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I recently blogged about Fostering Commitment Via Public Written Statements. The crux is that once customers have made a public statement about something, they find it hard to act inconsistently with that statement.

Today I’ll discuss the reverse: Why you (the site owner) must act consistently with your own statements.

If you make a promise, then fail to deliver, you will appear:

  • Less honest
  • Less likeable, and
  • Less trustworthy

To develop an loyal customer base, it’s essential to live up to your promises. Some of the promises you’re likely to make will relate to:

  • Product quality and attributes
  • Pricing
  • Customer service, response times, etc.
  • Shipping and delivery dates
  • Return policy

The above is pretty obvious: It’s no surprise that failing to honor such commitments would make for some angry customers — customers who’d be unlikely to become repeat customers, let alone advocates.

Where we’re more likely to mess up, is in delivering quality “free” materials. Things like:

  • Webinars and podcasts
  • White papers and ebooks
  • Software downloads
  • Music and video downloads
  • Mailing lists
  • Blogs

Since we’re giving these things away, we might be tempted to say, “They’re free, so nobody can complain if the quality isn’t great.”

Wrong. Even with free items, you are making a commitment — express or implied — that:

  • The item will be as described, and
  • It will be of sufficient quality to be worthwhile downloading.

If you disappoint customers with off-topic webinars, outdated whitepapers, crummy downloads or mailing lists that contain nothing but promotional fluff, you’re not acting consistently with your commitment. You’re wasting your customers’ time. This makes you less likeable… and less trustworthy.

So make sure you live up to your commitments, express or implied. Even “free” materials must be of good quality. If they’re not, it’s better not to offer them at all.