• Kelly E. Middleton

Under-Promise, Over-Deliver and the Roast Beef Broken Promise



In my most recent book, Competing for Kids, I talked about the customer service concept of under-promising and over-delivering. What that means is that if you tell a customer you will resolve their issue in 3 days, you make sure you have it resolved in 2 days. That way, they are pleasantly surprised that it took less time than you had quoted them. Under-promise, over-deliver is a strategy that the best companies use to ensure they do not disappoint their customers. A few examples of this are, telling customers you will call them back within 48 hours but always calling back within 24 hours, saying "you could save 10%" on a sale when they actually end up saving 20% or more. These surprises leave the customer feeling lucky and satisfied.


Another way that under-promise, over-deliver works is by maintaining the status quo. As I mentioned above, this concept is all about expectations. When you go to a 24-hour convenience store and they are closed, they have not met the status quo expectation and, thus, have left the customer disappointed. Have you ever gone to an ATM that is out of cash? While we understand that this is something that happens from time to time, it doesn't take the sting of disappointment out of the experience. That's time wasted and who knows if there is another ATM nearby?


I recently had an under-promise, over-deliver experience that left me pulling my hair out because it was a replay of a story from Competing for Kids. I was at a fast food restaurant that was made famous for its roast beef and is not shy is proclaiming that fact in its advertising. Those of you who have read my book know where this is going. Wouldn't you know, they ran out of roast beef. Again. Yes, I'd been to this exact location in the past and they had run out of roast beef and here I was again faced with the same situation. The first time this happened, I was upset, but sort of chuckled about it in my head. Now, I thought this was some sort of crazy supply issue and that there was no way it would happen again, but here I was unable to order their flagship sandwich.


I just had to give them a piece of my mind, so I asked to speak with the manager and proceeded to tell him that this was totally unacceptable. It's like Starbucks running out of coffee or the bank running out of money (not the standalone ATM, the bank). I proceeded to say that if I were running this restaurant, I would have several failsafes in place to ensure that my roast beef restaurant did not run out of roast beef. First of all, I'd have a backup supplier in case the primary one had a hiccup. I'd also have a third supplier in town (like a local butcher shop) in case the second supplier couldn't respond in time. That way, there would be a place down the street that I could go to get a day's supply and bide time for my wholesale suppliers to pull through. Heck, I'd even keep a day's supply of roast beef in my own freezer at all times, cycling it out every few months to keep it fresh. The point is, there is no reason any business operating on the scale that this one does to run out of such a critical product.


At the end of the day, this is a leadership issue. The manager of this franchise simply does not practice planning and reflecting well. He clearly didn't learn his lesson after the first time he ran out of roast beef, which should have never happened anyway, but I'll give him a reluctant pass on that. So having this happen again shows incompetency or at least laziness. I bet this isn't even the second time they've run out of roast beef and I have no doubt it will happen again.


The whole experience left me asking, "What other issues does this restaurant have?" It's not a far leap to assume that workers aren't following kitchen cleanliness protocols or that food is being served that does not meet company freshness requirements. When a leader doesn't care enough to meet the customer's status quo with their flagship product, every other aspect of the company that one would take for granted becomes questionable. Until leadership changes hands, I certainly won't be patronizing this roast beef restaurant that sometimes has roast beef.

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