We can make the repair so no one will ever suspect there was damage" – but if there is even a hint of damage after the repair they might expect you to do it over. Manage their expectation by saying that in most cases the repair will never be noticed but there is a slight chance you can’t bring it back 100 percent.
  • "Our solution will decrease your energy costs by at least 40 percent" - but if you only decrease costs 39 percent they might think you lied to them. Manage their expectations by telling them most of your customers experience savings of 30 percent to 40 percent depending on usage.

There is an art to managing your customer’s expectations. Realize there are many variables in someone’s perception of quality, value, reliability, etc., so it is up to you to promise them something you know you can control and deliver no matter their perception. Review what you promise when selling. Deliver it and you will manage their expectations well.

Opinions are solely the writer's. Larry Galler, of Larry Galler & Associates, is a marketing and management consultant for small and mid-size companies. Join Larry in a free, live seminar Dec. 12: “Prepare Your Business for Sale or Succession” with Tom Krafft, CPA at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville. For information send an email to and put “Seminar” in the subject line.

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