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Giving Customers More Than They Asked for Is Too Much of a Good Thing

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In business, there is an old adage, "under promise and over deliver." What a load of nonsense. Why bother setting expectations if you know you can exceed them? Don't over deliver on features, benefits and services. Just tell your customers what they need and provide that. As soon as you start to over promise and over deliver, you create unnecessary additional work for your employees.

Related: 10 Stories of Unforgettable Customer Service

Companies often struggle to meet self-imposed deadlines and promises that have no additional value to the customer. Why have a policy to return a customer's call within 30 minutes if customers are willing to wait two hours? You exhaust resources to make, and sometimes miss, that 30-minute deadline, even though customers don't require it and didn't asked you to. Don't set yourself up for failure trying to meet unnecessarily high customer expectations.

I was recently working with a client who couldn't figure out why so few customers were upgrading to the new version of their technology. We asked some customers if they valued the additional features. Turns out, customers didn't perceive any additional value in the upgrade, so they naturally weren't willing to pay more for it. This scenario happens frequently when organizations believe that they are adding value but there is no additional perceived value from their customers.

Think of QuickBooks, a leading accounting software program designed for small and mid-sized businesses, or Microsoft Excel. There is a great deal of functionality within both of these software programs. However, most customers only use about 10 percent of that functionality.

Think of the effort Intuit and Microsoft put into developing all of that additional functionality that most customers don't use. Think about the resources that were used and the pressure that was put on those resources to meet deadlines and manage costs. Yet they were building something that most customers didn't need. They were over promising and over delivering because they thought that's what was needed to attract customers.

Related: Richard Branson on the Secret to Exceeding Customer Expectations

Over promising sounds good in marketing language but if what you are promising has no value to your customers, then language is all that it is. Find an area of your organization where you are over promising and over delivering and stop it. Scale back what you are doing and see what impact it has. Look for areas that require a great deal of time and effort that could be reduced (24 hour customer service, in-person visits, building additional functionality, etc.).

You don't need to over promise AND over deliver. You just need to tell your customers what they need and provide it to them better than anyone else.

Related: Over-Promise Your Way to the Top

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