We've all heard before the advice that in order to succeed we should wow our customers by over-delivering through the services we provide, but is it actually worth going above and beyond?
The concept of under-promising and over-delivering seems to have grown in popularity among photographers, especially social photographers who work with wedding, family, and portrait clients. It is tempting to think that our value, in the eyes of our clients, would instantly shoot up the moment they realize we have delivered something unexpected yet definitely factored into our workflow. However, does it actually yield enough benefit for us to continue spending additional time or money on it?
First reported by Inc., a study, conducted in 2014 by UC San Diego behavioral scientist Ayelet Gneezy and University of Chicago professor Nicholas Eplay and published in the journal "Social Psychological and Personality Science," found that it's likely to be a wasted effort despite it being a commonly shared advice across media and among peers.
The study explored "promise exceeding" through a series of experiments, in which they tested "imagined, recalled, and actual promise-making." The participants of the study reported that they valued a kept promise much more highly than a broken one; however, the most significant finding was that "exceeding the promise conferred virtually no additional happiness with the promise-maker."
Reviewing the findings, Eplay explained that he "was surprised that exceeding a promise produced so little meaningful increase in gratitude or appreciation" and had actually anticipated a "modest positive effect."
Similarly, a more recent 2017 research paper by Omer Topaloglu, from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and David E. Fleming, from Indiana State University, titled "Under-promising and over-delivering: Pleasing the customer or strategic blunder?", similarly explored the customer expectation thresholds and tested how this under-promising and over-delivering strategy plays out in people's minds.
Their conclusions have led to suggesting "consistent certainty" to be the statistically smartest focus for business owners, which means delivering what you have promised to your clients time and time again. The paper explains: "to be a magical company then, promise magic and deliver magic rather than promise bland and deliver magic."
What this means in practical terms for photographers and videographers running a business is aiming for consistent accuracy to deliver the type and quality of work that their business clients have clear expectations of. This also helps build trust for any business in the future and attracts the right type of client who know that their expectations will be met with what you provide with your services.
Overall, it's an important part of business strategy to consider, especially for small business owners, because if over-delivering is not worth the potential positive result, a lot of time and money can be saved that otherwise is spent on tasks or purchases that don't contribute to your business. Small additional touches that don't take up a lot of your time or eat into your marketing budget can put a smile on your clients' faces or remind them to leave a review, but perhaps it's worth evaluating if anything beyond that is worth it.
As Topaloglu's and Fleming's paper concludes: "certainty over surprise is what customers with ideal expectations value," which is something we all can consider for our business, however small or large it might be.