One of the things that I’ve prided myself on over my career as a consultant is turnaround time. I’ve always been very aggressive with timelines because as I was attempting to enter the industry, expedient service was the only ace up my sleeve. Sure, I had experience working with people and I felt like the services I was offering were solid but I hung my hat on my ability to deliver in a very short period of time. But over the last half decade, I’ve learned something incredibly important. The due date you provide to your clients is ENTIRELY pointless if you don’t hit it.
When it really comes down to it, people don’t care about due dates as much as you think. They’ll wait forever for things that are worth waiting for. But more than anything, they don’t want to feel as though they’ve been taken for a ride. Let me give you two scenarios that illustrate what I’m talking about.
Imagine that you run a business building websites. You have a client that wants you to build them a site. You go through a needs assessment and you THINK that you can get the job done in three weeks. So you tell them three weeks. You run into some obstacles with hosting and yada yada yada and you end up completing the job in 28 days, one week overdue. The customer is displeased because you failed to meet the deadline that you provided.
Your next client provides you with an almost identical requirement. You THINK that you can do the job in three weeks but you KNOW that you can get the job done in five weeks. So you tell them five weeks. You run into a few obstacles with some visuals and you end up completing the job in 28 days, one week ahead of schedule. The customer is very impressed that you’ve come in ahead of time of the deadline that you provided.
The difference between these two customers is negligible. The sites are similar, the customer needs are similar and the projects were completed in the exact same periods of time. But one of these customers is happy with the work you’ve provided and the other one is disappointed…in the exact same result. And the difference is the expectation.
Don’t ever promise anything that you don’t KNOW you can deliver. Things happen and at some point you’re going to miss a deadline but where you have the ability to make things right, make things right. I absolutely killed myself trying to make sure I didn’t miss a deadline when I first started my business. Now, I make sure that I give myself the time that I need to do the job right. You owe yourself that much, it will keep you sane and at the end of the day, it results in a better experience for your customers.
If you promise, you have to deliver. End of story.