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Create a Guarantee That Doesn't Screw You Over

Listen to the audio version. 👆

 

Service-providing solopreneurs often make the mistake of having a "no refunds" policy and no guarantee.


It's short-sighted at best. At worst, it's communicating to customers that you don't trust them and that you don't believe in your own work.


This doesn't mean that you give customers refunds whenever they want. A guarantee's job is to help you communicate proper expectations and create a safety net for both you and your customers.


WHY IT MATTERS:

Guarantees protect both you and your customers. It can also convince a fence sitter and can be great for marketing.


WHAT'S NEXT:

Let's dive into:

  • Why you won't get screwed over as often as you worry about

  • Learn to think like a customer

  • Why guarantees are good business

  • The different types of guarantees

  • Your 5-Step Guarantee Blueprint

  • What to do after you make your guarantee

  • How to minimize guarantee usage


You're probably not being screwed over

You may be worried that customers will use your service and then ask for a refund, which will cost you time, materials, and money.


I get it.


And I won't tell you that there aren't shitty people out there. There totally are.


While shitty people that look to game the system do exist, I'd argue that they're the minority by far.


Refund requests stem from a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with the moral compass of the customer. The more likely reasons are:


  • Proper expectations weren't set

  • Saying yes to a customer that isn't a good fit

  • Promising something that can't be delivered due to skill or things outside of our control

  • The customer/client qualification process is broken

  • The service legitimately fell short, but we're resistant to seeing it


Most often, it has less to do with the lack of skill but a kink in the process or communication that needs to be worked out.


If you're really good at what you do, are setting appropriate expectations, are communicating clearly with customers, and know when and how to say no to customers who aren't a good fit, a guarantee and refund requests shouldn't be something you are concerned about.


Think like a customer

Customers are worried about being screwed over, too.


They equally worry that service providers will take their money and under-deliver or run off with it.


You and I know you would never do that to a customer, but your customers don’t.


If you look at their history of hiring other service providers, you'll see that their concerns aren't totally unfounded.


While customers also have responsibilities in selecting their service providers, they are not the experts in what you're offering. Their ability to know who is good and who isn't is limited.


They rely on things like reviews, word of mouth from friends and family, and the information you provide.


Your relationship with customers inherently has risks and requires trust from both parties.


Your job is to manage both the risk and build trust.


That’s why you should have a guarantee.


⚠️ It's about more than money

Customers buy with more than just their money. They are also buying with -


  • Their time

  • Other resources they’ve had to invest in working with you

  • Energy and opportunities that may have affected other areas of their life

Keep this in mind when a customer says yes to working with you. They're investing much more than their money. Don't take it lightly.



Why guarantees are good business

Consider offering a guarantee as an olive branch.


Or a pineapple frond, if you will.


Customers, especially new customers, perceive you as a risk. Offering a guarantee helps mitigate that risk.


  1. Offering a guarantee when others don’t automatically gives you trust points.

  2. It shows you’re confident in your abilities. Confidence is sexy.

  3. It communicates expectations.

It's a hard mental shift to make, but try to look at refund requests as an opportunity. Having a customer communicate with you, especially when they're unhappy, is a golden opportunity to strengthen the relationship and your process.


You may find a way to save it, or you’ll honor your guarantee because that’s the right thing to do.


Remember that you're playing the long game. Your reputation as a business is the most valuable thing you have.


Types of guarantees

There are a lot of types of guarantees. The type of guarantee you use depends on the type of service you offer, the outcome you promise, and your tolerance for letting things go.



A GIF of a gamer with a headset on saying, "Nothing wacky is gonna happen" and giving a thumbs up


Open-ended guarantee formats


Open-ended guarantees have good intentions but leave a lot of room for interpretation. This can lead to confusion and frustration for everyone.


The below guarantees are great for those who have a relaxed attitude about refund requests, are confident in their skills, and have a great process for selecting and taking care of customers.


Absolute guarantees: a promise that certain results will be achieved without any conditions or exceptions.


  • Example: Guaranteeing a 50% increase in sales

  • Why it’s tricky: Too many things are outside the customer’s control (and frankly, yours).

Lifetime guarantees: a promise to provide certain services or maintain the quality of their work


  • Example: Offering a “lifetime” guarantee on hardscape installations

  • Why it’s tricky: “Lifetime” is a vague word and needs to be clearly defined. Is it the product's lifetime, the customer’s lifetime, or something else?


100% satisfaction guarantees: a promise from a business that a customer will be completely happy with their service or they will receive a refund, replacement, or other compensatory service.


  • Example: Offering a full refund if the customer doesn’t like the home staging after a month.

  • Why it’s tricky: Satisfaction is subjective


Precise guarantee formats

Now, let’s take a look at several precise guarantee formats.


These are great for those who feel like they need a little more of a safety net for themselves. As a bonus, it is also clearer for customers, which is always a win.


  1. Risk-Free Trial Guarantee: This offers customers a trial period to test the service, with the option to cancel and receive a full refund if they are unsatisfied.

