When I started working at my Church in 2003 I quickly learnt that the largest part of my work, both in the office and on Sundays (game day), was one of managing expectations.

Thus when I repeatedly failed in delivering expectations, I learnt the further lesson that expectation is closely linked with communication – or the lack thereof.

Yesterday, out of the blue, I received the package pictured here. When I opened it was I both surprised and excited by the gift of Thorntons chocolates sent to me by Optix Solutions. I was surpised because, of course, I wasn’t expecting it – it hadn’t been communicated to me. So therefore when I received the chocolates, my expectations (which were nil) were delightfully over-delivered on.

Enter the state of many failing businesses and we find the opposite scenario. My expectations as a customer or client are high, as I have been communicated to with grand promises of what they can do and what they’ll do. Then comes the execution – the delivery of said promise – and my expectations are frightfully unmet by lacklustre performance.

In fact, it isn’t just failing businesses that do this. I find it funny how many companies make a song and dance about having satisfied customers. But satisfaction just comes from doing what you said you’d do – not exactly the world’s highest goal is it?

I’m more interested in customer surprise – the game of exceeding expectations. There’s one really easy way to do this: under promise and over deliver. Don’t promise your clients everything in the world. In fact, promise them only half of what you intend to do – so that when you do deliver on the other half, they are surprised as they didn’t expect it. That sure leaves them with a great experience.

What I don’t advise doing is over promising and under delivering – unless you intend to then massively over deliver on your under delivery. But that’s another strategy altogether :-)

One final footnote: take advantage of it when people underestimate you – don’t argue with them or try to get them to correctly estimate you – instead use their under estimation to increase your stature in their sight when your produce something they never even estimated you could do.

Archived Comments

  • http://widget.xssl.net/~admin228/graphic-design/ teedp

    Thanks Scott I also got some chocs today from @martbellis of Business Link with a successful (unexpected) follow up meeting from a great and genuinely interested business advisor – definitely was over delivering what was expected – plus they came out to me in Tavistock – across the moors – nice!!

  • http://www.designresumes.com/blog juliewalraven

    Thanks, Scott. This is a topic I was thinking about a lot lately and even thinking about writing about and I still might. But I really like your take on it. I find that sometimes as a small business as a career marketing professional who up until recently was trying to juggle the role of Operations Manager for Wausau Whitewater, and in recent history had several other non-profits I was contracting with, that I was always feeling like I should be making promises. In the end, I realized I couldn’t humanly keep all the promises I was making. So I let go of things one by one. Now in my new journey, I am trying to keep your message in mind. Under promise, over deliver. Good points. and by the way, one of my favorite mentors, Jim Connolly, led me here. Merry Christmas!

  • Scott Gould

    Jim is a friend and mentor of mine too – one of the best guys online.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us – I too have lived for too long in the land of over promising. It’s a common trait when people are passionate – but at the same time, aren’t confident about their pricing. People who over promise often under charge!

  • http://www.designresumes.com/blog juliewalraven

    Jim also taught me his pricing strategy… my tribute to him here: http://designresumes.com/blog/2009/12/blow-the-...

    The way I see it, I am on a journey, and the valuable mentors with blogs who tweet and the people who share the mentors talents with tweets, make us all better.

  • Scott Gould

    I have that master class set too – very good