Honoring Promises is More Important Than Ever in Today’s Business Climate
By Jeff Puritt
It’s baseball folklore: game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago, the New York Yankees vs. the Cubs. Babe Ruth is at bat with a count of two balls and two strikes. He points to center field, squares off at home plate, and belts a home run. He makes the fans a promise—and delivers.
With societal fears on the rise and fake news concerns at an all-time high, the act of making and keeping promises in business will be a key element to help break this current cycle of mistrust. What implications does this have on the concept of under-promising and over-delivering—the idea that stakeholders would much rather have their expectations exceeded than simply met?
Although the approach hints at withholding information that could feasibly be provided, does under-promising and over-delivering still resonate with clients, or have they outgrown this nostalgic trope from the ’80s? My personal belief is that it erodes trust and breeds mediocrity.
Trust is elusive and can be difficult to build
Failure rates for strategic partnerships and corporate alliances hover between 60% and 70%. Common causes include a lack of trust and transparent communication. The data supports the notion that how you carry out a contract is as important (if not more so) as what is written in it.
Certainly, having a solid business plan backed by a detailed contract, defined metrics, and formal systems and structures is critical. But in today’s business climate, successful partnerships depend so much more on the ability of individuals on both sides to work almost as if they were employed by the same company.
Instead of secretly strategizing behind the curtain, business leaders should look for ways to infuse greater transparency into client relationships, one conversation at a time. If you miss a target or deadline, rather than expending time and energy keeping the truth from a client or trying to spin disappointing results in a favorable light, invest that time in sharing with your client the challenges and setbacks you faced—and proposals for how to improve.
Now more than ever, it’s critical for business leaders to embrace authenticity and transparency—not only as a sales technique or to manage client expectations, but as core values to help guide day-to-day decisions and actions. The results TELUS International has realized from building trust are evident in our top 10 client partnerships, which each run an average of eight years and feature an average of 18 programs.
Innovate to differentiate
In addition to deepening trust between individuals and teams, the presence of honesty and transparency can transform transactional relationships into long-term partnerships that spark innovation.
When teams from different companies feel comfortable exploring and tapping into one another’s skills, knowledge, and perspectives, they will more quickly uncover and more effectively implement inventive solutions to everyday problems. They will also likely anticipate and solve other problems before they happen.
On a larger scale, these types of partnerships create the foundations necessary to better identify trends and jump ahead of the competition. TELUS International’s research and development initiative, iLabs, puts this in action by working alongside our clients in the spirit of co-creation and co-development and by helping them pilot disruptive solutions and processes that differentiate them in the marketplace and add significant value to their operations.
Client interactions are not transactions
Once the contract has been signed, all organizations must nurture the partnership to keep it healthy. A great way to bring more authenticity to client relationships is to find opportunities for genuine connection that center on shared values.
One way to do this is to invite clients to join charitable events, such as TELUS International Days of Giving, where we and our partners volunteer shoulder-to-shoulder to build homes and schools in the regions where we operate around the world. Extending these invitations is not about making sales and brokering deals; it’s about nurturing deeper connections.
Whether leaders recognize it or not, those whose focus is solely on making a sale versus creating and fostering authentic and transparent partnerships with clients are making critical trade-offs that perhaps won’t be apparent in the near term but will no doubt compromise their long-term success and competitive viability. Countless companies have paid the ultimate price for neglecting to build trust.
Although Babe Ruth’s promise and delivery of a home run took place almost a century ago, the premise of building trust by doing what you say you will do still holds true today. Honoring your promises, no matter how small, can help your team earn an enviable reputation that drives loyalty, innovation, and growth.
Jeff Puritt is president and CEO of TELUS International, a global digital customer experience provider.