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Here's a maxim for good customer service

I’ve always tried, and maybe not always successfully, to use “Promise long, deliver short” as my core customer service philosophy. The idea is deliberately to overstate the time I think it will take to deliver something, so I can usually deliver on time - or even early.

So, if I think I can deliver the copy by next Wednesday, I will usually say “I’ll get it to you by Friday”. That way, if I’ve underestimated the amount of work involved, I should still be able to deliver on time, and the client will be happy. Of course, if I deliver by Wednesday, the client will be even happier.

On the other hand, if I promise Wednesday but overshoot and deliver on Friday, the client will not be so happy. The actual delivery date is the same, but the level of client satisfaction is entirely different.

I was thinking about this earlier this week. My PC has been playing up recently, and a guy I know who is looking to set up a business as a computer repair specialist had promised to come and look at it. It’s not particularly urgent, but he has made two appointments now, and broken both of them, phoning a couple of hours before and saying “something has come up” and can he make it another day.

As I say, it’s not urgent, and breaking the appointments didn’t particularly inconvenience me, but I’m still irritated with him – which is not a good start to a customer/supplier relationship. If it happens again, I am going to tell him to forget it, and I will take the PC to a specialist shop – which will be inconvenient to me: but at least I will get the job done.

The point is that if he had said to me at the outset, “I can’t make it this week, but definitely next” and he had turned up then, I would have been perfectly content. And I would have been delighted if he had then rung up a couple of days later and said “I’ve got a bit of spare time this afternoon, so I’ll pop over and sort it out for you.”

Promise long, deliver short: solid foundations for good customer relationships.

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