Guarantees with Oomph
by Marcia Yudkin
Not long ago a real estate
appraiser asked my opinion of his new brochure.
"'Guaranteed on-time appraisals,'" I
read out loud. "You mean that if it's not
on time, the customer gets a refund?"
"No, I couldn't do
that," he replied. "So many times
things get delayed for reasons outside of my
"What do you mean, then,
"Never mind, then. Strike
that out. We couldn't give people their money
back every time an appraisal was late."
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He'd come close to landing his
business in serious trouble. The word
"guarantee," like the word
"free," has a specific meaning that
the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys
general enforce. Without any explicit qualifiers
attached, "guarantee" means that the
customer has the right to a 100 percent refund
if the product or service disappoints them - no
"ifs," "ands" or
Further, because of the
well-known strength of the word, a guarantee
holds a powerful potential to increase business.
I explained to the appraiser that an on-time
guarantee would probably boost his business
enough to cover the occasional refund. We then
restated his guarantee to read, "We
guarantee that we'll deliver your appraisal by
the promised time, or it's free." He'd
cover his flanks by being careful about the
promises he made.
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Like a sharp knife, guarantees
can cut through a prospect's skepticism and
fears. Handle them with care, but include them
in your business's toolbox.
Try a long guarantee. The
longer the guarantee, in fact, the fewer
refund requests a business receives. If your
competitors offer a 30-day money-back
guarantee, extend yours to 90 days, a year
or even a lifetime.
Depending on your
business, consider a performance guarantee
instead of promising a refund. For example,
a termite-control customer might prefer your
promise to make the problem go away, no
matter what it takes, to getting her money
back if the treatment doesn't wipe out the
If you can stand behind
outrageous-sounding guarantees, go for it,
as in, "We guarantee that your
credit-card application will be approved by
one of the listed banks, or we'll return
every penny you paid us, plus $10.00 extra
for your trouble." Since this company
knows that only 4 percent of applicants get
turned down, their offer motivates without
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Copyright 1999 Marcia Yudkin.
All rights reserved.
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