It almost doesn’t matter what business you’re in, what the price tag is, or which part of the business process you’re working on: the easiest and best way to make great customer service happen and happen well is simple: just do what you promise.

Of course, that still leaves the question of what your customers think you’re promising versus what you think you’ve promised, but that one’s beyond your control.

About a year ago, I told you about the way Panera Bread had been botching their free Wi-Fi at the Panera in Roxbury NJ. And I’ll repeat what I said then: I don’t care that Panera’s Wi-Fi is free, and I don’t care that it didn’t work; what matters is that Panera Bread completely mishandled the customer service angle.

Recently, I watched as a friend completed a multi-million dollar business deal through a broker. That’s good news for the broker and my friend; the deal got done and everyone made some money.

Then the broker offered to handle some more business for my friend as a courtesy, at a fee of zero. It was one of those “all part of the service, sir!” kind of moves. It wasn’t part of their original deal, and my friend didn’t think it needed to be; in fact, she was quite surprised—and pleased. And what great customer service!

Then the broker . . . just . . . didn’t deliver. There were efforts made, for sure, and let’s face it: the service was free, so how much could anyone really expect?

OK, so that’s the part about “beyond your control”. The practical issue is that once an offer of customer service gets made, customer service needs to be deliveredPerception is reality; differences in perception are irrelevant.

My friend didn’t expect anything until the offer of customer service was extended. But then she expected . . . whatever she expected. And when it wasn’t delivered, her perception of the entire experience suffered. How many referrals do you think will be headed the broker’s way, even though the original deal got made?

By extending the customer service offer and then failing to deliver on it, the broker shifted best-case scenario to a reality where any referrals that come her way will come with a caveat. Doing nothing would have served the broker’s purposes better.

Customer service is simple: Just Do What You Promise.

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