Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

Consistent and Predictable Experience Creates Customer Confidence

Be Right Back - Low ResCustomer Expectations

You can have outstanding customer service, but it only takes one mistake to erode the customer’s confidence, thus diminishing the chance you’ll have at gaining the customer’s loyalty. This mistake can be summed up in one simple sentence:

Don’t do what you say you’re going to do.

Don’t follow through. Miss a deadline. Show up late. Don’t call back when you promised. The list can go on and on. All of these are examples of how many people – and many companies – destroy a customer’s confidence, thereby destroying the customer’s loyalty.

The American Management Association and Institute for Corporate Productivity surveyed more than 1,300 business leaders and found that 33% of companies admit they don’t keep promises made to customers.  (You can get a copy of the full study here.) So, what can we do about it?

Woody Allen once said, “80% of life is just showing up.”

I highly doubt that Woody Allen took a formal survey, so let’s just go with the spirit of his comment, not the validity. That being the case, let’s put it into business terms.  Perhaps 80% of creating customer loyalty is just doing what you say you will do. In other words, meet the established expectation. If you say you’ll ship within 24 hours, do it. If you say you’ll call someone back within the hour, don’t be late. If you promise good customer service, you had better deliver. It starts by just meeting the customer’s expectations.  In other words, just show up.  That’s what expected.

Let’s add one more thought to this. The experience should match the customer’s expectations. For example, a customer’s expectations will be different for a roadside hotel versus a full-service luxury hotel like the Four Seasons. That smaller, roadside hotel may have a brand promise that includes a clean room and friendly service.  The Four Seasons promises much more with a luxury experience.  Both of them are making a commitment to you in the form of their brand promise.  By keeping the brand promise, they meet the expectation. 

But there is more. Each and every employee of these brands must also keep their promise.  If the bellman promises to bring the luggage to the room in a few minutes, and doesn’t show up until an hour later, he’s broken his promise.

So, let’s go back to Woody Allen’s numbers. If 80% of success is just showing up – or keeping your promise – what about the other 20%? Well, perhaps it’s about exceeding the basic expectation. Let’s substitute the word basic for average. So, maybe the other 20% is about being better than average. Show up, keep your promise and you meet the customer’s expectations. Bump the experience up just a little above average, and you start to have a shot at creating amazement. And, when that experience is consistent and predictable, you’ll create confidence.

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

(Copyright ©MMXIV, Shep Hyken)


  1. The 33% of companies that admit they don’t always keep their promises are a step ahead of the 67% who don’t realize they don’t always do it.

    This is a struggle for every company. Great post — the best companies work like crazy to prevent this from happening.

    • Your stats don’t surprise me. At some point customers will become disappointed with the company and move on. Thanks for stopping by. And, thank for the shout-out in your article!

  2. Pingback: United Airlines Computer Outage is a Customer Service Crisis Case Study – Project Monarch

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