How are you over-delivering?

It’s a well known principle: Under promise. Over-deliver.

But it’s far from common to see it actually applied.

I have a client who just expanded it’s business to Tijuana. They are in 3 other states within Mexico and they’ve grown quite fast for a young company (4 years old). But their expansion to Tijuana has yet to pay off. And it’s getting dicey as customers have been leaving.

They brought me in to investigate why and develop ways to turn this around.

I’ve spent the last month or so practically living their business. Experiencing what they and how they do it from both the customers POV and the OPS POW. I’ve interviewed a handful of people from both sides. My client targets a very specific niche, people who are willing to pay a premium for the services they offer. So these people know what great service means and expect it.

I won’t drown you in all the psychoanalysis (instead of business analysis) of what I’ve uncovered, but when a business thinks it’s over-delivering and it’s customers feel it isn’t, then we have a serious perceptual gap to fill.

If words aren’t accompanied by actions, it’s B.S. And when this happens, customers will happily live without you.

This is the situation. And last week when I had a meeting with the Client Experience Executive to give her the A.A.R. (After Action Review) , I asked her one question: At what point do you think a product/service becomes common? Or to put it more bluntly, at what point did you become boring?


Blank face. Eyes got big. I went over some of the information I found and she couldn’t believe it. It’s as if I was talking about a different world. It’s not to say she didn’t know about some of things I told her, but nevertheless she was surprised.

Now this particular client is not close minded, if anything they are quite open. That’s the reason I like them. They really want to innovate and are open to ideas. With that said, I showed her this article by Martin Lindstrom that highlights the point of this post with a story:

Several years ago, I checked into the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. I asked the concierge if it was possible to borrow some music CDs. Over the years, I’d grown accustomed to listening to music supplied by other hotels in the Peninsula group. It’s a service they offer to all their regulars. As the hotel was new, the clerk politely informed me that this particular Peninsula had no CD library. Oh, well, so it goes. Yet minutes later, the concierge called to ask me what my favorite music was. Eminem, ABBA, and the Beatles, I replied. I was curious about this, but it slipped my mind as I continued working.

About 20 minutes later, I heard a knock on my door. When I opened it, the concierge handed over a small bag containing three CDs. You guessed it: Eminem, ABBA, and the Beatles. “This is a personal present from us to you,” the concierge said. “Welcome to the Peninsula.”

Now’s let’s pause here for a second. I’ve related this anecdote to hundreds of thousands of people attending my conferences–and to millions who have watched my TV appearances. My guesstimate would be that some 15 million people have heard this story. The cost to the Peninsula? About $22.50.

Needless to say, the Peninsula experience is far from common. However, every time I hear consumers raving about a brand, almost without exception it’s been the result of the brand over-delivering.


If you want customers talking about you, over-deliver. Period.

In the world we live in today, where it’s fast paced and unpredictable, our business models are in a constant state of flux. And so are our customers. When you say that whatever you did before will work again, in a different context, you’re kidding yourself. The world of business is dynamic, and people’s expectations are changing constantly.

You must try to find way to over-deliver constantly. To experiment with fresh approaches and to keep yourself young and dynamic. Over-delivering is closely related to the customer experience. And if the customer experience you provide is unique, it is the most defensible asset you will have. It’s very difficult to copy a unique customer experience. How many have tried to copy Disney but failed?


And as you can see from the example above, the smallest details matter. And for the most part, they don’t cost you a dime. Sink in yet?

No? Let’s do this then, take yourself out of your employee mindset and put yourself in your consumer mindset and ask yourself: Do you remember the last time you got more than you expected?

Now ask this of your company: Do we remember the last time we did more than our customers expected?

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