How to Under Promise and Over Deliver

How to Minimise Customer Defections and Increase Retention Rates with Clients

Firstly, identify key frustrations that people have when dealing with people in your industry. Find out what annoys your customers when they deal with people in your industry.

Once you have done this first step, you can put in place measures that eliminate those frustrations. You can then take a step further, and put in place initiatives that take customers from being indifferent about your business to becoming a raving fan.

Once you know what frustrates your customers, work out ways to change your operating procedures to ensure that you don’t become a frustrater. Become the business that goes beyond the call to duty to bless and serve them.

It’s about ensuring that these measures happen each and every time anybody in your business interacts with a customer.


  1. Run a Client Advisory Board – Where you ask 12 customers to an event that you have facilitated by an external, impartial person. The customers are asked a series of questions relating to the frustrations they have dealing with businesses in your industry.
  2. Send a Feedback Campaign – and offer an incentive for returning the feedback.

Here is an example based on a case study of tradesman…

Let’s say that you work out that the key frustrations people have when dealing with tradies are:

  • They always show up late or not at all and they don’t even call beforehand to let people know they are running late
  • Shoddy workmanship
  • Leaving a big mess after they’ve finished
  • Cost blow-outs
  • Deadline blow-outs

Once you know what frustrates your target market, you can work out ways to change you operating procedures.

So given the market’s frustrations, what measures could you put in place to:

  • Exceed the customer’s quality expectations?
  • Exceed the customer’s timeliness expectations?
  • Exceed the customer’s affordability expectations?
  • Exceed the customer’s other expectations?

It might include initiatives like always doubling the “Murphy’s Law” buffer to ensure that even if a disaster does happen, you’ll at the very least, deliver on time.

For instance, to ensure they always exceed customer expectations, a printing firm might inform their customer that their stationary will be delivered in the afternoon on Thursday, but you arrange for your people to print it by Wednesday evening and arrange for the courier to deliver it first thing on Thursday. The customer is pleasantly surprised. Even if something happens and the courier is late, you have built in a buffer to ensure, at the very least, you have met their expectations.

To combat the “leaving a mess” frustration, tradies could put down paper floor mats, or wear shoe covers in the areas they work. Then when they have finished, vacuum and/or sweep the area so it looks like they haven’t even been there. Taking that a step further, the trade must subtly inform the customer of what they have done by casually saying something along the lines of …

“Mr/Mrs Brown, I’ve tidied up my mess here. Where is your wheelie bin? And do you have any other rubbish that I can take for you on my way out? Oh yes… and while I remember, I noticed a floorboard was loose so I thought i’d fix that for you to help you avoid any nasty mishaps in the future. There’s no charge for that.

Plus I thought i’d leave you with two spare boards just in case down the track another railing wears out and you need to replace it. That saves you hunting around to try and find a matching one”. 

Or – if you’re a butcher you could throw in 3 or 4 free lollipops, for a customer with children. The cost is fairly low and it shows the customer that you’re a nice person. It also introduces them to your lollipops, which if your children like, might end up buying in the future.