This is Part 5 in my series, The Old Rules of Business That Still Matter. Previous Rules can be read by clicking these links:
Old Rule #1: It's All About People
Old Rule #3: Everything Walks the Talk
Old Rule #4: There's No Such Thing As A Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
When my golf phenom daughter, Kelly, and I were in Palm Springs for a tournament earlier this year, we met my sister and her family for dinner at the Yard House restaurant. I think we had seven people total and the greeter said the wait would be about 35 minutes. It was really crowded, so we took the Your-Table-Is-Ready buzzer and went outside to wait.
35 minutes went by pretty fast, but our buzzer didn't buzz. We weren't too worried about it. The restaurant was very busy and a few more minutes weren't going to kill us.
It started approaching 45 minutes, so I went to check on our table. The greeter cheerfully told me our table should be ready very soon, so I went back out.
Fifteen more minutes go by. I check again. "Almost ready!"
Fifteen more minutes. And finally, after waiting 90 minutes, our buzzer lit up. We went inside and were led to our table. No apology was offered.
Recently, Kay, Kelly, and I went to the Old Spaghetti Factory nearby in Tacoma. Like the Yard House, it was really crowded.
"There's about a 30 minute wait right now," we were told. The Old Spaghetti Factory doesn't have nifty buzzers, so we serpentined our way to a corner and found a place to stand.
Fifteen minutes went by and we hear, "Table for Kelly is ready!" We smile at our good fortune and go sit down.
Later, Kay and I talked about how nice that was to not have to wait the full 30 minutes. She pointed out the same thing had happened the last time we were at the Old Spaghetti Factory, too. It was then we realized what was going on. I've since confirmed it in conversations with friends.
The Old Spaghetti Factory KNEW it was going to be less than 30 minutes. They KNEW they were going to be able to sit us sooner and, as a result, we felt BETTER about the wait. It put us in a BETTER mood during dinner. Was the table service great? I don't remember. Was it fast? I don't remember that, either. All I remember was that we were seated sooner than 30 minutes and I was happy because of that.
Which brings me to the Old Rule of Business that Still Matters #5:
Under Promise & Over Deliver
For many years this concept has lived in Louisiana and they even have their own word for it — lagniappe. The idea is that a customer receives a small gift or benefit beyond what is expected, much like getting a 13th donut when buying a dozen (see Bakers Dozen). And it's easy to deliver.
Technology can be a wonderful thing, but one thing its done is create more and more commoditization. If a product can be copied, it most certainly will be copied. As such, companies who used to be able to market product superiority have lost that edge over the competition and must find a different reason for people to do business with them.
Unfortunately, too many companies have taken to promising big benefits…benefits that are often difficult to deliver. As a result, they fall into the black hole of Over-Promising & Under-Delivering.
This is not a good thing, folks.
What I didn't tell you about Kelly's and my experience at the Yard House was that we'd had a similar experience at the Palm Beach Gardens, FL Yard House during another tournament. Even though we liked the food and ambience, we expected to our wait in Palm Springs then to be well beyond what they promised. We weren't looking forward to going to the Yard House and if we'd had our choice would have gone somewhere else. You see, the Yard House practiced the Over-Promise & Under-Deliver model.
It's interesting to me that businesses always seem to focus on finding that next Big Thing or Shiny Object that's supposed to launch them well past the competition. These are usually difficult to implement and more often than not, cause Bigger Problems, Bigger Headaches, and, quite frankly, Unhappy Customers.
I am becoming more and more convinced that a great way to separate yourself from the competition today is to not look for the Big Promise that you may or may not be able to deliver. Look for the promise you can Over Deliver. Your customers HATE it when you promise something and fail to deliver on that promise. They LOVE it when you make a promise and then exceed those expectations.
The best way to do that is to regularly and consistently Under Promise & Over Deliver. Apparently, the Old Spaghetti Factory understands that.
PS: I've written about this topic before. You can read that post again by clicking HERE.
Love this rule, and you gave an example I’m sure we can ALL relate to. When you think about it, it seems so obvious, especially regarding restaurant wait times. And yet the same thing happened to us at Olive Garden the last time we were there. By the time we sat down, we were feeling slightly irritated that it took so long to be seated, especially since it was longer than we were told.
Another thing: as we waited at the Olive Garden, all the customers were crammed into the lobby area, and the two women who were managing the seating stood at the podium, looking fairly bored and indifferent.
That all changed once we were seated. At that point, the server was extremely friendly and attentive (because he wanted a tip? That’s okay with me!) and he seemed dedicated to giving us a great dining experience.
Again – none of that came across in the waiting area. I wonder what creative things could be added to improve that time spent waiting before we were seated? As you always say, “The Customer Experience is the Marketing.” This wait time would be a natural way to improve the customer’s experience.
I bet if someone put their mind to it, they could come up with some creative ideas to put into place during this wait time while customers are held captive, hungry and bored! And in the process they’d definitely have an opportunity to over-deliver!
Our Olive Garden here in Mankato, Minnesota routinely comes around with platters of their breadsticks (cut in half) when there is a long wait. Eating that half a breadstick takes the edge off and seems to make the time go faster. Plus you feel like your are getting something for free!
If you under promise and over deliver often, doesn’t it then become an expectation? One of the manufacturing susidiaries that I work with doesn’t ship early because early delivery becomes the expectation and that one time when we deliver “on time” but not early sets us up for issues with our customers.
So over delivering sometimes becomes an issue as well.
Disney does a great job of this while waiting in line to go on one of their attraction. They have television screens that tell a story about the attraction you are getting ready to get on. This story moves from TV screen to TV screen as you move up in line. They also usually have interesting things to look at and talk about as you wait.
You are totally wrong on this, everyone strives to under promise and over deliver. That is a sure way to mediocrity. Over Promise on a few things like no more than three and then Over deliver on on the Over Promise. Look at the companies that do that. Apple for one “Insanely Great Products” That is an over promise that they over deliver on and now they have more cash than the U.S. Government. Getting you to your table with in the alloted time, is simply the minimum acceptable level for a restaraunt. Delivering the Best breadsticks ever baked is an overpromise, the challange is to do it every time you bake. I Read OverPromise OverDeliver by Rick Bererra and my company started to grow 20% a year through the worst recession in my life time. It changed everything for me when it came to Marketing.
I love it when someone makes an extreme statement like, “You are totally wrong on this…” and then uses cliched examples to support their viewpoint.