Too much of the Scotty Principle?

by Dave in

Those of you who know me no doubt have heard me say that I believe every business is the customer service business. Don't service your customers, and you soon will have no business left. One of my favorite practices is that of employing the Scotty Principle, or for you non Trekkies: under-promise and over-deliver.

I recently learned that too much of this is NOT necessarily a good thing for business. Case in point: I recently decided to replace my aging day pack. It has served me well since I got it in middle school. Even though I don't use it much these days, there are occasions where it's handy to have a backpack to throw things in for daytrips, and mine has run its course. I received a gift card for L.L. Bean and figured I'd shop there. I found one that seems like it would work, and set to order, only to find out it wouldn't ship until February 10th. I figured I'd order it and, if I found one in the meantime, I'd cancel. I also knew that L.L. Bean liberally employs the Scotty Principle in their shipping estimates.

The pack will arrive today: two weeks after I ordered it, and well ahead of their (still) estimated February 10th ship date.

I can appreciate buying yourself time to make the customer happy, but had I not been aware of L.L. Bean's overly-late estimates, I likely would not have ordered from them.

The trick is to promise your customer something reasonable and expected, and then beat that.