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