One of my favorite authors on current business conditions and challenges is Seth Godin, author of Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing out of Sync? Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Purple Cow, Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, and The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) (all of which I have read and enjoyed). He recent posted an article titled ” The Paradox of Promises in the Age of Word of Mouth” on his blog.

In this article, Seth talks about the dilemma of making promises. “The thing is, if you promise very little, you don’t get a chance to deliver because I’ll ignore you. And if you promise too much, you don’t get a chance to deliver, because I won’t believe you…”

The more your promise the harder it is to over deliver, according to Seth.

Here’s his handy chart that describes this paradox.

The most common outcomes are delight or anger. Delight often comes with a surprise, that is getting more than what was expected.

Seth goes on to make the point that often, if your organization causes a problem with a customer and then over delivers on fixing the problem, you create a huge gap in the expectation versus delivery gap. The bigger that gap, he implies, the stronger the feeling of delight.

This corresponds to customer satisfaction theory that loyalty can often increase if a customer has had a problem with an organization and the organization handles it well and resolves the problem.

It has been suggested that organizations should intentionally create problems with customers so they can fix them and delight the customer. With today’s word of mouth ( or world of mouth), such a deception would soon become noticed and backfire.

Read Seth Godin’s full article here.

What is your experience with the Under Promise and Over Deliver dilemma?


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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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