Under Promise & Over Deliver: A Strategy Summary


This article is about how to minimise customer defections, at the same time increase retention rates with clients.

Firstly, identify key frustrations that people have when dealing with people in your industry. The first step is finding out what annoys your customers when they deal with people in your industry. Once you find out what their frustrations are, you can put in place measures that eliminate those frustrations. You can then take that one step further and put in place initiatives that take that customer from being indifferent about your business to being a raving fan.

Once you know what cheeses people off, work out ways to change your operating procedures to ensure you not only DON'T do anything that cheeses your customer off, you also go way beyond the call of duty to delight them.

lt’s about ensuring ABSOLUTELY, that these delight measures happen each and every time anybody in your business interacts with a customer.

You can find out those frustrations in one of two ways:

  1. Run a Client Advisory Board where you ask 12 customers to an event that you have facilitated by an external, impartial person. The customers are asked a series of questions relating to the frustrations they have dealing with businesses in your industry. 
  2. Send a feedback campaign and offer an incentive for returning the feedback. 

Here's an example based on a case study of tradesman:

Let's say that you work out that the key frustrations people have when dealing with tradies are:

  • They always show up late or not at all and they don‘t even call beforehand to let people know they're going to be late
  • Shoddy workmanship
  • Leaving a big mess after they've finished
  • Cost blow-outs
  • Deadline blow-outs

Once you know what frustrates your target market, you can work out ways to change your operating procedures.

So, given the market's frustrations, what measures could you put in place to:

  • Exceed the customer's quality expectations?
  • Exceed the customer's timeliness expectations?
  • Exceed the customer's affordability expectations?
  • Exceed the customer's other expectations?

It might include initiatives like always doubling the “Murphy's Law” buffer to ensure that even if a disaster does happen, you'll, at the very least, deliver on time.

For instance, to ensure they always exceed customer expectations, a printing firm might inform their customer that their stationery will be delivered in the afternoon on Thursday. But you arrange for your people to print it by Wednesday evening and arrange for the courier to deliver it first thing on Thursday. The customer is pleasantly surprised. Even if something happens and the courier is late, you have built in a buffer to ensure, at the very least, you have met their expectations.

To combat the “leaving a mess” frustration, tradies could put down paper floor mats, or wear shoe covers in the areas they work then when they have finished, vacuum and/or sweep the area so it looks like they haven't even been there. Taking that a step further, the tradie might subtly inform the customer of what they have done by casually saying something along the lines of

“Mr/Ms Brown, I've tidied up my mess here. Where is your wheelie bin?And do you have any other rubbish that I can take for you on my way out? Oh yes and while I remember, I noticed a floorboard was loose/tap leaky/ so I thought I'd fix that for you to help you avoid any nasty mishaps in the future. There's no charge for that. Plus, I thought I'd leave you with two spare boards/washers etc. just in case down the track another railing wears out and you need to replace it. That saves you hunting around to try and find a matching one."

Or— if you're a butcher, you could throw in 3 or 4 free cheerios for a customer that clearly has children. The cost is fairly low and it shows the customer that you’re a nice person. It also introduces them to your cheerios which, if your children like, you might end up buying in the future.

Lisa Ormenyessy

Business Coach and Marketing Specialist at

I help SME's gain leads easily without breaking the bank. Talk with me and discover how to spend your marketing dollar and achieve sales using simple, proven, low cost strategies. | SavvySME Members Only Offer - Request your Free Marketing Review Session (valued at $397) & identify the hidden opportunities in your business & put a stop to the expensive leaks in your marketing

Comments (2)
Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

It is always good practice to exceed your customers' expectations. It is a sad but true fact that Delightful Customer Service is a huge business differentiator (enough so to severely damage or shutter your competition).

Lisa Ormenyessy

Lisa Ormenyessy, Business Coach and Marketing Specialist at

Thanks for commenting Jef - yes, such a simple thing and so powerful yet it seems to elude many small AND big business owners.