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Our Struggle with Commitment


How many organizations and corporations have made promises to their customers and ultimately fallen short whether intentionally or in ignorance?

If you think about it, it really is similar to dating. We make promises on dating apps about our lives and share pictures of only happy times at parks or baking cookies, but when we meet in person, how much of that is true? The struggle is real.

For most companies (as with most dating profiles), those promises and commitments are empty; they are a check on a checklist. But that can change if customers hold companies accountable. Let’s take the recent Southwest Airlines debacle. The company’s vision is “to be the world’s most loved, most efficient, and most profitable airline.” From what we saw in the public, the Airline was achieving that vision, but as we now know, the “profitable” piece became the most important part of that vision. Instead of investing in the imperative logistical components an airline needs especially during hectic holiday travel that’s compounded with bad weather, Southwest focused on its number on the stock market.

The key to this example is that customers aren’t holding the airline accountable. One passenger who was stuck in the airport for days and didn’t make it to his destination for the holiday told a reporter that he would continue flying with the airline. If all goes back to normal, why would Southwest make the investments it needs for this crisis not to happen again? Why change, if you aren’t required to? Why keep your dating profile promises, if no one is going to question them?

On the other hand, when customers refuse to stand down, the opposite can happen. Let’s take the Respect for Marriage Act. Although it took 10 years, President Joe Biden didn’t give up on signing landmark federal protections for same-sex and interracial couples through the Act. Such a bill seemed improbable for many not that long ago, but public rallying and their push to pass federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage didn’t waiver.

So, what can companies do to keep their promises to their customers and not fall short of their commitments? Today, we must hold ourselves accountable. We can no longer make promises without commitment to follow through.

I’m committed to the mission of my communications agency, Better Together. We are focused on creating values-led communications that galvanize people and communities to create a positive impact. We promise to the world that our partners must commit to a set of core values and issues that align with ours. This is exactly what Patagonia does with its factory partners. The company “engages in a range of due-diligence activities to promote and sustain fair labor practices, safe working conditions and environmental responsibility in the finished-goods factories.” They’ve made a commitment to their supplier workplace code of conduct and, through data, have proven that the company is committed to following through with its promises.

Let’s talk about how, as organizations, we can commit to keeping our promises so that we build a better future.

One. Collaborate. Work together to ensure that resources are proactively allocated to actions that will help achieve the identified promises. We must be transparent. We will be obligated to publicly acknowledge who will receive support, how much they will receive, how the support is used, and what was accomplished. Efforts are little without measurable results.

Two. Be selective. Create criteria that eliminate bias in which organizations are provided with funds and resources. That criterion shouldn’t be financially based but determined by the impact the organization has implemented or can prove it will accomplish if provided with the necessary tools.

Three. Take it locally. Those organizations working the closest to those impacted whether in mission or geography should be prioritized as leading the effort to enact change. We can enact change, and we can do that by working together and by keeping our promises. It’s these local organizations on the ground in cities across the country that are turning their promises into long-term change that supports communities.

Four. Be proactive. We don’t start making changes when customers threaten our sincerity. We start forcing change now, and we do that through action. Action is proof that we are sticking to our word. Through genuine action, we can change minds and hearts so that our reputation stays intact.

Five. Don’t over-promise. As we lead organizations, we don’t need to make tons of promises that we know we won’t keep. It’s quality over quantity. Customers would rather we make one or two promises that we achieve rather than a laundry list of promises that are as realistic as the skydiving picture on someone’s dating profile.

And if you need support in holding your organization accountable, Better Together is there to help.

We were founded with one goal in mind: support organizations that focus on making a positive impact on people by ensuring they not only talk about their desired impact but also put that talk into action.

Work with us to hold ourselves accountable to our customers.

Let’s partner to bring positive social change to our communities.

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Catharine Montgomery

Catherine Montgomery is the CEO and founder of The Better Together Agency.