Did You Keep Your Promise?

We played Jeopardy in my house a little different than other families. Instead of the traditional board-game version, we shook things up a bit—we raided our game of Laser Tag and used the guns to shoot the TV. First shot won, followed by a yelled answer in a crazy attempt to beat the on-screen contestants. For these memories alone, I’m grateful that Merv Griffin saw fit to import Alex Trebek into American living rooms. However, even more than the memories, I credit Jeopardy with sparking my eclectic knowledge collecting.

The more random or weird the information, the more excited I was to collect it. Jeopardy eventually went from being the reason to the excuse for why I collected chains of unrelated facts. Those facts, not too surprisingly, have come in handy for things like making first date conversation and writing blog posts. My fond memories of Jeopardy aside, I also admired Griffin for his lifelong success. Well-known for his long-running talk show, Griffin expanded his reach by developing and later selling both Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, along with investments into real estate. (Link to full NYT’s piece.)

Griffin’s death this past weekend reminded me of something he said about promises, “If you make the customer a promise…make sure you deliver it.” (link) Based on his success, I’d venture to say he followed his own advice. Experience has shown that promises can be difficult for companies to fulfill. Companies like JetBlue have created a “customer bill of rights” after ugly public events. After announcing its intention to merge with Sirius Radio, XM Radio issued a customer promise. What if XM just delivered what its customers expected and paid for? Does that really require a published customer promise?

A door open for business, virtual or real, represents a promise that companies can’t take back, a promise to meet customers’ expectations. While I laud the idea that companies acknowledge they’ve made customers promises, it still feels a bit like lip service. And the words don’t matter if they aren’t backed up by action. What happened the last time you said, “I promise?” Did you follow through? If not, why?

The words, “I promise,” have been treated casually for a long time and meant more during the days that people did handshake deals versus calling in the attorneys. Maybe we ought to asks ourselves why we’re more concerned now with what happens before the deal rather than after. I believe companies would be required to issue fewer customer promises if they just did what they promised from the beginning rather than cleaning up the mess left behind.



2 Responses to “Did You Keep Your Promise?”

  1. August 15, 2007 at 9:14 am

    I don’t use the word “promise” too often, but if you keep things like implicit understandings. “I’ll call you tomorrow at 10,” then I’m failing lately. Truly. I used to be far better at this. But lately, I’m missing a lot of little commitments. Little ones, but probably significant enough to the person at hand.

    I hate when I’m in that boat, but I try not to commit to much, as a hedge.

    Loved the thought of lazer tag shootings of Jeopardy.

  2. 2 Britt
    August 15, 2007 at 10:15 am

    I’m in the same boat. As I try to prioritize and make everything fit, some things fall to the wayside. It bothers me that I forget the little things because it feels like the next step is forgetting the big things. Maybe I need to take a step back, and instead of staying yes, saying no, and focusing on the a few big picture things rather than trying to make it all fit. I think promises would be easier to keep if we didn’t try to make so many of them.

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August 2007
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