Should You Under Promise & Over Deliver?

“Under promise and over deliver” is a common sales concept that most people have heard of but what does it really mean?  And is it something you should aspire to?

As defined by McGraw-Hill, “under promise and over deliver” is a service strategy in which service providers strive for excellent customer service and satisfaction by doing more than they say they will for the customer or exceeding customer expectations.

Is This a Good Idea?


At first, this strategy seems to have merit. Over-delivering on customer expectations would raise customer satisfaction and be good for business. But when you delve deeper, there are two main reasons why this is not a good business practice.

  • To under promise and over deliver, you must first under promise. This means that through your advertising mix you are communicating a lower level of service or product benefits. Right off the bat, this will reduce the number of customers your business is attracting. Potential clients don’t know that your plan is to over deliver on your promises, how would they? This, in turn, also dramatically increases your customer acquisition costs.

Do you know what your cost per lead is? You should. Read our blog on CPL!

  • Customers’ expectations are not static. Think about it. Say you order a pizza from your local pizza place. They promise to have your pizza to you in 45 minutes, but it comes to you in 30 minutes. You’re really happy with this outcome, and you’re motivated to order again. When you order again, the same thing happens. Now your expectations evolve and rise. With your next and all future orders, you’re going to expect your pizza in 30 minutes based on prior experience, even though they promise it in 45. You’ll quickly go from being highly satisfied with their service to simply satisfied or possibly dissatisfied when your new expectations are not met, even though they’ve technically “over-delivered” with every order.

There are no long-term benefits of under-promising and over-delivering. It is a strategy that limits customer growth and provides only short-term customer satisfaction benefits.

If you believe in the merits of the product you are selling or the service you deliver, then expound on the capabilities of the product or the advantages of the service. To keep customers highly satisfied, you must continue to deliver more value because their expectations will keep increasing. If you set the tone from the start of under-promising and over-delivering, then your customer is going to expect that same experience of getting more than promised with every interaction.  You are setting yourself up to fail and for your customer to be disappointed. A better method might be to deliver on your promises.

Don’t make a promise you can’t keep and keep the ones you make.

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