Customer Service Blog

A Common Assumption that Ruins Reputations

Ever borrow something and then realize weeks or months later that you forgot to return it? Since they haven’t mentioned it, you might assume they’ve probably forgotten about it. So, you decide to hang on to it. If they do bring it up, you can feign innocence, claim that it completely slipped your mind, and offer to return it right away. No harm done, right?

Actually… if you’ve attended one of my Trusted Advisor seminars or are a regular reader of these tips, you’re likely thinking, “Of course there’s harm done! Why would that person ever trust you or loan you anything again?” There’s the rub – most people are not stupid, and they do remember obligations. Even if they’re too polite to mention them.

Consider how often this happens with customers. To gain the business, we might offer a slight extra, “We’ll also throw in such and such.” Or the customer asks for some slight change which we assure them won’t be a problem. Later – maybe even weeks or months later – we are delivering the service and conveniently “forget” about the little extra. We assume the customer probably forgot about it. So, the customer needs to either remind us about it or overlook the shortfall. Either way, we lose trust. No harm done?

My fellow professional speaking colleague, Peter Legg once told me about a time he wrote a cheque to a client for a $14 sandwich. The speaking contract stipulated the client would cover sleeping room expenses. Peter had charged a sandwich to his room. He said, “When the client is paying thousands of dollars for my presentation, they likely won’t baulk at a $14 charge. But when they receive the cheque and realize I paid attention, it builds trust. It’s another reason to make them want to bring you back.”

That lesson stuck with me. Customers don’t forget agreements. And if they do forget, we shouldn’t. It’s your reputation. Your brand. Your word. Never assume they’ll likely forget about it. Keep your promises, no matter what it costs you.

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