LIFE ON­LINE

When a com­pany un­der­stands the dif­fer­ences be­tween its im­plicit and ex­plicit prom­ises, it be­comes eas­ier to iden­tify what those prom­ises are, writes Sarah Pearce.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS - Sarah Pearce is a pro­fes­sional speaker, busi­ness coach, so­cial strate­gist and the au­thor of On­line Rep­u­ta­tion: Your Most Valu­able As­set in a Digital Age. www.sarah­pearce.co.nz

Keep your prom­ise – keep your cus­tomer. By Sarah Pearce.

THE PUR­SUIT of ex­cel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice is a goal shared by al­most all com­pa­nies, and es­pe­cially those in the ser­vice in­dus­try. So, it is no sur­prise that there is great de­bate on what de­fines su­pe­rior ser­vice and how best to achieve it.

Many ar­gue that it is achieved by go­ing far ‘ above and be­yond' pedes­trian cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions, but there is an­other view­point that em­braces the idea that in­stead of fo­cus­ing on achiev­ing such a high bar of ser­vice, or­gan­i­sa­tions should sim­ply fo­cus on con­sis­tently de­liv­er­ing on their prom­ises, in a way that makes them easy to work with. Can it truly be that sim­ple?

The an­swer is both yes and no. While con­dens­ing a spe­cific prom­ise of a com­pany to their mis­sion, it gen­er­ally seems like an easy task to do. For in­stance, Dis­ney has con­sis­tently been com­mit­ted to “cre­at­ing hap­pi­ness through mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences”. This prom­ise is of­ten de­liv­ered upon, or at least it is re­flected in ev­ery­thing that they do, from the way that they have lev­er­aged tech­nol­ogy at their theme parks to im­prove wait times and speed up the check-in process to en­cour­ag­ing their staff to “con­sider magic in their ev­ery­day goal set­ting”.

But that is only one com­po­nent of the prom­ises ex­pected of Dis­ney; it is a stated, or ex­plicit, prom­ise that they make to their pa­trons.

There are other, im­plicit prom­ises that cus­tomers of­ten ex­pect from a com­pa­nies too. One great ex­am­ple is that cus­tomers gen­er­ally ex­pect to find easy-to-ac­cess as­sis­tance when a mis­take has oc­curred.

This ex­pec­ta­tion is of­ten con­tra­dicted by the long wait times and mul­ti­ple trans­fers that many cus­tomers ex­pe­ri­ence when call­ing a com­pany for as­sis­tance.

These im­plicit prom­ises that are em­braced by cus­tomers can have an in­cred­i­bly wide range – from the ex­pec­ta­tion that cus­tomers are safe when us­ing a prod­uct or pa­tro­n­is­ing a store to the ex­pec­ta­tion that com­pa­nies be trans­par­ent.

It's im­por­tant for any com­pany to un­der­stand that its prom­ise is not limited in scope to the ex­plicit, stated mis­sion of the com­pany.

But iden­ti­fy­ing ex­plicit and im­plicit prom­ises is only one part of the equa­tion. It's fur­ther com­pli­cated by the re­lated, yet dis­tinct, func­tions of ad­ver­tis­ing, mar­ket­ing, and build­ing a brand. Brand­ing is gen­er­ally rooted in a feel­ing, and this is re­flected in brands such as Subaru, when it states “Love. It's what makes a Subaru, a Subaru” or when Honda de­scribes it­self as “The power of dreams.” These are far dif­fer­ent than Toy­ota's prom­ise of “Qual­ity, safety, and in­no­va­tion” or South­west's “Low fares. Noth­ing to hide.”

The lat­ter two de­scribe some­thing tan­gi­ble.

This doesn't mean that South­west and Toy­ota aren't tar­get­ing emo­tion in their brand-build­ing ef­forts, they are sim­ply ap­peal­ing to dif­fer­ent emo­tions. But this tac­tic does make it easy for them to live up to the ex­plicit prom­ises they are mak­ing to their cus­tomers. Once that brand prom­ise is de­ter­mined it is eas­ier to de­velop a plan to con­vey the prom­ise to cus­tomers through mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing ef­forts.

When a com­pany un­der­stands the dif­fer­ences be­tween its im­plicit and ex­plicit prom­ises, it be­comes eas­ier to iden­tify what those prom­ises are.

Again, the scope will hardly ever be limited to one in­di­vid­ual prom­ise and can range from: “We prom­ise that our re­strooms will be clean” to “We prom­ise that our prod­uct or ser­vice will make life eas­ier for our cus­tomers”. Only when the com­pany and its en­tire staff un­der­stand the prom­ises it is mak­ing to its cus­tomers, can they then con­sis­tently de­liver on those prom­ises.

In the rush to em­pha­sise cus­tomer ser­vice, the role of the prom­ises you make cus­tomers is of­ten for­got­ten, but it shouldn't be. It must be cen­tral to ev­ery­day func­tions on a broad scale.

As Shep Hyken states: “Cus­tomer ser­vice is the ex­pe­ri­ence we de­liver to the cus­tomer. It's the prom­ise we keep to the cus­tomer. It's how we fol­low through for the cus­tomer. It's how we make them feel when they do busi­ness with us.”

When you keep your prom­ises, you keep your cus­tomers.

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