More Businesses Should Under-Promise & Over-Deliver

There’s a tendency on the part of many businesses to sell their product or service based on a price, time frame or level of service that sounds great in marketing materials but which often requires an asterisk because it only tells part of the story. But these companies are playing a short con game that consumers will eventually figure out.

Such fingers-crossed promises are the norm for internet service providers, whose ads throw around terms like “blazing download speed” with big Mbps numbers attached. But try streaming the latest episode of Cougarton Abbey and you’ll find that the figures mentioned in those ads are often maximums and not averages — and certainly not guaranteed.

Just look at the results of the recent FCC study that showed most ISPs don’t live up to the speeds they advertise, and only one (FiOS) that was significantly faster than what was advertised.

If you’re looking for a cable company, which would do more to win you over as a customer: A company that guarantees average download speed of 9 Mbps and makes good on that promise or one that advertises “up to 12 Mbps” but only delivers 9?

Don’t Sell What You Don’t Have
When a bricks-and-mortar store holds a “doorbuster” sale by drastically slashing the price on a few items in the hopes of luring customers into buying other stuff while they’re shopping, it’s pretty obvious when the store has run out of sale items — the shelves are bare and you simply can’t purchase any more.

But talk to the many BestBuy.com customers whose holiday purchases didn’t show up until after Dec. 25 because the retail chain didn’t want to own up to the fact that it hadn’t managed its inventory correctly.

A recent survey of holiday delivery times for the nation’s 25 biggest e-tailers found that only six of the sites had average delivery times that were better than what was promised at the time of purchase. It’s probably not a surprise that three of those six companies — Zappos, Amazon and Newegg — are often mentioned by Consumerist readers among their favorite places to shop online.

Turn Consumers’ Low Expectations To Your Advantage
In 2010, American Airlines CEO said his company’s research found that passengers whose flight had been delayed, but who received decent treatment from the airline, gave American significantly higher scores than passengers on flights that had gone completely as expected.

Obviously we don’t want or expect businesses to deliberately create a negative experience just so it was swoop in to save the day, there’s no harm in a company making more honest and achievable promises to its customers.

It may not make for the most alluring ad, but honesty can also do wonders to keep a customer, and to keep that customer paying.