On Offers and Promises
There’s an eatery near where I work that advertises that it offers “Free WiFi.”
As a man with a cheap cell phone, I love discovering new places with WiFi service. I eagerly whipped out my iPod Touch.
“I can check my email, maybe do a quick browse of Facebook before we have lunch,” I thought as I selected the network and waited for it to connect.
…and all through lunch I would periodically check to see if the connection had established. It never did.
I’ve been back there several times over the past few months, and it hardly ever connects. If I went there today, I probably wouldn’t bother checking.
What’s the difference between no WiFi service and poor WiFi service? Functionally, there’s almost no difference. Expectationally, there is a world of difference.
Offering a service is the same as making a promise, even if it’s a “free” service. Our failure to provide that service has the same effect on our reputation as breaking a promise. Our word means a little less. Our name is a little less trusted.
And with every incident that goes unaddressed, it keeps getting worse.
Eventually, your customers will stop being your customers. Or your constituents will stop supporting you. Or your spouse will stop asking you to do things. Or…or…or. In every type of relationship, the results are fatal.
You can try to make excuses. You can try to spin. You can pretend nothing is wrong. That won’t heal the relationship, though, and it just barely delays the inevitable.
The only real cure is honesty.
No one faults the restaurant that doesn’t offer free WiFi. The owners know that they don’t want to expend the time, money or personnel to provide that service well, and they’re up front about it. If they focus at being a great restaurant, their customers will be happy.
So, it’s past time to get clear about what your time, your resources, and your vision will allow you (or your business) to commit to. If you’re saying “yes” to a commitment, you better be ready to answer how and when you will keep it. If you’re not able to keep it, then it’s past time to come clean and admit it.
Your reputation depends on it.
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