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  • Writer's pictureSubhash Khare

The Fallacy of Under-Promise and Over-Deliver in Value Creation

Under-promise and over-deliver has been often positioned as a mantra for customer satisfaction. Under-promise, so that customer’s expectations are pegged at a lower level, and then exceed those low expectations by over-delivering, so that the customer is pleasantly surprised. While it sounds quite simple and logical, it is a flawed model on several counts:


Customers are not so naïve, they can see through the inauthenticity of this game, especially when you repeat this cycle with them. They will realize that what you have delivered is same as what you normally deliver to other customers – nothing extra.

The Risk of Initial Disappointment:

In the competitive world of business, first impressions matter. By intentionally under-promising, there's a potential risk of disappointing clients right at the outset. This strategy might backfire, positioning your organization at a disadvantage compared to competitors who confidently showcase their strengths.

Misalignment with Customer Needs:

Especially when it comes to cycle-times, it may set the customer’s schedules awry. Your products or services may reach the customer before time – when the customer is not ready to receive them or utilize them. Imagine a restaurant serving dessert when you have not yet finished your main course.

The Unintended Escalation of Expectations:

This game of under-promise and over-deliver cannot be repeated with the same customer. Next time when you try to under-promise, they are unlikely to accept your promise, having experienced a better delivery already. Also, the cycle of under-promising and over-delivering can unintentionally raise client expectations. In future interactions, they might anticipate the "over-delivery" as the new norm, making it challenging to maintain satisfaction levels.

Focus on Value Creation:

Instead of playing the under-promise and over-deliver game, focus should be on delivering consistent, high-quality results that align with the promises made. It's about understanding customer needs and ensuring that what's delivered creates the desired outcomes. The real and useful challenge is to satisfy the customer while delivering what you have promised – not by delivering more, but by delivering in a manner that creates value for the customer. At a hygiene level, it is about consistency, predictability and quality. At a value level, it is about ensuring what you deliver creates the right outcomes for the customer - value creation.


Under-promise and over-deliver can at best be a one-time short cut to customer satisfaction, but it does not create any sustainable value either for you or for your customer. Therefore, it is best avoided.

What are your thoughts on this approach? Have you ever been on either side of this strategy? I'm eager to understand your experiences and insights. Please leave a comment below, and let's engage in a meaningful conversation.


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