Episode 068 : Promises and the Impact It Has on Customer Experience


In this episode, I would like to take a little bit of time and just share with you some key important nuggets that I have gained over the years in the category of commitments. So, we’re at the beginning of a new year we’re still in the first quarter and in customer experience and customer service when we make promises, or we make commitments to our internal customers or external customers, a lot of time it’s because of broken promises, commitments that have not been fulfilled why people tend to have negative feelings towards each other and this may cause them anger, frustration, upset, it may cause a myriad of negative emotions.

So firstly, a commitment or promise is not easy in Jamaican terms, when I do customer service training and people will say, “A promises is a comfort to a fool.”No, that’s not any definition of what a promise according to any formalized dictionary globally. A promise or a commitment is your verbal word or written word where you say that you are going to actually do something or carry out a particular task. So, for example, you could tell a customer, “I’m going to call you back.”even though you didn’t say, “I promise I’ll call you back,” their expectation is you will call them back or you tell a co-worker, “Sure, no problem, I’ll take care of it,”it could be to complete a bill for a customer, it could be to give a message regarding a customer’s order or delivery, that message is going to impact the customer’s delivery or order being on time and you didn’t deliver that message. Again, it’s your word that you’ve put into it and so people believe that you’re going to complete it. Now, if you don’t follow through on a promise there are a lot of negative things that come out of it, people don’t  trust you, you’re deemed as unreliable, you’re not dependable and because of that, then less of your co-workers will have faith in the fact that when you say something you’re actually going to do it. Now some people in organizations tell you that they are going to do something just because they want to get rid of you or because they really didn’t hear what you said, they were not paying attention to when you were asking the question or requesting a particular service or product and so they went ahead and made confirmation with you verbally or in writing that yes they will go ahead and have this done but they didn’t really think about whether or not that commitment was realistic. So, one of the things I would like to encourage people in organizations who work as well as business owners, managers, supervisors, everyone from top to bottom, when you make a promise, or a commitment ensure that your promise or your commitment is realistic because if it’s not realistic then you are setting yourself up for failure. Let us say with your current responsibilities and your current workload, the person has asked you to do something and it is just humanly impossible for you to complete it, if you have all those other competing activities to do. However, the person doesn’t know you have those other competing activities so the responsibility would be on you to ensure that whatever information you are giving to them is realistic. Sometimes it’s better we say no and sometimes it’s hard to say no but at least when you say no, 1) you’re being honest, 2) you’re giving the person that you are making a commitment to or you’re telling that you’re not able to commit to that you are not able to do it so it willgive them an opportunity to seek someone else who actually can do it because let’s say you commit to them that you’re going to have the report delivered to them by Monday for example, and they commit to someone else for a meeting they’re having on Wednesday that, “Well, I’ll have the report by Monday so I’d be able to dial down on those figures by Tuesday and by Wednesday in our meeting I’ll have feedback for you.”However, you don’t have the report ready for them on Monday, you got caught up over the weekend and you weren’t able to complete it and you won’t be able to complete it until Thursday but the person who you made a commitment to, their meeting is Wednesday and so your commitment that you made to that individual impacts other people and other decisions and other meetings and other things that have to be happening. So, we have to think carefully about the commitments that we’re making, we have to be realistic in managing the expectations of those with whom we make these commitments.

