Taking the “underpromise and overdeliver” mantra a bit too far


A few days ago, I had a phone conversation with one of our new vendors. The person on the other end of the line was trying to explain why they couldn’t accomodate what I felt was a very reasonable request. During the call, she made several ill-advised statements, including:

– “I just work here.”

– “I’m not very good on the phone.”

– “We can’t be held accountable for that.”

As the customer, this tells me that the vendor employs poorly-trained people who aren’t empowered to help resolve problems. But fast forward 30 minutes or so, and the rep ended up addressing all my concerns — and she was quite nice about it. I was amazed to see the conversation start so poorly and then make a complete turn for the better.

Like any reasonably savvy businessperson, I understand the whole “underpromise and overdeliver” thing. But if that’s what the vendor was trying for in my example, they went a little overboard. After all, do you really want to begin a call by telling a customer that you’re not very good at what you do, and aren’t capable of helping them? Of course not.

Setting reasonable expectations is one thing, but don’t set the bar so low that you’ve basically told people to expect total failure from the start. Instead, train your staff to be honest and open about how they can help resolve the issue at hand, and try to instill confidence in their own abilities. You’ll find that customers respond very positively to this type of candor, and it sets the tone for a more welcoming and productive interaction.