Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Danger of Over Promising

Well one danger is that someone will write about it and thousands will read about it, like Seth Godin did a few weeks ago:

Cascade of broken promises

... a cautionary tale. It's always easier to make a promise than it is to keep one, and if you're not careful, it compounds.

I got my new Macbook Pro the other day. It comes with Migration Assistant, a flawed piece of software that promises to easily transfer years of old data from one machine to another.

The software failed. (Promise broken). Having paid $99 for the One to One service (which promises individual hour long sessions), I make an appointment and head over to the store. Nate, the promised guide, doesn't know how to fix it, because, despite the promise, he's not trained to do so. He hands me over to a genius, Michael, who hears my story and promises to personally handle it (it takes ten hours to do the transfer, he'll watch over it and make sure it goes well.) He actually looks me in the eye and says, "I promise to personally handle this."

The next day, the phone rings. It's Aideen, who has the case, doesn't know who Michael is and doesn't know what to do. She leaves a message. I call back, talk to someone at the store who insists that Aideen isn't available but that someone will call me back within thirty minutes. He says, "I promise that someone will call you within thirty minutes." An hour later, no one has called back.

It goes on and on. Every employee means well. Every employee is overwhelmed by incoming traffic, most from people who have already had their promises broken. Every employee has discovered that it's easier to make a promise and pass it along than it is to either tell the truth or keep the promise.

The cascade starts with the product. When your brand makes promises it can't keep, your overworked staff bears the brunt.

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