Fulfilling Commitments: Foundation of Your Brand?

Commitments are the foundation of business transactions and a positive relationship between the business and customer.  Many of these commitments are formally reduced to contract language that governs the boundaries and conditions of performance between the business and the customer. My focus in this post is not on those commitments that you are contractually obligated to perform but those that you and the organization extend personally.

Nothing is more aggravating than to be given a personal commitment from a responsible party about something that will happen at a certain time and then for nothing to happen.  Even worse for the time to pass for several hours or a few days without any mention of the missed commitment.

What are your first thoughts or impressions?  Are you led to ask for and then rely on a second commitment?  Are you prepared to refer this source to another person who is asking for a referral?  Not likely!

Personal commitments are promises to perform and should be treated like any other business obligation whether they are made in an email, left in a voice mail or relayed through an intermediary.

What do these commitments look like?

  • “I will get back to you Friday afternoon”
  • “I will have my engineering group send you the technical specifications by end of business tomorrow.”
  • “Your order will ship in three days.”
  • “I will meet you there at 2pm.”

We have all made similar if not the same commitments.  How they affect our brand and reputation of the business is dependant upon how we delivered – real or perceived.

Broken commitments can occur due to unforeseen circumstances and most people will understand “once” but if it becomes a habit then your brand is in jeopardy.  Damaging the brand of a company due to poor performance on commitments is unfortunate since many, if not all, are very much in control of the person making the commitment.

Protecting your brand from bad commitment performance?
People fail fulfilling commitments due to a number of reasons.

Poor Planning
Commitment is made without understanding what is required to fulfill it.  This may involve making commitments for others without determining if they are in a position to honor the commitment.Poor Follow Through
A genuine commitment is made but no subsequent or effective action is taken to insure that the commitment occurs.  This is due to being too busy, forgetfulness or worse just poor performance.Lack of Anticipation
In making a commitment care should be taken to assess the probability of delivering the commitment effectively.  This means thinking the commitment through as to what is required and what risks may be present that would jeopardize fulfilling the commitment.Over Delegation
A commitment is made with good intentions but then responsibility is passed on to one or more people (possibly several levels below or away from the one who made the commitment) to follow through who are operating under different priorities.  Consequently they are not able to honor the commitment due to competing priorities.Poor Sincerely
In this case the commitment is made frivolously without any intention of following through to make sure it happened.  This example does the worst damage to the brand as the customer will recognize the poor intent at the time or realize it later when the commitment is not fulfilled and they cannot find anyone working on the details.Made Under Duress
Customers are not above making enough noise that employees with good intentions will make a commitment under duress believing they are doing thee right thing to satisfy the customer whether the commitment is realistic or not.  It is best to deal with the initial crisis that has agitated the customer instead of agreeing to a no-win situation that will result in a second and often much worse crisis due to failing to deliver on a commitment.

Solutions
You cannot avoid making commitments so what measures can you take to insure that commitments in your business are properly made and honored.

  1. Performance of Basic Business Functions:  Many commitments are made due to basic business functions not performing, as they should.  Identify reasons why making commitments outside of the standard business processes and correct them so that the need to make out-of-process commitments is reduced if not eliminated.
  2. Prioritize Commitments: Keep all of your commitments visible in some manner so that they can be monitored and prioritized as necessary.  If necessary have another person double check with you to make sure all of the commitments that you are responsible for are being managed.
  3. Pro-active Action:  If it appears that a commitment will not be completed on time then at the earliest opportunity contact the customer and negotiate a new date that you can deliver to.
  4. Survey the Customer:  Be aware of how your customer views the ability of your organization to meet their commitments.  Survey them or few key accounts visit them and ask them directly how your business performs to commitments.  Many customers will not voluntarily bring this up but will consider other suppliers in order to get more dependable support.

Summary
At the end of the day a fair measure of your brand is how you perform on commitments as a critical performance factor.  Do not assume the customer will understand how busy you are or what special circumstances are present.  How you perform will be directly interpreted on how you regard them.

Your customers or clients are relying on your business to deliver whether you have a tough load or not.  If you are over busy take special measures to insure you deliver as promised. If an employee does not take this subject seriously then they need to be working somewhere else.

Protect your brand and make sure you are honoring your commitments! Be known for the quality and integrity of the commitments that you extend to others – family, employees, customers, and your local/global community.

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