Book review: Overpromise and Overdeliver

How to design and deliver customer experiences in order to create unshakable customer loyalty.

Book Reviews

Johnny's reviews of great UX books.

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Overpromise and Overdeliver is a book on how to design and deliver customer experiences in order to create ‘unshakable customer loyalty’. Now the title does make one think this is yet another book trying to convey a theory on how to be the most successful company in the industry, and that assumption is completely right. We’ve seen a lot of them in the last couple of years, which made me wonder; does Overpromise and Overdeliver live up to the theory it’s trying to convey, and to which extend is it applicable to design?

Just to clarify things up
When I started reading the book I assumed that ‘Overpromise and Overdeliver’ means promising a remarkable product or service, and than to deliver even more. But that is only partially right. It’s about delivering exactly what you’ve promised.

The book

The book consist out of two parts. The first one is called ‘Overpromise’, and the second (of course) ‘Overdeliver’. In part one Barrera explains what a brand overpromise actually is and how you can build one. This is where he introduces what he calls ‘touchpoint branding’: the three touchpoints associated with this. These are:

  • Product touchpoints: These occur when customers interact with a product or service;
  • Human touchpoints: This is the case when a customer directly interacts with the company’s employees;
  • System touchpoints: These include things like return policies or a website. Basically all other points of contact between a customer and an organization.

Barrera uses numeral examples and cases to explain why and how these touchpoints influence the whole customer experience (in fact I reckon that a good 60% of the book consists out of analyzed real-world examples). It might sound a bit simple, but it boils down to the fact that all these touchpoints must be in line with an organization’s overpromise in order to be successful. You start with a remarkable product or service and than make sure that the customer always gets what you’ve promised, and what he/she expects from you.

In part two Barrera explains how you can optimize these touchpoints in order to overdeliver. In case of a product/service touchpoint the keyword is ‘buzz’. Make sure people are talking about your product. When it comes to system touchpoints he claims that they should be as invisible as possible. Think of the lighting placed within stores; you want to create a pleasant lighting situation without drawing attention to the lights themselves. Human touchpoints are a bit of a different story because human emotions are involved. Though very important Barrera also warns for overreliance on human touchpoints because of the unpredictability of human emotions. The key here is to use human touchpoints only when situations are complicated, and when flexibility and initiative are required to save the day.


Though it’s an interesting and easy read I haven’t had the feeling I was reading something new. That isn’t very strange when you think of the enormous amount of real-world examples Barrera uses throughout the book. Every chapter answers the question stated in the title within the first three or four pages followed by 15 to 20 pages of examples and case-studies. It’s these examples and cases that make it a pleasurable read by sometimes providing you with some inspirational insights. It’s definitely not a ‘must-read’, but if you’ve got a couple of hours to spare… read it.

Book Details
Overpromise and Overdeliver: The secrets of unshakable customer loyalty
author: Rick Berrera
publisher: Portfolio, 2004
details: 240 pages, hardcover

Dennis Koks

Dennis Koks (1987, The Netherlands) is a designer | conceptual thinker for interactive media and co-founder of Transparent Spaces. Dennis is fascinated about the social impact of interactive design and how it can improve our daily lives.

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