Your Satisfaction Guaranteed!

Do guarantees help or hinder your customer’s experience?  In this post, I revisit another “oldie but goodie” HBR article.

Lowest Prices guaranteed! 100% satisfaction or we’ll make it right!   Get it in an hour or it’s free!  Make your best deal and we’ll beat it or pay you $500.  Guaranteed. Period.  We’ve all seen, heard or read these types of headlines.  But do they impact our decision to buy?  Do they make a difference when evaluating our experience with a company’s products or services?  Do they increase our loyalty or future purchases with a company? 

Most recently I encountered a best price guarantee on a hotel website.  I searched a hotel booking site, found a rate and then went to the hotel’s website only to find them priced higher than the booking site.  And there emblazoned across their website were the words – Best price guaranteed.  So, I clicked on the ‘more details’ section to find this statement: If we approve your claim, we’ll match the comparison rate AND give you your choice of either an extra 25% discount on the room OR give you 5,000 Loyalty Points.

The operative word was “claim”.  It was time to read the fine print!  What followed were sections outlining participating brands; applicable rates; submission guidelines; verification process and other details.  Each section contained a paragraph of what I needed to do to submit my claim.  My time can be better spent on other activities, so I simply booked on the hotel booking site, where I got the best rate. 

Even though I am loyal to this hotel brand, and I trusted they had the best price guarantee.  The hassle in securing the better price didn’t gain me anything.  It did, however, cause me to question my experience with the brand and will make me think twice before booking directly with them in the future. 

Did the guarantee accomplish anything?  Did it improve my experience? Will I buy again?  You be the judge using your own experience.  For me, no guarantees are better than guarantees that are like “Hollywood sets”. 

I took another walk down memory lane and read an HBR article (from 1988!) entitled, The Power of Unconditional Service Guarantees, by Christopher Hart.  In this article, Mr. Hart discusses good service guarantees should be:

  • Unconditional

  • Easy to understand and communicate

  • Meaningful

  • Easy (and painless) to invoke

  • Easy and quick to collect on

And for organizations, guarantees should:

  • Force you to focus on customers

  • Set clear standards for employees

  • Encourage feedback from customers

  • Promote an understanding of the service delivery system

  • Build customer loyalty

 Did the hotel’s guarantee align to these conditions?  I think not!  For organizations with guarantees in place, it would be wise to evaluate them against Mr. Hart’s criteria as well.  Likewise, for those considering adding a guarantee.  Mr. Hart suggests, “one great potential of a service guarantee is its ability to change an industry’s rules of the game by changing the service-delivery process as competitors conceive it”. 

I know what some of you B2Ber’s are thinking – service guarantees don’t apply to us.  In this case, I think they certainly can and might even deliver breakthrough service and a powerful competitive advantage. 

In this day of social media raves and rants, having a good guarantee might be the difference between a one-star and a five-star rating. 

A key takeaway is ensuring your desire to enhance your organization’s products and services through a guarantee doesn’t adversely impact the customer experience.  

Robert Azman