Is your word your bond?

by Peter Crocker

‘Gumps’, the oldest member of my family, is a 91 year old country stockman. Back in the day, he did big deals on nothing more than a handshake. But it seems promises are getting increasingly casual. Is your word your bond?

Gumps was telling me that a couple of water bills that showed usage a little on the high side, prompted him to drop by his local water authority. It wasn’t the cost he was concerned about, but the wastage.

He was greeted by a ‘young fella’ who assured him the water used was within the normal range for a couple. Gumps, who has two huge rainwater tanks and is quick in the shower, insisted that they didn’t use that much.

Eventually he was told “Let me look into it for you and let you know if I find anything.” Gumps headed off unsatisfied, expecting to hear nothing more of it.

Millions of casual promises are made in business and life every day:

  • “I’ll give you a call tomorrow.”
  • “I’ll be there at 3pm.”
  • “It’ll only take 5 minutes.”
  • “I’ll send you a quote first thing.”
  • “I’ll make a decision next week.”
  • “Your call is important to us.”

Mostly the intentions are genuine, but often they are meaningless utterances said out of habit. The problem is that they erode people’s trust in your ‘real’ promises and reliability.

I like to finish business conversations with a commitment to action or ‘next step’. I know, however, that I need to keep the commitment or not make it at all.

The good news is because people are used to being let down in a world of casual promises, it’s easy to set yourself apart just by doing what you say you’ll do.

That’s why when Gumps received a letter and cheque in the mail a few weeks later he was so astonished that he’s been raving about the great service ever since. Why? All because the young lad had simply “looked into it and got back to him” as promised. And it was their error in the first place!

This level of service should come as standard, but it’s rare.

It’s the same old but true chestnut; under-promise, over-deliver. Or as Elvis would say “A little less conversation, a little more action.”

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