  • Example: "Try my meal-prep service risk-free for two weeks. If you decide it’s not for you, cancel anytime within those two weeks for a full refund."

  • Why It's Good: It lowers the barrier to entry, allowing customers to experience the service without any financial commitment.

  1. Service Quality Guarantee: Assures the quality of service provided and offers specific recourse if the service does not meet the stated quality standards.

  • Example: "If you don't see a greener, healthier lawn with at least a 20% reduction in weeds within the first month, I'll provide an additional targeted treatment service at no cost.”

  • Why It's Good: It builds confidence in the quality of the service and provides a measurable outcome.

  1. Response Time Guarantee: This guarantee promises a specific timeframe for service response and compensates the customer if the service provider fails to respond within that period.

  • Example: "My IT support guarantees a four-hour response time. If I take any longer, you’ll get 20% off your next month's bill."

  • Why It's Good: It reassures clients that their time is valued and that you're committed to promptness.

  1. Price Lock Guarantee: This guarantee ensures that the price of services will not increase for a set duration or that the service will be provided at a consistent rate.

  • Example: "Sign up for my pet grooming subscription with a Price Lock Guarantee, and you'll keep your monthly rate the same for the next two years."

  • Why It's Good: It provides financial security for customers against price hikes and builds long-term customer loyalty.

  1. Money-Back Quality Guarantee: Offers a refund to the customer if the promised quality of the service isn’t met, usually within a specified time frame.

  • Example: "Choose our painting service with confidence—our Money-Back Satisfaction Guarantee promises even, streak-free coverage and precise edging. If you find any unevenness, drips, or imperfect lines within 48 hours of job completion, I'll touch up the areas at no extra cost and refund 10% of your total service fee.”

  • Why it’s good: It provides precise conditions (even coverage, no drips, precise lines) that are measurable and reduce ambiguity, offering a clear understanding of what constitutes a job well done and the specific recourse if the service falls short.

  1. Match Guarantee: Promises to match competitors' level of service or price under certain conditions.

  • Example: “If you find another licensed and insured dog walking service offering the same duration, frequency, and additional services (like feeding or playtime) within my service area at a lower regular price, I will match that price.”

  • Why it’s good: By defining the criteria for what makes another service "comparable" (license and insurance status, duration, frequency, and additional services offered, as well as geographic service area), the guarantee sets clear standards for customers to understand what qualifies for the price match.

  1. Completion Time Guarantee: Commits to a project or service completion within a designated timeframe, with specified compensation if the deadline is not met.

  • Example: "My home remodeling service guarantees your project will be finished in six weeks. If I go over time, I'll discount the job by 10%."

  • Why It's Good: It emphasizes the service provider's commitment to efficiency and respects the customer's time and planning needs.


Create a guarantee that doesn't screw you over

Hopefully, you're convinced now that having a guarantee is both good business and can be offered without screwing you over. You can create your guarantee with these 5 steps -


1. Pick your focus

Your guarantee should be based on what sets your business apart.


Is it speed? Quality? Accuracy?

💡Need ideas? Check out this list:


1 | Completion Time Guarantee:

Based on the service being completed within a specific timeframe.

Example: "Your wedding website will be live within 30 business days, or I’ll discount the project by 15%."


2 | Quality Standards Guarantee:

Based on meeting predefined industry standards or metrics.

Example: "My coding services adhere to the ISO 9001 quality management standard, guaranteeing clean, efficient code for your software."

3 | Availability Guarantee:

Based on the service provider's availability during stated hours.

Example: "My tech support includes a 2-hour response time between 7a-7p EST, or your next month’s service fee is on me."

4 | Uptime Guarantee (for online services):

Based on the percentage of time a service is operational and accessible.

Example: "I guarantee 99.9% server uptime for your website hosting, or I'll credit your account for the downtime."

5 | Service-Level Agreement (SLA) Guarantee:

Based on the level of service provided, often used in IT services.

Example: "My SLA guarantees less than 3 hours of unplanned downtime per month, or I'll provide a 25% refund of your monthly fee."

6 | Outcome Guarantee:

Based on achieving specific results as defined by the service agreement.

Example: "My doggie weight loss program guarantees a 5% reduction in body fat within 90 days, or I’ll extend my services free of charge until the goal is met."

7 | Satisfaction Survey Score Guarantee:

Based on achieving a certain score on customer satisfaction surveys.

Example: "If the service scores below a 4 out of 5 on any customer satisfaction survey, I’ll offer a free consultation to address your concerns."

8 | No-Cancellation Guarantee:

Based on the provider not canceling appointments once confirmed.

Example: "Once your appointment is booked, I guarantee no cancellations, or you receive your next appointment free."

9 | Accuracy Guarantee:

Based on the correctness of information or precision of work.

Example: "My tax preparation service comes with an accuracy guarantee, ensuring all filings are correct, or I’ll pay the resulting IRS penalties."


2. Set the benchmark

Define the benchmark that your guarantee will be measured against.


