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Over promising is telling a lie

How often have you eaten at a restaurant and been promised mouth-watering food or been guaranteed brilliant service by a business but have been left thoroughly disappointed by what it has actually delivered? If you are anything like me then I can be pretty certain that this is something you experience far more frequently than you care to think about! In your business life it is much the same. You have to make promises to your customers for whatever it is you sell or produce but do you ever stand back and think about whether the promises you make are genuinely being matched by what you deliver?

Never knowingly undersold

The department store, John Lewis, claims that it has 'Never knowingly undersold' - but have you ever stopped to consider what this actually means? According to theCompact Oxford English Dictionary, this can mean two things:

1.    That they have never 'sold anything at lower price than (a competitor) or

2.    They do not 'promote or rate insufficiently'. 

So, what exactly are they promising?

It is difficult to know, but according to their website, in a nutshell they are saying that;

a.    You can trust that they will always stock the best quality products;

b.    They set highly competitive prices; and

c.    Their staff and Partners are highly trained to offer helpful, impartial service.

So there you have it! But does this statement really have substance and can you be sure that John Lewis always fulfils its promises? If you are a customer, this is up to you to decide, but I have always considered their promise 'Never knowingly undersold' to be rather ambiguous. However, having said this, judging by the way customers have voted in surveys and polls, John Lewis frequently either tops the list or is highly rated as one of the most reliable, trustworthy and honest companies that generally stands by its promises.

Sizzle or steak?

But this sadly is not the case with far too many businesses. In advertising terms the 'sizzle' comes before the 'steak' - meaning that customers are often tempted to buy from a particular business because of the promises that it makes about its products. If the promise (the 'sizzle') then fails to deliver, then what the business is left with are dissatisfied customers who feel badly let down (or deceived) when the product or service (the 'steak') fails to live up to expectations.

Comparing 'sizzle' and 'steak' is not inappropriate either, especially when describing the way that customers are led to perceive the quality of food they will be served in a restaurant. From fast food outlets to Michelin Star establishments;diners have become accustomed to being wooed by beautifully executed photography of sizzling sirloins and lavishly worded menus to describe food that doesn't always seem nearly as appetizing when it appears on their plate. We have all been fooled; and whilst we are well aware that the photographs show the perfect steak, we are nevertheless tempted by what we see and read only to be bitterly disappointed when this tough, gristly, over-cooked lump of leather is delivered to our tables. We may complain; we may never return to a particular restaurant when we have been hood-winked by the deception of a plate of superior food. Essentially we have been lied to.

Look around and you will see over promising

There are businesses in every industry that routinely lie through their hind teeth by over-promising. Manufacturers make claims about the ultra-reliability of their cars, domestic appliances and so forth that breakdown within a few weeks of purchase; fast-dyed clothing fades and shrinks when it is washed; 'guaranteed' next day deliveries take a week to arrive; holiday companies send customers to resorts that are still under construction - and of course, the oldest lie in the book is when a business owner tells a supplier that the cheque is 'in the post'. They are all promises that, if not kept, will be seen as lies.

The moral

The moral here is for every business to put its house in order by considering very careful what promises they are making.  To lie to customers is a cardinal sin that will rapidly lose you your credibility and turn against you. It is in every business owner's interest to ensure that they are as honest as they can possibly be.


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