Customers need to keep their promises too!

I love organisations. I think the vast majority of them have good intent. They don’t set out at the beginning of the day thinking, “How can we screw our customers today?” And that’s not to ignore that some still do, but I see that as the exception not the rule.

I’ve said multiple times on this blog and in other places; if you don’t want people to say bad things about you on social media that can damage your “brand” then don’t do bad things.

And while that holds true, on the customer side there’s a dangerous dynamic emerging – an alarming and fast growing trend of customers using social media as a blunt instrument to get their way. Their promises be damned. With potential damage caused to the organisation they target far in excess of what could be considered fair.

By way of example, a new site I was told about last week takes customer complaints and appears to “trade” them to competitor companies like currency. You want to ignore this customer’s complaint? Fine, we’ll offer that customer to your competitor. And while some organisations certainly deserve to lose customers due to the promises they don’t keep, I am not sure turning them into a commodity is the solution.

What this trend ignores is the onus on the customer for the promises they make: When you sign an agreement; when you make a purchase of a product or service; when you frequent an establishment; there are promises you make as a customer.

And so here is my message to the customer (AKA all of us, seeing we are all customers in some way):

  • Keep your damn promises.
  • No, you’re not exempt.
  • You either.
  • I know it can be inconvenient.
  • It means being an adult and acknowledging your responsibility for what you agree to do.
  • It means acknowledging that you aren’t always right or in the right.

And, no, it’s not your right to exact your pound of flesh via social media or on some website just because you “can’t get no satisfaction”. Just imagine if organisations turned the tables and started tweeting and posting on Facebook about what a terrible customer Joe is…

When the ability to trade becomes toxic it doesn’t take long for things to breakdown, and the casualty is trust and goodwill on both sides of the cash register.

Nearly every outrageous clause or policy started with one person not keeping their promise to the organisation. We’ve all run into it. The no exceptions policy that you just know is in place because somewhere, sometime, some customer didn’t keep their end of the deal.

So, please, keep your damned promises (and, yes, that goes for the organisation too).

See you next week.

Michel is an independent adviser and advocate dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan


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