Death,Taxes, and Broken Promises

A brand is not a single-dimension concept created by a business. It serves multiple roles- it creates identity through name and logo, it projects an image through brand associations formed about it, and it connects customers and others in a relationship with the brand owner. One other valuable role that a brand serves is to make promises. Some promises are explicit, like service guarantees and product performance claims. Other promises are implicit, expectations that we form about a brand. Some of these implicit promises are suggested to us through marketing while others are formed as a result of our interactions with the brand.

A Promise Problem
A great brand excels at delivering against explicit and implicit brand promises. Consistency in actions is influential in building brand reputation. But as the saying goes, promises are made to be broken, and we are often disappointed by the experience of a broken promise made by a business with which we do business. An Accenture study of U.S. consumers found that broken promises is an all too frequent phenomenon. Among the study's findings:
Customers of telecommunication companies were especially familiar with broken promises as this industry was cited most frequently (22%) followed by retailers (11% of customers had experienced a broken promise made by a retailer). Not surprisingly, customer service failures were chief contributors to broken promises, with having to repeat issues multiple times to a company's personnel (45%) lack of employee knowledge to resolve problem (33%), and failure to satisfactorily resolve a problem cited as actions (or inaction) that led to a broken promise.

Forgiving Customers
The Accenture study found hope for companies struggling to overcome broken promises experienced by customers: Many people will give a business a chance to resolve a service failure and minimize the damage of a broken promise, with 80% of survey respondents saying they would complain to the company before switching to another provider and 55% saying they would give a company two chances before giving up on it. These findings on customer flexibility is a welcome reprieve for a business. Like death and taxes, service failures that lead to broken promises are inevitable.

Even the most customer-focused organizations will have a breakdown in service delivery or some aspect of the customer experience that is inconsistent with brand promises. Thus, the goal is not to strive for zero broken promises. Instead, businesses must have a clear understanding of promises as perceived by their customers. When performance falls short of promises, the response to service failure can make the difference between reinforcing customer trust or irreparably damaging it.

Marketing Daily - "The Power of Keeping a Promise"

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