Corporate Finance & Governance | Leadership / Management

Underpromise, overdeliver. It works.

Gift You've heard the old customer service mantra "Underpromise and overdeliver," right? If you think you'll finish something in three days, tell your clients you'll have it done in four. When you beat the deadline, they'll worship you.

Pretty simple, right? Yet no less an authority than Tom Peters calls it a formula for success.

I saw a terrific example of that theory in action on a recent flight from Baltimore to St. Louis.

It was a late afternoon flight, scheduled to leave Baltimore around 5 p.m. Eastern. But 5 o'clock came and went and there was no sign of our plane.

That was no big deal to me personally -- St. Louis was my final stop. But the folks with connecting flights in St. Louis were getting a little nervous.

Finally, a Southwest Airlines employee announced over the P.A., "For those of you with connecting flights in St. Louis: We cannot guarantee you will make those flights. You might want to try to find a hotel room in St. Louis and fly out the following day."

Groans throughout the concourse. Welcome to The Traveler's Nightmare.

Finally, our plane arrives at BWI. We board patiently, then depart about 40 minutes late.

Fast-forward almost two hours. As we're making our final descent into St. Louis, the flight attendant announces, "The captain has been in contact with the folks on the ground in St. Louis, and everyone who has a connecting flight will make your flights with time to spare."

You should've heard the cheers on the plane that afternoon.

Way to overdeliver, Southwest. You turned a hostile crowd into raving fans.

Have any of you done that for your customers lately? Tell us how, then check out these related Business Learning Institute programs:


Bill Sheridan