Research by Accenture has confirmed what most smart business people have long believed to be true: broken promises hurt business. Day in and day out, many businesses make overt or implied promises to customers. Often, those promises are intentionally, carelessly or inadvertently broken. In any given year, nearly half of customers have a promise broken by a company with which they do business. Of those, almost two thirds report companies breaking multiple promises. Some industries are more habitual in breaking promises than others.
What is the actual impact of broken promises on business? Logic dictates that broken promises erode trust between the customer and the business. But do broken promises actually cause customers to stop doing business with a company? Is just one broken promise enough to cause a loyal customer to go elsewhere with his business or does it take multiple offenses? Research indicates that this is an area that should be of prime concern to business owners, CEOs, CFOs, Controllers and anyone who is focused on a company’s bottom line. There is a very strong, direct relationship between customer erosion and broken promises.
Every day, businesses make promises to its internal and external customers. Throughout the relationship life cycle, from entry level clerks to the top brass, employees at every level of every company make promises to customers regarding work to be done, deadlines to be met, or issues to be resolved. Some of those promises are explicit. “I give you my word….” “Count on it.” “Rest assured, it will be there on time.” Other promises are implied. Implied promises can be just as powerful as expressed ones. Everyone recognizes a commitment has been made when a business advertises that it has “the fastest turnaround times in the industry,” or a salesperson says “I’ll send you that proposal by the close of business today.” There are countless implied promises that a business makes in its marketing materials, sales pitch and customer service.
It is fairly well-accepted wisdom that each promise made ultimately affects the success or failure of the business. Indeed, it is commonly understood that while nothing builds customer confidence and loyalty more reliably than a history of well-kept promises, it is equally held as truth that nothing undermines a business’ brand or bottom line more than a string of broken promises. That imparts a great deal of power to promises… promises kept and promises broken. But is that really true? Do broken promises impact business? Is just one broken promise enough to lose a customer or does a business have to repeatedly break promises in order to impact loyalty? And do broken promises impact all businesses and industries the same way and to the same extent? Just what impact do broken promises have on sales, repeat business, and customer loyalty? Research sheds some light on this commonly accepted yet little understood occurrence.
The U.S. Declaration of Independence boldly states in the Preamble that “All men are created equal. And that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these rights is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The pursuit of happiness was and is still viewed today as an undeniable right and goal of all people. Of course, one doesn’t have to be a scientist to know that there are many factors that impact individual happiness. Relationships. Career. Economic well-being. Personal freedom. Spirituality. Physical fitness. Emotional health. However, little scientific research had been done on measuring happiness… until recently. More and more, there has been a push to understand what affects happiness in order to be able to pursue and attain it.
One major factor affecting individual (and collective) happiness is place. In recent years, scientists are finding that apparently where we live plays a big role in our happiness. There is a relationship between community life and health, and that the place where one lives affects not only one’s mental health but also that elusive but desirable state of being referred to as “happiness.” Recent research indicates that there is a strong relationship between happiness and place. So which places offer the greatest opportunity to be happy? And why isn’t everyone moving there?
Imagine this. An employee has to write a proposal for a prospective client. The proposal is not something that can be copied from something else online or taken from another sample. Now imagine that the proposal goes out to the prospective client, filled with spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. In the proposal, the company’s values and services are unclear. How would that employee’s manager feel if he got wind of that document? Embarrassed? Humiliated? How would that proposal affect the company’s ability to land that client? How would that proposal impact that employee’s upward mobility?
Good writing skills are imperative for any professional’s toolbox. In business, there are letters, memos, reports, presentations, company publications, emails, advertisements speeches, press releases, proposals, five-year plans, and so much more which must be written. Each document needs to be clear, concise, grammatically correct, and fluid. Each written piece should engage the attention of the intended audience, fulfill the intended purpose – whether it is to persuade, inform or engage — and conclude effectively. An employee’s writing skills represents the company or organization for which he or she works. If the writing is not professional and clear, it reflects poorly on the company. But good writing also serves other business purposes as well.
What skill is the least venerated, most underrated and yet most essential skill in business today? Is it the ability to speak clearly and connect with people? No, although it is a vital skill and most people think the best leaders are those who can deliver a rousing, engaging speech. Is it excellent resource management? No, even though managers who can get the most productivity out of their team generally get the best bonuses. Is it the ability to crunch numbers and data in order to maximize profitability? No, but the number-crunchers definitely have the most power and control within most organizations. Is it the ability to persuade and sell? No, even though salespeople are treated like royalty at most companies. Actually, the skill that is probably the most valuable for managers, leaders and business people at all levels in all industries is the ability to write well.
As a writer, it may sound a bit boastful to say that good writing is the most underestimated, undervalued, and sorely needed skills in business today. Personal experience aside, while the ability to write well may seem like a mundane skill (after all it is not taught as its own subject in grade school or at most colleges), it is one of the most crucial skills any exec, manager or leader can bring to the table, regardless of industry or occupation. From engineers to educators and from real estate brokers to investment bankers, practically anyone in business today needs to be able to write well…. to deliver written information in a crisp, clear and concise manner. Says who?…. Well, just about everyone.