How to Keep Your Customer Service Promise

Employees, metrics and clarity are keys to meeting guarantees.

A customer service promise isn’t just words on paper. It’s a commitment from every employee and every part of your company to fulfill a customer’s expectations.

And putting the right strategies in place is key to meeting your promises.

Promises to customers matter, maybe even more than you imagine.

According to Accenture , 38 percent of customers who experience a broken promise switch their business to a competitor soon afterwards. Another 10 percent shift some of their spending to a competitor. And 42 percent consider switching, opening the door to their eventual defection. All in all, a broken promise can send up to 90 percent of customers out the door.

But if you keep your promise, you can boost sales and lock in customer loyalty. Given the stakes, you not only should create a strong customer service promise, but takes steps to ensure you fulfill it. Here are five ways to make sure your guarantees are written in stone:

  1. Be clear about your promises. If you guarantee “fast service,” do you know what “fast” means in the eyes of your customers? If not, you run the risk of breaking the promise from the customer’s standpoint. No matter when you call, your problem will be handled. By clearly defining what your promises mean, you ensure you and your customers have the same expectations.
  2. Educate employees . Every employee should understand the customer service promise and know their role in fulfilling. “The truth is, every customer service guarantee is only as good as the people you hire to execute it,” says Douglas Eldridge, inbound manager at Revenue River Marketing, a marketing firm.
  3. Measure your promises. If you promise to answer every customer communication in 24 hours, you should track if you’re keeping that promise. Maybe you respond to phone calls within a day, but emails tend to slip between the cracks? You can’t know if you’re fulfilling you pledge without numbers. Talk to your customers regularly and conduct regular customer surveys to see if you’re keeping your promise or if they’re experiencing any frustrations about broken promises. 
  4. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. You want to under-promise and over-deliver—not the other way around. Relevant promises you keep down to the last detail are what build customer loyalty. If you state your customer service rep will get back to the customer within 24 hours, you should be sure your reps are getting back well before then, rather than constantly bumping up against the promise deadline. 
  5. Own up to mistakes. No one is perfect. If you’ve had shortfalls on fulfilling your service promise, admit it and (this is the really important part) clearly tell customers about changes you’re putting into place to correct the issues. “You don’t want to focus on the negative,” says Chévine Anderson, president and CEO of Nobility Advisors, a consultancy. “But don’t hide the good things you’ve doing to ensure your promises will be kept in the future.”