Thursday, May 5, 2011

Businesses Should Never Break Promises. Customers Should Never Accept Broken Promises!

"A promise made should be a promise kept" - Steve Forbes

As a business or as a customer, you must demand that promises made are promises kept. If you are a business and you don't keep promises, expect to be out of business. If you are a customer and you allow promises to be broken, expect to always be treated poorly and to get second-rate goods and services. That's the way it is. History proves it. Just look at the old Soviet Union or Socialist Britain for evidence of that.
Keeping a promise is important morally, spiritually and in business. In the west, they say that, "The customer is always right." But you wouldn't know that by the poor attitude of many people working in customer service or at cash registers all over the west and in North America. Many people seem like they are pissed off at the world and just hate their jobs.

I've always found this sort of person not just annoying, but quite curious. If they hate their jobs so much, then why don't they just quit? Or, as my Punk Rock friends would say back in the late 1970's, "If you hate your job so much, why don't you just kill yourself and do us all a favor?"   

In Japan, reverence for the customer is even more extreme than the west. I reckon that also might explain why service in Japan is always so excellent. In Japan, we don't say that the customer is always right, we say that, "The customer is god."

I suppose that being god does trump being right all the time, doesn't it? I guess I'd rather be god than a nagging housewife who insists that she is right all the time.

But I digress....

Sometimes, though, the Japanese can have a bizarre attitude about this. In some cases, the Japanese, even when they are god (paying money) will be more concerned with getting along than with getting what they paid for.

I can give you several good examples: When my daughter was 1 1/2 years old, she came down with a rare form of children's cancer. The doctors gave her two months to live. My then-wife was very concerned with getting along with and "communicating" with the doctors. I would have none of that. I was only concerned with my daughter's recovery. I fired those doctors (they didn't believe that she had a chance to recover) and I hired the best doctors in Japan who did believe that there was a chance.

The result? My daughter recovered and is now 18 years old and a very happy and popular high school student. My then-wife and I divorced (the price that had to be paid for my daughter's recovery I told myself). And my attitude on demanding the best from people; insisting that the people I work with believe in what they do; and insisting that people do what they say they are going to do was set in stone forever.

It was also one of the most difficult to understand lessons for me in how the Japanese think. I was floored that my wife put so much emphasis on getting along with the doctors over results.

I believe that the end result of this affair showed that I was right about being demanding.

Another weird example of the Japanese who are the people paying the money - the "Gods" here - yet are being so compliant is happening right now around me.

Recently, the neighborhood school completely cancelled summer school even though in all prior documentation from the school it is plainly written that "Due to poor enrollment, courses may be cancelled on May 11." Not to nit-pick but it says "courses" not "summer school."

I am upset about this. Some parents don't seem to care. I am astounded that they don't seem to care. Customers get poor service and broken promises and they don't seem to care? 

What has the world come to when a business (in this case, a school) can just arbitrarily cancel promises made on paper and the clients (in this case, the parents) go down and don't complain and demand that the business does what it said it was going to do?

Some parents seem worried that this business (school) is going to lose money. I find that ridiculous. Not that the school is going to lose money, that the parents would be concerned with that. You'd think they'd be more worried about their child's education. 

I wonder if, every time these people go into, say, a restaurant, are they concerned that the restaurant makes enough money on their purchase?  

Promises. That is the point here in this second example. Not money. Not business finances. Promises. A bond of trust between clients (children & parents) and the business (school). 

Mad Magazine. Remember that? Oh, yeah. 
What was this article about? Broken promises! That's it!

What lessons are are people teaching their kids when they allow people to break promises so easily? 

I can tell you that if I sent out documentation to my clients promising some service and then I cancelled it arbitrarily before the deadline date, because my company would lose money, then I'd rightly have a bunch of angry ex-clients. If some company management made such a critical mistake, that person should be fired. 

The point of this post is very simple. I always ask that organizations that I do business with keep their promises. Or, if they can't, then they make sincere efforts to do something to rectify the situation. My organization will always keep its promises. That's the only way businesses can survive into the future.

Yeah, I know asking people to keep their promises is old-fashioned, but I'm that kind of guy. 

Smart clients shop around when the places they do business with do not keep their promises. I can promise you that I always do. That's just common sense and smart business. I hope your business keep all its promises - or just do not make any if you can't keep them. If you can't keep them, then expect to lose business or be out if it soon.

If you are a client, on the other hand, then you must demand that businesses do as they say they are going to do otherwise the goods and services we all receive drop in quality and that does no one any good.

I will go even more demanding than Steve Forbes' quote at the top of this post when I quote famous US statesman Alexander Hamilton, "A promise made must never be broken."


PS: If your child ever gets cancer (I pray not) and you want some practical advice from someone who has now helped 4 people recover from cancer, write to me. I am not a doctor, but I can tell you some common sense things about what is going on and how you can do something to actually help your loved one greatly.    


Anonymous said...

"It was also one of the most difficult to understand lessons for me in how the Japanese think. I was floored that my wife put so much emphasis on getting along with the doctors over results."

I have a difficult time understanding how American's (don't) think, especially about the self proclaimed demi-gods of the medical-industrial-complex. No on seems to question doctor's. They should! To make a very long story short, the doctor and his side-kick attempted to starve/dehydrate my mother to death, by deceptively trying to obtain our "permission" of course, via out right lies. Having a clear understanding of what was happening, and keeping a cool head, I was able stop this man in his tracks. If I wasn't there, my poor upset, confused father would not have known what was happening. And just where did this person get his orders? Without question, hospital policy. Without realizing it, most people try to get along with the doctors.

I was a public school teacher for many years. Parents were encouraged to call the school to complain. The bottom line was that they got their way on things that didn't matter to their child's education, but didn't even see those things that were not only policy but also a hindrance to their child's educational future. Go figure.

Most of the businesses of my growing up years were small, privately owned businesses. They had an interest in the local population. They built their businesses on honesty and integrity. In many cases, their customers were their neighbors. The large corporate businesses do not care. Does Japan still have family owned businesses?

I am glad things turned out so well for your daughter. I hope the problem with your school can be resolved.


mike in tokyo rogers said...

M! Good job on your mom. Hope they are both well. Yeah... Doctors!? An old friend who was really suspicious of doctor's once told me, "Mike. Doctor's don't have a clue as to what they are doing. Why do you think they call their offices a 'practice'?"

Japanese used machineries Auction said...

Yes I am agree with this business is business we should never break the business promise or deal

Anonymous said...

Kinda at a tangent to your post, but on the same customer-relations theme, you and readers might like this article on the "Death of 'The Extra Mile'".

Anonymous said...

I am glad to hear you took action and saved your daughter. I recently lost someone close, to cancer, and she was doing fine until she gave in to pressure and started listening to doctors.

Medicine's successes are displayed prominently and mythologized by retarded TV shows like "House", and the failures are literally buried.

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