Greg DeVore

By: Greg DeVore on September 14th, 2010

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Great Customer Service Starts With Keeping Promises

Customer Support

Last week I had to take my car in for service. I don't know about you but this has been my experience at every car service place I have been to:

  • I drop the car off. The service desk gives me a time estimate when they think it will be ready.
  • One or two hours after their time estimate has passed I still haven't heard anything from them.
  • I call them and they say, "Oh, yeah, it has been ready for awhile now. You can come pick it up at anytime."

Despite their promise to call me when my car is ready I have never received a call back. And this isn't just a at one service station. It is at every one I can remember going to. That is why I don't feel any loyalty to any one particular service station - they have all broken their promises to me.

I really believe that 80% of providing great customer service is about keeping your promises. There have been times when we haven't been able to solve a customer's issue. They may have been disappointed but they were never upset. Breaking a promise to a customer is pretty much guaranteed to make them upset.

Here are few steps that will help you set expectations for your customers and keep your promises:

1. Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep

It is much better to tell your customer that you can't get an answer for another three days than to make a promise you can't keep. Sometimes companies want to seem "bigger" than they actually are so they make promises that they can't possibly fulfill. Do you have the staff to guarantee that a customer support request will be addressed within one hour? If not then don't promise that you will. Adjust the customer's expectations to what you are reasonably able to deliver.

2. Don't Remember Your Promises, Write Them Down

Don't try to keep all of your promises in your head. Eventually one of them will fall out. Use some sort of task manager where you can set due dates to make sure that you don't forget the promises you make. I use OmniFocus. As soon as I make a promise to a customer I create a task in OmniFocus with a due date. That helps me make sure that even if I forget the promise I made, OmniFocus will remind me about it.

3. Establish Processes and Use Tools That Help You Keep Promises

Processes and Systems help you keep promises. Have a return policy. Document the steps to process a return. Use a help ticketing system. That will help you make sure you have responded to all support requests in a timely fashion. The more processes you have in place the better you will be at consistently keeping your promises. Choose software tools that help you establish these systems and your life will get much easier.

4. Give Your Promises a Due Date

This a principle that I just learned recently. Open ended promises are much harder to keep then ones with a specific due date. So instead of saying, "I will get you that proposal to you," say:

"I am going to try to get the proposal to you in 3 days. If I can't get to it by then I will let you know."

The promise has a due date. Both the customer and I know what is expected and when it is expected. At least in my case, promises without due dates tend to slip through the cracks.

What is your experience with customer support promises?

Have you had a time when an organization didn't keep their promise? Or, even better, when a company went out of their way to keep a promise? What was the experience like? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

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About Greg DeVore

CEO of ScreenSteps