Information Technology Enabled Services

Over-Promising – the Challenges in ITES

I have often come across this question from people in business circles-- how do we ensure a balance in what we promise the customer? This has come especially from the customer-facing sales and service personnel, and we know how they have a tough act in promising and delivering a business product or service.

Over-promising can kill your business

What can go wrong if you promise the customer, in all earnest and honest enthusiasm, something that you cannot deliver? If the company is not able to keep its business promises and commitments, the loss of credibility with the customers is as bad as it can get. The great ‘danger’ in over-promising where you promise a lot beyond what can be delivered is in creating dissatisfied customers and a bad reputation that would take a lot to redeem and rectify.

Over-promising has long term effects as well. While the immediate one is a loss of business that can hang around for a long time, the other major loss is the business reputation that cannot be offset by any real or imagined short term monetary gain. In this Internet age and with the plethora of social media platforms, this bad news will travel fast and can affect the business badly.

In the early stages of the business, the company may be tempted to promise the world to potential clients in order to get their business, set higher standards and make them happy. But if the promises are just to get a customer, it backfires on you. It is never easy and advisable to promise more than you can provide-irrespective of the type of business, location or type of customer.

Over-promising- the ITES scenario

Over-promising means that you are getting the customer’s hopes up when you run the risk of not delivering on what you're saying. This has a different dimension when you consider an IT-enabled services business. Here the customer would have trusted the service provider in providing a good level of service and any deficit, defect or shortfall in service would affect that client badly, and out of the blue. This is in contrast to the situation where the service is done in-house by the client.

The fallouts of under-delivery and over-promising in ITES are:

  • Lost revenue and opportunities for the business
  • Lost advantage relative to competitors
  • Breaches of regulatory compliance
  • Poor stakeholder engagement
  • Reduced business process efficiency due to poor solution design
  • Employee distractions & Disappointments leading to higher attrition
  • Negative impact on the bottom line
  • Trust deficit and fall out on similar clients

Rectifying the situation

Now that we agree we have messed it up, how do we clean it up? The best course of action is to communicate early and honestly with your client. It can be salvaged if you take ownership of the mistake because it helps to reset expectations at the earliest.

Along with this, it is important to take stock and come to terms with the major impacts such as key staff members leaving the company or any other high profile, high value ‘special project’. Following this, a proper analysis is imperative to help in proper estimations so that future projects, events, and promises are more rational and reasonable. The biggest step is to learn from it and not repeating it.

Avoiding over-promising

Having learned it the hard way, the best way to avoid such a promise is to pre-plan your commitments. Explain to the customer the process and delays that should be anticipated. Include all possible exceptions in your plan and let the client appreciate the backup plan or ‘plan-B’ that you have for the project. Take care of and account for human errors in all the estimations. Also, factor in unexpected issues that may affect delivery and you may even pleasantly surprise the client when the project proceeds without being affected by these glitches.

The last word

My experience in IT-enabled services tells me that people appreciate it if you are honest at the outset and lay out the parameters and the reality upfront. You also give yourself the chance to meet your expectations. Remember that over-promising often comes out as an instinct in a bid to make people happy. It is pretty human and natural but in a business it helps to practice, document it and follows it to the T.

I expect you would agree that truth is always appreciated, even in the competitive world of business. I would like to hear from you about these points.