If you're using an open-ended guarantee - which subjective measurement are you using?


If you're using a more precise guarantee, then choose your measurement. Make sure to consider that it’s realistic, something you can objectively measure, and within your control to achieve.


3. Pick a time frame

Your guarantee should have a clear time limit. Whether it’s seven days or six months, make it clear how long customers can expect to be covered by your guarantee.


4. Reverse the risk

Make it clear that trying the service has a safety net. What will you do if the promised outcome isn’t met?


5. Explain the Redemption Process:

If a customer is dissatisfied, what should they do? Outline a straightforward, hassle-free process for them to claim the guarantee.


Remember: your guarantee doesn’t need to be all or nothing.

You don’t have to offer a full refund. You can get creative with what you offer if you miss the mark in delivering your service. It might involve working until the conditions are satisfied, a partial refund, or something else you think is fair.


Reality check

Once you have your guarantee drafted, perform a quick reality check.


Make sure it’s legal and feasible

Before implementing, check the legalities to ensure you’re not promising something you can’t legally uphold and can feasibly deliver on.


Does it protect both you and the customer?

Remember, a guarantee lets customers see if something is right for them and protect their investment. It’s also meant to protect you from silly requests for refunds. Double-check to make sure it accomplishes both of these things.


Give it a little flavor

While this part is entirely optional, creating a special name for your guarantee is a great place to have a little fun and show off your personality.


A yellow image that has an example guarantee that says, "Let's make a pineapple pact. If you don't feel the workshop has met the standards I've presented, just let me know before the halfway point of the workshop. I'll provide a full refund." It has a pineapple character



After your guarantee is launched

This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it type of policy. To do this right, there are three things you need to do.

Promote and Educate:

Promote it as part of your marketing to inform potential clients about this commitment. If you work with other businesses (vendors, partners, etc.), educate them about your guarantee so they can also speak to it.


Feedback Loop:

Create a process for gathering feedback and outcomes based on the guarantee.


Monitor and Revise:

Regularly review how the guarantee is working. Is it bringing in new customers? Are existing customers happier? Make adjustments as needed.



Map The Steps To Honoring Your Guarantee

Now that you know your guarantee, let’s map the process for customers to request that you honor your guarantee.


  1. What requirements need to be met?

  2. What steps do they need to take?


Even a customer asking you to honor your guarantee is an important customer experience moment.


Remember to keep it easy for customers to do. Never create an unnecessary barrier.


Then, map the process for you. Once you receive the request, what steps do you need to take?


Minimize Guarantee Usage

Even if you’re armed with a fantastic guarantee, you probably feel anxious about people asking you to honor it.


Here are a few ways to minimize the odds of a customer using your guarantee.


Set appropriate expectations.

The absolute biggest reason customers ask for a refund or for businesses to honor a guarantee is mismanaged expectations.


Be clear about who your services are for, what the expected outcome and processes are like, and anything else they need to know.


Deliver on your promise.

While most service providers won't say it out loud, I suspect that the big pushback with guarantees is that the providers aren't confident in their ability to deliver on their promises.


Make sure that what you’re promising is realistic and is within your skill set.


If you’re new or still nervous about your offering, adjust your guarantee to something you’re more confident in achieving.


Pre-qualify your leads.

The better you understand your ideal customer, the easier it will be to determine who is and isn't a good fit.


Get a solid understanding of your ideal customer and then have a system to identify them during your sales process.


When you target the right people who need your solution, they're far less likely to use the guarantee.



Learn to say no more.

We’ve all said yes to people who aren’t a good fit for our service, how we work, or when we don't have space.


It’s hard to say no to people, and sometimes we feel under pressure to get new customers. This leads to more customers who aren’t a good fit and are more likely to need you to honor your guarantee.


I’ll cover how to say no to customers without drama or anxiety in another article. For now, know that it’s okay to turn customers down when they’re not the right fit.


Reacting to a request

A cartoon pineapple bent over in pain like it got kicked in between the legs

A customer asking for a refund based on your guarantee feels like a real kick in the roots.


We might react negatively because we feel shame, embarrassment, or anger at the situation. If we feel something is unfair, we can get Justice Rage and fight it because it’s the principle that matters.


Our egos can get in the way of long-term success.


Keep your ego at the door and your eyes on the big picture.


That’s why you want to map out your process for handling these requests. That way, even if you’re pissed, you handle it as gracefully as possible.



What it DOESN’T mean when a customer asks you to honor your request…

It doesn’t mean you’re bad at what you do.

It doesn’t mean they hate you.


It doesn’t mean they’re trying to get something for free.


Squash those thoughts.


THE TAKEAWAY:

Honoring your guarantee is far cheaper than time wasted fighting with a customer trying to get out of it. Not only financially but also in time and your reputation.


You have far better things to do.


This is why you have a policy—to remove emotion from it. Either they qualify, or they don’t.


If they fall within the guarantee, honor it.


If your guarantee is ambiguous, honor it and update it to make it biguous.

(Shout out if you know which show I’m making fun of here.)



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