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Make a Promise, Keep It. Offer a Guarantee, Honor It.

The Pasta House Company is a local chain of Italian restaurants that have been around since 1974, since I was just a kid. On Monday nights they had – and still do have – an “All You Can Eat” special. I loved that. All the salad, pasta and garlic bread you could eat for one low price. When I was a teenager, my buddies and I would all meet at the Pasta House on Monday nights to take advantage of the special. I say “take advantage” because we would starve ourselves all day, waiting to unleash our hunger on the delicious spaghetti and ravioli the Pasta House served. We did this every week, and every week the manager and servers were happy to see us.

This brings me to an article I just read about a man who was banned from an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant for eating too much food. Apparently, a former bodybuilder had a special diet in which he didn’t eat for 20 hours and then would eat until he was full. He’d been to the restaurant before, but on this occasion, he ate an excessive amount of food with multiple trips to the sushi buffet line, which by the way, had a very low fixed price of €15.90 (about $18.00). On the way out, after he paid, he was discreetly told by owner and chef that he was banned from the restaurant for eating too much. Now, maybe this example of the athlete at a sushi restaurant is extreme. But, it caused me to think:

Have you ever experienced a promise or guarantee that wasn’t fulfilled?

Just the other day I was talking to a salesperson. He used the word guarantee to describe the results that I would experience. I asked him if that meant he was offering a “money back guarantee.” He said, “No, they couldn’t do that.” In other words, it wasn’t a guarantee, it was just hyperbole to get me to want to buy what he was selling. I’m just glad that I asked the question before I had to go back and ask him to honor his “guarantee.”

And then there are guarantees, promotions and contests that have “fine print” that is focused more on the company than the customer. I get that a company has to protect itself, but be careful not to offend or disappoint your customers.

Whether it’s a special offer, such as “All You Can Eat” at a restaurant, a promise to do anything, or a guarantee of the work you deliver to the customer, there is only one way this works, and that is that you honor your offer, which is the same as honoring your word. That’s what builds confidence, trust and loyalty.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVIII, Shep Hyken)

  1. Oh the timing — last week during “Customer Service Week” I had to deal with a “communication” company due to my home phone and internet service being out. I work at home 2 days a week so this issue put a damper on that! The problem began on Tuesday and after a week of empty promises and missed guaranteed appointments, I am now repaired! The silver lining is last week I also received my copy of your new book, “The Convenient Revolution.” — all I could think about while reading it is the FRICTION this communication company created with me. By the way, there has never been a mention, whisper, suggestion of this company in any of your fabulous about on Customer Service. It should be required reading for this corporation, starting at the top– if you ask me!

    • Hi Beth – Thank you for your kind words about the book. So sorry you had a problem with the “communication” company. With the phone or Internet companies, everything is great until it’s not anymore. Then it’s usually an emergency. (Why does the cable go out during my Super Bowl party?!) I’m glad you’re back up and running! Shep H.

  2. Funny you should ask. I was looking to see if there was a site where I could tell my story about not getting what I was promised, Just last Saturday I gave my husband a seventy-fifth birthday party at a venue called “St. James Live”. Back in the beginning of August after looking at their website I chose the party package that included a seat for 50 people, a one hour buffet menu which included my choice of 2 starched, 2 veggies, 1 and 1 1/2 pans of each. The owner of the jazz club was very clear about explaining what Airline chicken breasts were that would include 80 pieces plus, rolls and salad. Along with all of that, my guests would get to have a reserved seat to watch the live band and dance to DJ music for $2500. I was not comfortable with my older guests having to walk up and down the steep staircase to the terrace area to use the restroom or to get to the dance floor or cash bar. She went on to inform me that the package is for 40 people only and that they haven’t yet updated the website. ok we agreed on 45pp for the package price. the owner agreed that I could have the buffet in the loft area that seats 20 and I would have 25 seats on the main floor. Well when I returned to give the manager the non refundable $1250. deposit, she apparently was not informed of my agreement with the owner. Long story short, I they added $200 for use of the loft, Airline chicken breasts turned into legs and thighs. Not to mention my contract stated the party hours were from 7pm-1am as I noted on my e-vites. they never told me they had changed their hours to 6-12.
    Whats so hard about keeping your word when it comes to business.

    • Hi Lisa – Thank you for sharing this info. It surprises me that people won’t honor their offers and stand behind what they advertise. We had a client in Australia order 60 of my new book. We charge $15 extra for foreign postage for a single copy. And, we would never charge an extra $900 for shipping (60 x $15). However, the shopping cart only charged the client $15 for all 60 books. The actual cost to ship was just over $200. We just smiled and took care of it. The client never knew. Not quite the same as your story, but I wonder how the club would have reacted if they were truly customer focused.

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