Bill called tech support to ask about an issue with one of the company websites. After he gave the representative a brief description of the issue, the representative immediately and enthusiastically said “I can DEFINITELY help you with that!” After ten minutes on the phone, it became obvious that the representative couldn’t help and that his statement was merely a script.
The government employee received the building design plans from the architect and told him that the plans would be reviewed in 20 days. It was the first of the month, so the architect thought the plans would be reviewed by the 21st. On the 22nd, having heard nothing about the status of the plan review, the architect called the reviewer.
“No, they’re not ready,” said the reviewer. “I told you 20 days. It took us a couple days of administrative work to get these into review, then it’s 20 business days for review. Then it will take about 2-3 days to get the comments into the system for you to review and respond. So you should be able to review comments by the 5th of next month.”
These are two real-life examples of a company overpromising and a customer being upset with the result. In the website scenario, the employee conveyed hope – which can be good – but he made it sound so definitive that he set unrealistic expectations based on a brief understanding of the issue before knowing the true cause of the problem.
In the second case, the overpromise was due to communication issues. The statement “20 days” – while it seems straightforward – can mean two different things to two different people. There was no clarification of what that meant. If the employee said “the 5th of next month” from the start, there would have been no risk of overpromise.
When working with customers, convey hope if you think you can help, but temper it with a dose of realism. And when setting expectations for timeframes, be clear on what will happen and by when.
Don’t create the irate customer. Avoid the Overpromise.