Managing expectations is an essential part of any business and relationship, and it can be down right difficult. By this point in your career you’ve probably heard the expression, “Under Promise Over Deliver.” Or you may know it like I did by slightly different wording, “Under Estimate Over Deliver.”
Same concept applies of setting expectations lower than what you can actually execute. While there are plenty of situations when this business strategy make excellent sense, it can backfire if you do it wrong or overuse it. If you learn the dance of managing expectations however, you can utilize Under Promise Over Deliver to your advantage.
Is Under Promise Over Deliver Really A Wise Business Strategy?
The biggest mistake with this cliched method of doing business is that your counterpart and customers get irritated or give up on your from the start. There are a lot of demanding people out there and I’ve had to deal with some of the worst of them. Let’s say your client knows from experience that it takes 1 hour to perform a certain task. If you tell them you can complete that task in 8 hours (giving yourself plenty of wiggle room to avoid failure), they will think you’re incompetent and start yelling “what do you mean it will take you 8 hours?!”
If the main reason you said 8 hours is because you’re short on resources, welcome to the club! A lot of us are overworked and understaffed, so it makes managing expectations quite a challenge. Our to do lists are constantly growing as new things keep popping up. You already know that you have a bunch of other work to complete before you can start on the new request, but does your client know that? Nope. Without making this client feel unimportant, you have a responsibility to let them know what your availability is in order to help them understand where you’re coming from. So be careful how you word your responses and manage expectations.
Separate Standards From Special Circumstances
You should keep the wiggle room of your under promises to a minimum on your business’s regular services. These types of deliverables are typically laid out in contracts and are the core part of your service model. If you can’t meet those deadlines and expectations, your business is in big trouble and your clients are rightfully angry.
Ad hoc requests however are good scenarios to use Under Promise Over Deliver to your advantage. If you’re doing something as a favor or just as a one-off, you probably don’t know how long it could take you to complete. And neither does your client! So, under promising works well in these situations when you go conservative up front and end up delivering better than they expected.
Develop Your Brand Before It’s Too Late
How well do you and your customers know your business? Maybe not as well as you should. Branding is a key aspect of business that can get pushed aside and forgotten about to detrimental consequences. Learn what branding really means and apply these 20 tips to develop your brand before it’s too late. Current and prospective customers need to know the core values of your business model and what the benefits are for them.
If your business develops a reputation for always setting low and unrealistic expectations, your customers are not going to trust you. Without trust and belief that your business will meet their needs, you’ll lose them very quickly. They may stick around for a while because there’s no one else they can use instead, but they will be very angry and frustrating to deal with. Disgruntled clients suck!!
Differentiate From The Competition
If you constantly under promise, your competition is going to surge ahead. Avoid under estimating below market expectations at all costs. You want your clients to be brand loyal to you because you’re better than the rest. If you’re always afraid of failure and use that fear to keep expectations low, your business model will quickly disintegrate.
Figure out what you do best, analyze and improve time management, keep communication flowing, and adapt. Don’t be afraid of change and seek ways to do things better. Change can be a PITA at times, but it’s how companies come to stand out and stay ahead.
Your Boss And Clients Are Smarter Than You Think
As a manager, I totally know who in my team is slacking and who is working their tail off. Nothing gets me more frustrated than someone who says he’ll try to get xyz to me tomorrow while I see him surfing the web for hours today. Even if you think you’re slicker than oil, remember your boss and clients are smarter than you think.
If you use the Under Promise Over Deliver strategy all the time, nobody is going to want to work with you anymore. You have to mix things up. Manage your time wisely and if necessary, take the time to track and analyze how long it actually takes you to perform each of your essential tasks. You could be quite surprised by the results!
The worst is if you Over Promise Under Deliver. We’ve all had to deal with blow ups like these. And it can happen pretty easily if you’re out of touch with reality, your abilities, and time management skills. Clients are constantly shopping around for better deals and new service providers who offer better value and customer service. Don’t be blind and think they’ll stick around just because they’ve been in business with you for a long time.
Everybody Loves A Little Bit Extra
Once you learn the delicate dance of managing expectations, it’s nice to give a little bit extra once in a while. As a recent example, I’ve been a customer of Ace Hardware for years. They always have what I need in stock, and the products they sell are reliable and reasonably priced. Yesterday I went in to buy some painters tape and after handing over my $7 and change, the clerk smiled at me and said, “Would you like to spin to win?!” I jump on any opportunity to win something, so I gave an enthusiastic “Yes!” and he took me over to a wheel labeled with a bunch of different prizes.
I took a spin and landed on “Larry!” Uhhh, what they heck is that. I imagined getting a handshake from the store manager or something. Well turns out a Larry is a super cool LED pen light by NEBO worth $10. Suh’weeeet! (The girlier colored ones are called “Lucy” lol) My brand loyalty to Ace instantly grew higher. So even if you’re a pro at managing expectations and applying Under Promise Over Deliver at opportune times, throw in a little bit extra every now and then. A little can go a long way!
Untemplaters, how often do you apply the business strategy of Under Promise Over Deliver? Have you had it back fire on you before? When has it worked the best? Have you ever been surprised with a little bit extra on a purchase?
Main Photo: My first NASCAR experience at Sonoma Raceway. It was way louder and more fun than I expected, plus I my friend got me in for free!
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