Managing Services Promises

By Simon Hudson Endowed Chair in Tourism & Hospitality, University of South Carolina | January 18, 2015

A major cause of poorly perceived service is the difference between what a firm promises about a service, and what it actually delivers. To avoid broken promises companies must manage all communications to customers, so that inflated promises do not lead to overly high expectations. This difference between what is promised and what is delivered can cause customer frustration, perhaps driving the customer to the competition. As Jim Knight, Senior Director of Training for Hard Rock International says: "the worst mistake a business can make is to over-promise and under-deliver".

Researchers suggest that there are four strategies that are effective in managing service promises. These are show in the Figure below and discussed in the remainder of this article.

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**1) Create Effective Services Advertising**

One of the key ways that services promises are communicated is through advertising, but the intangibility of services makes advertising difficult for service marketers. Before buying services, consumers have problems understanding them, and after purchase, they have trouble evaluating their service experiences. Various strategies have been proposed to overcome these problems. One is to present vivid information and evoke strong emotions. Advertisers of top-notch resorts for example often try to build a mood or image around the resort, such as beauty, love, or serenity, creating an emotional relationship between the resort and potential visitors. In fact, research has showed that appealing to a consumer's emotional responses can be very effective in terms of creating a favorable attitude towards a service brand. Hospitality marketers are realizing the importance of touching emotions and get into the consumer psyche, and have begun to focus on promoting experiences as opposed to physical attributes. The print ad below from the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley Utah actually uses a mixture of both rational appeals (hotel room features), and emotional appeals (skiers enjoying the après-ski). But the emphasis is on the experiences guests can expect at the five-star resort with the tagline 'Experience Legendary'.

**2) Coordinate External Communication**

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