I’m so passionate about getting broken business promises rectified that a few years ago I even wrote a book called Complain and Win – Your Guide to Consumer Justice.
Since then, nothing much has changed. I could list a whole raft of recent disappointments that would probably sound familiar to you.
People still sell on promises and often deliver on silence (or outright lies).
When someone says they’ll call me about the delivery of a product am I insane to expect a phone call? When someone tells me that something will do a certain job am I wrong to be disappointed when it doesn’t?
I’m getting fed up, and have started to wonder whether there’s a way that we, as purchasers, can let suppliers, shopkeepers and other assorted sales people know that we’re genuine and will hold them accountable to their promises and the things they say.
Of course every job is different and I do understand that delivery on customer expectations sometimes just isn’t possible.
In my own line of work the complexities of technology and its implementation mean that I can’t always be 100 percent certain things will work the way I want them to. And as a customer, who wants to hear that? It makes the selling process very tough for someone as fundamentally honest as me.
As soloists we talk a lot about how important it is to manage customer expectations. But what about the flipside? As customers, how do we go about managing the promises of salespeople? In the often very short time it takes to buy something, is there anything we can do to bring their behaviour into alignment with our customer expectations?
I’m thinking of having some cards printed up. On the front there’ll be a small photo of me smiling, with the words “Thanks for your help. I’m going to hold you to your word.” And on the back? A small frowny-faced me saying “But you said…You promised…”
The job of the card is twofold. Firstly, it will serve as a mini-contract, so that once taken from my hands the expectations of both parties are better aligned. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it’s designed to elicit a reaction. Seeing how the recipient responds to the card will give me the opportunity to assess whether I want to do business with them. Now and then it will give me the opportunity to say “You know what, you don’t seem comfortable knowing I’m going to hold you at your word. I think I’ll buy elsewhere”.
Of course, with a slight modification, the cards could also work the other way around. I could offer them to my customers to help them hold me accountable too.
I know things go wrong. I know people can’t know everything. If my mini-contract cards can help people avoid disappointment and manage failure better then I think they’ll be worth it.
What do you think? Have you seen anything like this used before? I’d love to hear about your experiences.