Overdelivery in 2021

“Underpromise and Overdeliver” was first coined by Tom Peters in 1987.

Today, I ponder the question: “Is that accurate in 2021?”

As I am writing this, I am listening to a customer service call between my husband (who understands delivering on promises as a realtor) and a sporting goods company.

“What can I do to support you?” I hear him saying. “Every time I call you, you deliver above and beyond what is asked of you. Where can I sign up to give you a five star rating?”

When was the last time you could say that in earnest?

When was the last time a customer said that about you?

For me, it was about a barista at Houndstooth Coffee in Austin. My friends were visiting from out of town, and our kind server offered us advice on her favorite spots to visit, all while making perfect hearts and leaves on the tops of our coffee. All I asked for was a flat white oat. I didn’t expect a tour guide and art.

We all left there saying “we’ll be back!

I think, though, “underpromising” is a different idea in 2021 than it was in 1987.

For instance, I am scouring the web for Valentine’s Day presents for my husband and children. Being that we haven’t been able to do many of our favorite things during this global pandemic, I want to find them something fun and different to open on Valentine’s Day.

One site says “deliver by February 6.” Another says “deliver by February 15.” Now, when looking at those, even if the company is underpromising with the date of February 15, I have a better choice in a sooner date.

In the before mentioned sporting goods company (Spalding), if I had a problem with game equipment, knowing that they deliver fast and friendly results, why would I then take my business to a company who doesn’t promise and deliver equivocally?

In 2021, we may start thinking deeper thoughts about what exactly we want to promise… because we want to live up to what we are promising, never disappoint the customer, and be realistic with what kind of service we can provide.

Altogether, that is neither under-promising nor is it over-promising. It’s respecting promises.

Today, your customer has a million hits on google for exactly what it is that you do. Delivering on promises can make you the next Spalding in the eyes of all the dads in the neighborhood. Or they could pass you by.

Do you think the time is now to equivocate promises and delivery? How does that look in today’s market?


Fundamental #14: DELIVER RESULTS   While effort is appreciated, what gets recognized and rewarded are results. Set high goals, don’t overpromise, track and measure your progress, then hold yourself accountable for delivering on the results.

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