What is the ultimate secret to keeping your customers and clients happy?

Providing a fantastic product or service?

Offering stellar customer service?

Adding value at every opportunity?

No, no, and no.

While these are all great practices and should be part of your operation, there is an even more important step that ensures that your customer and clients will be thrilled with your business.

It is a simple concept: under promise, over deliver.

Otherwise referred to as “expectation management”, the concept is easy to grasp… but rarely practiced. It simply means managing your customer’s expectations—so that you are able to exceed their expectations, rather than just meeting them, or falling short.

How can you put this into practice? Below are a couple of examples—but the opportunities to utilize this principle are infinite!

Deadlines. If you’ve shipped a product and expect it to arrive on Wednesday, tell your customer that it will be there on Friday. If there is a delay, you won’t have to deal with a disappointed customer—because you’ve built in some cushion. And if it is early, your customer enjoys a “WOW!” moment—because, these days, how often does a business get things done ahead of schedule?

Deliverables. Obviously, you need to play up the benefits of your products and services in order to make the sale. But this is a balancing act because too much marketing hype will lead to disappointed customers. Work to effectively market your offerings, without creating false expectations. The result of this strategy is generally happy customers who become raving fans of your business!

Service. When a customer calls with a complaint or question that requires follow-up from your team, over-estimate your response time. If you’re going to be able to respond within an hour, tell the customer you’ll get back to them within four hours. If it’s going to take a day, tell them it will take two days. Most of us have been on the other end of a customer service nightmare, such as a cable company stating that their technician will be out to service your line on Tuesday, and not showing up until Thursday… etc, etc. Don’t do this to your customers! Manage their expectations throughout the service process.

The bottom line is simple but powerful: manage the expectations of your customers, so that the products and services that you provide go above and beyond what they expect. It’s a simple psychology that will have a big impact on the way that your customers perceive your business.