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The MHC Blog

Powerful Business Insights for Succesful Leaders

Keeping your promises

Promises matter to customers. If your brand doesn’t deliver what you promise, in time you won’t matter. More importantly, in our social media crazed world, disgruntled customers have open media to spread the word over resulting in instant ramifications to the credibility and trajectory of your brand’s perceived value.

Have you ever been promised a level of service from a Company only to be hugely disappointed when they don’t follow through?  The Company may even have incorporated the brand promise into their corporate advertising which may have been the reason why you choose them over the competition. How did you feel when that promise was broken? Upset, disappointed, angry?

For the Company involved, is a broken brand promise that big a deal? You got the business, does it matter if you didn’t quite come up to expectations?  What’s the worst that can happen if you delivered a bit later than you said you would or your customer didn’t quite get the results they expected?

Why is a brand promise so important?

A brand promise to your customers is a core, and sometimes unspoken, part of your brand identity. It is what you tell customers they can expect from your business. It sets their expectations on the quality of your products or services and gives them a feeling about your brand.

But time and again brands fail to deliver on their promise for a variety of reasons. Or it comes to light that, behind the scenes, a brand does some things that clash with the external messaging they keep blaring out.

When people lash out at a brand, either as an individual disgruntled customer or as a wider movement mobilised by social media, it seems to come as a surprise to said business.

Maybe that’s because, according to Gallup, only about 50 per cent of customers expect a brand to actually deliver on what it says it will.  If a brand know half of us don’t trust them anyway then maybe it does come as a shock that, when they deceive us or fail to live up to expectations, we get so angry.   

Why should we keep to our brand promise? 

A promise isn’t a binding contract, and yet we get more hurt, in a more profound way, when a promise is broken than when somebody breaks a clause in a contract.

A promise, if it is really understood and accepted as one, entails a certain closeness of relationship, there’s an element of trust in it that is exactly opposite to a contract.  Accepting a promise is a sign that you trust this person; their word is their bond.

Whereas a contract is in effect saying “I don’t really trust you to uphold your end of the bargain so please sign this piece of paper so I can beat you with a stick if you fail to deliver.”

For that reason a broken promise wounds us, causing an emotional reaction.  And when we have emotional reactions we often act irrationally and with great force. The broken promise can, potentially, permanently sour a relationship, be it with a friend, a colleague, or a brand.

That’s why your brand promise matters. And it’s why so many brands struggle with brand identity, customer loyalty, and wider engagement.

How to Create a Brand Promise That Sticks? 

A great brand promise reflects careful consideration, courage, and creativity. The bolder and clearer the better. The best brand promises go big, challenge the status quo, and connect with consumers on a deep emotional level.

Make it Measurable: with many brand promise examples, the promise becomes too many things in an attempt to be everything to everybody, and ends up being nothing to anyone. For your brand promise to be effective, it must be measurable.

What does friendly mean? How do you measure that? What does safe mean? Does safe only mean that the driver has never been in an accident? We all know people who don’t necessarily drive safely, but have not been in an accident – yet.

If you can’t define what your promise means, you can’t measure it. If you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it.

Take FedEx for example. When FedEx first started out, their brand promise was, “We will get your package to you by 10:30 am the next day.” Time is a measurement we all agree on. If the package arrives prior to 10:30 am, the brand promise is kept. Starting at 10:31 am, the promise is broken. A strong brand promise is easy to measure against.

Make it Meaningful

This is where the old cliche “actions speak louder than words” is particularly true. A brand promise is nothing if it’s not followed through with action. The one thing strong retailers do well is deliver on their brand promises consistently. You make a commitment to your customers, and if you don’t deliver, you’ll lose them. The problem is that many companies have one big barrier to consistently delivering on those promises – their employees.

Your employees are the faces of your business. They are the ones who interact with your customers daily and they make the strongest and most lasting impression on your customers.

It’s their job to be the point of contact between your brand and your customers. But you know what’s scary? Most employees don’t even know what their company is promising. Instead of helping to improve your brand, they may be harming it.

Educating your employees about your brand message is the key to ensuring that your company keeps its promises to your customers. Training programs should include clear messages about what your brand stands for, what you are committed to delivering to your customers and why it matters.

When you give employees a deeper understanding of what you promise your customers, and how their performance fulfils that commitment, your employees are better able to consistently provide the great brand experience your customers expect.

And that’s how you deliver on a brand promise.

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Claire Donnelly

Written by Claire Donnelly

A Business Growth and HR Strategist helping medium size companies to Scale Up using proven systems. Claire is an MCIPD qualified Human Resource professional, with 25+ years’ experience working within various industries and 10 + years’ experience of HR practices throughout the Middle East. As a HR Generalist she has held a number of senior and Board level HR positions. She is experienced in working at both strategic and tactical levels.

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