The Garrulous Jay – Broken Promise Machines

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All businesses are promise machines. The contract between seller and buyer effectively involves the giving and receiving of a promise, whether the enterprise is manufacturing pins, leasing super-yachts, or indeed providing financial planning advice. The following are true stories…

Story 1 – Ever Brief

A few evenings ago I received an email from one of the alcohol-free spirits makers whose products I bought back in the dry days of January.

I receive many such emails but this one caught my eye because it included the following offer: “We’ve also prepared a cart for you so if you’re ready to repeat your last order, click here to head directly to check out.”

I clicked through to their website…and this is what I saw next: “Out of stock. Some items are no longer available.”

Coincidentally, I received a second email from a competitor the following morning, promoting their equivalent product. Needless to say I placed my order and contemplated how brief my relationship with the first company was likely to be.

Story 2 – Where’s Jemma?

I’m in the process of having Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) installed. I called my broadband provider after placing the order to explain that an earlier attempt to do this had floundered, which is why I had decided to terminate my relationship with my previous supplier.

I had a really great conversation with a lady called Jemma. She assured me she would manage the case from beginning to end and not let it drop until my FTTP service was up and running. She even sent a follow-up email saying: “if you need to speak to me at all throughout this process then please reply to this email and I will call you back ASAP.”

Two weeks and four unanswered emails later I called again and spoke to someone else. They then called through to Jemma, spoke to her and assured me that Jemma would call me back at 4.15pm that day. She didn’t and communications with my British telecommunications company have broken down.

Regardless of the business one is in, it’s not the plant, the machinery, the products or the policies that make and break promises to customers. It’s the people. And people also love to moan: it’s cathartic. Which is why broken promises can be so costly to businesses: because people will tell other people about their negative experiences far more often than they recount good news stories.

Keeping promises is probably the single most important thing any organisation can do.

PS – Have a good Easter break!