I know a promise seems like a simple thing but when you look at organizations and hear about customer service challenges internally and externally and you do the investigations to find out why it is that this person feels this way or why it is that that person is so anger and is so frustrated, when you really get to the root of it many times it boils down to communication and many times it boils down to lack of communication because of a broken promise, a commitment that was not fulfilled, a promise that you made that you were not able to keep…..so it’s not hard. Commitments are not hard to be fulfilled but when we’re making them, we have to be realistic. In my customer service trainings, when I engage with participants from different industries – health, telecommunications, banking and finance, government, really doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, one of the key things that I encourage participants to do is if they must break a promise because the reality is we’re all human and we make mistakes and sometimes because we’re so overwhelmed with personal obligations and we have professional responsibilities and lots of things that are going on in our life all at once, we may genuinely forget that we made a commitment or a promise to someone else. I know for sure that I fall short where that is concerned many times both in my personal life and my professional life. However, the key to ensuring that when we do break the promise, is to ensure that we communicate with the person that we’ve broken the promise with or we’re going to break the promise with whether it’s that we won’t be able to do it at all or we’re delaying the expectation of the delivery of that promise. And so, two rules that I always encourage participants to employ if we must break a promise include the first rule is an acronym and the acronym is K.I.S.Swhich basically stands for, Keep It Short and Simpleand all I mean by that is, if we must break a promise try not to get into too much detail as to why the promise was broken especially if the details that you are revealing to the customer and this is if it’s an external customer, because if it’s an internal customer then clearly the quality of theinformation that you release to them is confidential because they work within the organization and so you can share the mishaps with them. However, if it’s an external customer you want to keep it short and simple, don’t give the customer too much information because if the information that you are giving to them is not relevant to the solution, it can actually be detrimental to your organization. Simple thing, an example, let us say a delivery was to be made and the customer came to pick up their delivery, they were told that the item would be available for pickup on Friday, however, unfortunately the truck that was coming to make the delivery was stopped by the police on the road and the police seized the vehicle because the carrier license on the vehicle had expired and you go now to tell the customer that I’m so sorry but the item isn’t here because of all of that, now that makes a company look very inefficient and it makes the team in the organization also look very incompetent. So, think carefully, if the reasons for the problem or the promise not being fulfilled is relevant and if it’s not relevant, it doesn’t need to be mentioned. A simple statement like, “Due to circumstances beyond our control, unfortunately I’m so sorry.”And of course you say it with a level of engagement that shows that you are apologetic for the fact that there is a delay and you’re calling ahead to let them know so that they can probably put other things into play to prepare that they’re not going to receive this item or if they were travelling from far they wouldn’t need to come to pick up the item because that item would not be there for them to pick up. To take it a step further, if it is that clearly in the example the fault it would be on that of the organization not having their internal business in order, in a case like that probably some compensation could be, “Instead of you coming to pick it up from us, we are going to deliver it to you because we messed up, we made a mistake, the circumstances that are beyond our control are things that we could have prevented from occurring but because of the great inconvenience it’s causing you and because we’re breaking our promise to you, we’re going have it delivered to you.”and you give them a new expectation with a new date and a new time for the time that they can expect the delivery. So, the first rule is K.I.S.S, Keep It Short and Simple if you must break a promise.

The second rule is you want to ensure that when you are breaking the promise you are not pointing fingers and casting blame on other members of your team or other departments in your organization. We all work for the same company, if that’s X company or Y company or Z company, whichever company you work for, casting blame or pointing fingers and saying, “That’s how they are in the accounts department, they’re always late, they have no urgency.”or “That’s how they are in the sales department, they drag their feet, they take forever.”Whatever the reason is that you believe is the core of the reason, even if you know for sure that your team member messed up, it’s not your responsibility to cast blame and it’s not right and it doesn’t help the solution because the customer when they’re arguing with the company and they’re getting upset with the company, many times when they’re doing that, they’re not casting blame on that one individual or that one department, they’re casting blame on the entire organization regardless if that department or that person was even a part of the issue or the problem.

So, a promise is a very important practice, it’s a very important part of an organization, everybody has to make commitments and promises to each other in an organization and to your customers. So just remind yourself as you embark on 2019 as you are working to exceed your customer’s expectations and you’re working to map out your customer journey and you’re working to satisfy and exceed the expectations and go above and beyond….that a lot of times the reasons why we’re not able to achieve these high goals that we’ve set for ourselves is because of some of these simple little activities that happen day to day in the interactions between employees and customers is that there is dissatisfaction, why it is that there is discomfort, why it is that there is unrest, why it is that our customers and sometimes our employees do not feel completely at ease in an organization where the culture and everyone is pulling their weight in an organization where people are doing the best to ensure that the quality of the experience that they have with each other as well as with the customers are ones that are of quality, are ones that are of care, are ones that really go above and beyond to make sure that your client or your customer leaves feeling good. They feel like you’re working with people who care about them, they feel that they’re working with people who are ensuring that whatever they said they’re going to do they actually do it and if they can’t do it they have the courtesy and the decency to pick up the phone or grab their computer or their phone and communicate with them to let them know that unfortunately we’re not able to deliver, we’re not able to call, we’re not able to do whatever it is that’s going to be broken so that you can know how to put things in place on your end.

So, I encourage you as listeners of this podcast to really think about the promises and the commitments that you’re making for 2019 and ensure that whatever you put out there that you verbally speak or that you write as said before, you don’t have to say I promise for the person to view it as a promise and even if you say, “I’m going to try,” psychologically most people interpret that as it’s going to be done. So, think realistically about the promises that you make:

Are they realistic?

Can they be done?

Ensure that you follow through and you communicate, communicate, communicate,because people are not mind readers, they don’t know the challenges that you have on your end and if you don’t tell them that something has changed in that process, they’re not going to know. So really think about what I have shared with you and I hope that you will embrace this whole idea of making realistic promises and I hope that as you go through 2019 in your organization that the quality of your experience is improved because your promises are realistic, your promises have people who communicate, communicate, communicate and your promises are ones where you’re not blaming your team members and if it’s issues that show the organization up in a negative way, you’re ensuring that you manage that information by keeping it short and simple and just releasing the information that is relevant to ensuring that you get to the solution which is to satisfy that customers need. So, I hope that this information will help you in 2019. Again, if you’d like to follow us on Twitter, feel free it’s navigating CXand please feel free to join our Facebook group, Navigating the Customer Experience Podcast.


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