Under Promise, Over Deliver
My husband and I have talked about this concept a lot. Mostly as it comes up when we are waiting at a restaurant. But I think this is a better guide to most things in general. Let me explain.
When checking in at a restaurant that has a waitlist, the host will let you know how long the wait is for you size party. Now, they can’t know anything for 100% guarantee, but they have a pretty good ballpark idea. When they tell you how long you can expect to wait you can use this information to decide to stay and wait it out or leave to find something that would be available sooner. We have used this information while we evaluate how hungry we are, but as a family with young kids, we really take quote times into consideration when evaluating our needs and deciding what to do.
We’ve had hosts quote a 45-minute wait and our table was ready in closer to 25 to 30. Boy, were we excited! Conversely, we have had hosts quote 20-25 minutes and after 45 minutes when we still don’t have a table we have been fairly upset. We understand it isn’t an exact science and quoting a 20-25 minute wait and having it end up being 30 minutes isn’t too far off and we feel like “no worries.” We have both worked in the restaurant industry and are pretty flexible and understanding. But that whole first experience really works to set the tone for how you feel the rest of the meal. If you have chosen to stay and expect 20 minutes but then at 45 your kid is screaming and having a meltdown that isn’t super awesome.
The same goes for working with contractors. If they come to your house and bid a job and tell you it will take 3 weeks and cost x amount of money. If that job gets done in 2.5 weeks and/or comes in under budget, how awesome is that? If instead it takes them 2 months and/or it comes in way over budget, then that will feel aggravating for the homeowner.
Now, it’s a delicate balance. You don’t want to severely under promise with the hopes of delighting your customer because they could decide that is too long of a wait and you will lose customers. But if you continue to over promise you will also lose long time customers and possible future customers with negative word of mouth.
The best thing to do is to really know yourself and what you are capable of doing. Being able to take an honest look at yourself, your skillset, your time, etc. you will be a better judge of what you are able to offer. But also, always give yourself just a little extra wiggle room. Not too much, just a little. By being able to deliver a better product quicker or less expensively, you will delight the other person. Don’t take on too much. It is ok to say “No” to some things. That way you can focus your energy on doing whatever you do take on really well. And when you “under promise” but “over deliver” you will be set.