Promises play a central role in all relationships.
Some we keep and some we break.
There are small promises that we break all the time – like when you promise to take the kids to a hockey game, but something comes up.
Or when you promise that you’ll take out the garbage before leaving for work. But it slips your mind. And so on.
Then there are those confusing “gray promises.” Like when your kid says, “Can we go to the movies tonight?” And you say, “Maybe.” An hour later you say, “Geez, I don’t think we can go tonight.” At which point your kid says, “But you promised!”
No doubt about it, promises are confusing things.
But in our day-to-day lives, relationships are pretty resilient to lots of broken promises (of the small variety).
And that resilience comes through communication.
Our partners, kids, friends and colleagues will tell us when we’ve broken a promise, and we’ll usually manage something by way of an apology. At the very least we can say, “Oops.”
But when a promise is broken at a web site, we never get to say we’re sorry. In fact, we often never get to even know that someone feels we’ve broken a promise.
Particularly when it’s one of those gray promises.
“But they promised new stock would be in by the middle of December!”
(Well, what they actually said was that they would do their best to get stock in by that time.)
“But they promised they’d take it back if I returned it within 30 days!”
(Yes, but not when the item has clearly been used and damaged.)
“But they promised they wouldn’t give my email address to anyone else!”
(That’s true. But the customer did check that opt-in box saying he’d like to hear about special gardening offers.)
“But they promised that they’d deliver this to me in four days!”
(Actually, they promised to SHIP it within four days. The customer then chose the five-day surface mail shipping option.)
You get the idea.
Either way, the reaction to just the perception of a broken promise is that you’ll likely lose that customer for good.
And this is where this week’s fantasy start-up comes in to pick up the pieces.
The idea behind BrokenPromise.com is to profit from every promise broken on e-commerce sites.
You can come to this site and be rewarded for having a bad experience elsewhere.
In fact, if you just complete a short profile about yourself and the site at which you felt a promise was broken, we’ll give you a free gift.
Maybe we’ll just give you a $20 BrokenPromise Gift Certificate.
Who pays for the $20? Not us. It’s paid for by a participating site that wants to catch you on the rebound.
Let’s say that you felt a promise was broken at NicksFurniture.com. Well, it just so happens that JuliesFurniture.com is a participating member of Brokenpromise.com and will gladly pay you $20 to come and buy something at their site.
Nice way to find new customers. After all, they know that you buy furniture online.
The point is, promises are very subjective things, and you rarely get to hear about it when a customer feels that you’ve let them down. It’s at exactly that time that you’re likely to lose that customer for life.
So you need to figure out a way to recognize and retain that unhappy customer.
Before someone really does launch a catch-them-on-the-rebound service like BrokenPromise.com.