Under-promise. Over-deliver.

491449514I have worked my entire career in marketing in a personal services industry. No one specifically taught me the idea of not over-promising, but I learned the concept by observation of problem situations created by vague promises, maybe even well intentioned, that fell short.

“I’ll try to get that to you by next Tuesday” the account executive says. What do you think the recipient of that promise hears—I’ll have it Tuesday

Effort means nothing. Results means everything. When the effort falls short, the excuses begin:

“I needed a something from x, but they didn’t respond to my emails”
“There was a backup that caused the delay”
“I didn’t know you really needed it on Tuesday”
“Last week’s holiday caused a delay”.

Or worse yet, lies about the delivery date:

“I said the following Tuesday” (no you didn’t)
“Accounting told me you are 10 days past due, so we stopped work” (ugh we owed you $500 and I would have gladly been sure you were current).
“I never promised any delivery date. I only said I would try. ”

In professional services the key for a happy client is managing expectations and then overdelivering on those expectations.

The way to do that is to follow these 7 steps:

1. Be sure that the deliverable is 100% clear

2. Be sure that if the client is to provide some data/info necessary for the project, that their deadlines are met

3. Anticipate problems and build extra time into the timetable. Push back when the timetable is too ambitious.

4. If you need others to deliver the service, don’t speak for them until you have their commitment to the timetable.

5. Never say “try”. Of course you will try.

6. If the timetable is too ambitious find out what part of the project REALLY is important. Perhaps you can break up the project into phases.

7. Find some way to add additional value beyond what was promised.

Lastly, we’ve all been in a bind. I know I have. If you screw up, say so. Beg forgiveness and make it right. Don’t try to obfuscate.

Remember: The Cover Up Is Worse Than the Crime.

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