Promises to Clients You Can’t Keep

Did you ever make a big promise you can’t keep? Oftentimes there is a disconnect separating what we commit to do and what we actually can deliver.  And not delivering on a promise is far worse than never committing to do something in the first place.

At a hotel this week I was offered 3 things at check in. It was midnight and I was tired, but I did answer the questions of the employee at registration. First he asked me if I wanted a USA Today newspaper in the morning. I said that I would. Then he asked if I’d like any other newspapers.  I said that one is fine. Next he told me that with my reservation, wireless internet would be free. He explained how I would be able to log on and asked me if I understood. I said that I did. Finally, he asked me if I wanted to be a part of the hotel’s “Green Program” where you can decline housekeeping service in return for points in the hotel rewards program. There were a few other options in the program, but I told him that I would just take the points. Frankly, I knew I’d be on the phone for most of the morning with clients so I didn’t want housekeeping.

The next morning things started getting weird. First, I tried to access the Internet but my mobile broadband did not have good reception. I remembered the free internet offer, but when I tried to log on the computer said I wasn’t a registered guest. So I called the front desk and they referred me to the help desk where I was on hold for nearly 10 minutes and finally had to purchase the service which they said they would take off my bill. Then I opened the door to get my newspaper. Every other door down the hall had newspapers – but not mine. Finally, I was on the phone with clients and 3 times housekeeping came knocking to service the room. I thought, perhaps I was not really there! I called to the front desk to find out if I was in fact checked in (not joking). They looked up my reservation and yes, everything was just fine. Yes, fine except for all the things I really didn’t want or truly need that they in the end didn’t deliver on.

I work with a midsize firm that made a promise to their clients to answer every phone call on the first or second ring with a live person. When they began to get busier they couldn’t keep up with the promise so they hired a second receptionist. Today they often have 3 people sitting at a large front desk answering the phones. Now that’s a commitment that few would follow through on.

Can you keep your promises – even those you made years ago to your clients, your staff, your vendors? How about yourself? My friend Wendi Kelly, an author and superb business coach, shared with me that if you don’t keep promises to yourself, will you honestly keep them for others? She’s right! Here’s a link to a powerful blog she wrote on this very topic:

Promises, promises…

Maribeth Kuzmeski

Maribeth Kuzmeski, MBA is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. She is the author of 4 books, has frequently appeared on TV and radio, and has written articles on marketing strategies for hundreds of publications including Business Week and Entrepreneur. She regularly speaks to audiences on topics relating to business development, marketing, and sales strategies. Maribeth is author of The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life (Wiley, September 2009).

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:


  1. P.S. Jones says

    You know what I’ve learned? That people remember when you break a promise far more than when you keep one. That’s just the nature of the world. So I try to keep my promises–both personal and business–to things I know I can do. But of course things slip through the cracks. This was a good reminder to go back and review those promises I’d been giving out.

  2. Terri Porta says

    Hi! What a great post! I was getting my roof fixed a couple years ago and the contractor was young and new to the business. I remember him and his men not only being late everyday, but not fessing up to some damages that occured on the job. Finally I had a talk with him and told him that people don’t respect a business man who doesn’t keep his word! If I can’t trust that you’ll be where you say you’ll be how can I trust that you fixed my roof correctly? It says a TON about a person’s character and it builds accountability in you. As a real estate agent I was alway careful what I promised because I sure wasn’t going to say something and have it bite me later. Thanks for the great advice!!
    Terri Porta