Last year, I was delighted to receive this contract: “if at any time you are not happy with my services, we can walk away and I will not charge you.” It said everything I needed to hear succinctly and clearly.
Your contract needs to state the scope of your services, build trust with your clients, set out your client’s aims, and proactively manage risks. We had already established the scope and aim of my book coach’s services. This single sentence created huge trust between us and for me, as the client, minimised any risks.
How many of us have the courage to offer a money-back, no questions asked, repeat-until-happy, guarantee of our services?
Spreading Unhappiness Like a Virus
The 2017 Consumer Action Monitor Report* highlights that 70% of dissatisfied customers share their complaint with others, with 40% turning to social media to rant and whinge. Nearly 80% of customers would not return to a company that handled their compliant badly. Unhappy customers are a massive expense and risk to your business’ reputation – one that you should do your best to avoid.
The simple answer is to provide the right service for the right client for the right fee…
To be a true professional, you need a little more. One way to avoid complaints is to write down precisely how you will meet your client’s needs and expectations – this forms the basis of your contract. Legal terms cannot guarantee success, as unhappy clients are a fact of doing business. A clear contract can minimise the risk of complaints and provide a simple instant remedy. This avoids a disgruntled client getting gradually more cross as you play email tennis with the issues, and turning to others for moral support.
Facing up to Reality
Your contract should not be aimed at a very small minority of people who might ‘take advantage’ of your terms. It should focus on building trust with fabulous clients.
You may find time-wasters, but your job is to spot those before you have a contract, not use your contract to hide from them after the event. You may worry that a money-back guarantee means you will receive frivolous claims, but any tyre-kickers you can chalk up to experience. You should keep refunds under review (like any business) but use them as a tool to build a stronger business and market to the right prospects.
Instead of wallowing in your misfortune when a client asks for their money back, move on and provide your expertise and services to more suitable clients, who value your expertise and have confidence in your skills.
Understanding Your Obligations
If you work in the EU then either under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 or equivalent local legislation, your consumer clients can ask you to repeat your services or demand a refund if your services:
- are not provided with reasonable skill and care,
- do not meet the information you initially provided to your prospective clients, or
- are not provided within a reasonable time.
These are mandatory remedies, so you cannot contract out or avoid them. Although these remedies only apply when your client is not acting in the course of a business (and you are), you should think of them as the bare minimum for all your clients.
Remedies that Work for Your Clients
As you have to provide these remedies, what is the best way to adopt them?
You could write the relevant sections into your contract. As the Act itself is rather boring to read, copying the relevant sections into your contract would harm your brand (unless you are aiming for turgidly legal).
You could assume clients will know their rights, and not make any reference to these remedies. That approach hardly builds trust!
My recommended option is to go the extra mile and offer even more. Tell your client that whatever her reason, if she is unhappy or dissatisfied with your services, she can rely on your money-back guarantee, and ask you to repeat your services.
This approach means you have covered everything required by the Act, and a little more. It also gives your client confidence in your services and builds your credibility. And you will feel good about working with clients who trust you deeply.
Be brave, be bold and build a better business based on trust not terms.