We get asked this all the time, especially since lawyers can’t guarantee an outcome, especially in litigation matters.
But that shouldn’t stop them from considering offering a guarantee on their service—that is, the customer experience of dealing with their firm. Here is a partial list of the benefits of offering a 100%, unconditional, money-back guarantee:
- It forces you to learn your customer’s expectations. It’s hard to meet expectations, let alone exceed them, if you don’t know what they are.
- It focuses your entire firm on the customer’s expectations, and allows your team to do what it takes to exceed them—think FedEx, Ritz-Carlton and Disney.
- It allows you to manage the customer’s expectations. This is especially important if the customer has unreasonable expectations to start with. This is your only chance to set them right. Once you’re engaged, even if you do splendid legal work, if you don’t meet or exceed customer expectations, they won’t be happy.
- It puts your firm’s money where it’s mouth is. Sure, we all brag about offering great service, responsiveness, quick communications, etc. How many back it up? Talk is cheap. As a customer, why should I bet on you if you won’t bet on yourself?
- It allows you to charge a price premium for reducing (or removing) customer risk. Fred Smith built his unknown overnight delivery service business on three simple words, emblazoned on the side of his planes and trucks: “Absolutely. Positively. Overnight.” No excuses, no complaining about traffic or weather. If they didn’t deliver you didn’t pay, period. Nice. Look at the price premium FedEx commands over UPS and DHL.
- It forces your firm to do a better job in customers selection and deselection. You won’t work with people who you think are taking advantage of you. If a customer unfairly pulls the service guarantee trigger, fine. Was it justified? If so, they did you a favor, since complaints are more valuable than compliments. It allows you to fix the systemic problem so it doesn’t happen again, and on another customer. If it wasn’t justified, the customer self-identified themselves as unreasonable and you can terminate the relationship.
- It incentivizes the customer to complain, which is a good thing. Most customers don’t complain, they just defect. And a large majority never come back. A complaint is a second chance to repair the relationship.
- It’s an enormous marketing advantage.
The fact is, though, that all law firms already offer a service guarantee. The problem is it’s covert, no one knows about it. I’m suggesting you make it overt. Tell the world about it, get some buzz for it. Get a pricing advantage for it.
So, what does a legal guarantee look like. VeraSage fellow Chris Marston at Exemplar uses one, and so does Ungaretti & Harris LLP, who claims to be the first firm in the country to do so. There guarantee reads:
We GUARANTEE that as a client of Ungaretti & Harris you will receive COST-EFFECTIVE legal services delivered in a TIMELY manner. We promise to INVOLVE you in strategic decisions and to COMMUNICATE with you regularly. We cannot guarantee outcomes, but we do GUARANTEE YOUR SATISFACTION with our SERVICE. If at any time Ungaretti & Harris does not perform to your satisfaction, we ask that you inform us PROMPTLY. We will then resolve the issue to YOUR SATISFACTION, even if it means reducing our legal fees.
Now, if you’re a lawyer, you can write elaborate contracts that try to cover every conceivable, foreseeable contingency. There are ways to tighten up the language, such as saying that after each scheduled payment you will assume satisfaction. This will close off prior services from being exposed. Other firms just leave it wide open. The risk is up to you. One caveat: The more you water it down, the more legalese you use, the lesser it’s value. Think FedEx: Absolutely. Positively. Overnight. Keep it simple.
For an excellent book on using service guarantees, written for companies in the services sector, see the book, Extraordinary Guarantees by Christopher Hart.
To say a law firm can’t provide a guarantee is to deny reality. They already do, if they are ethical and conscientious professionals.
So why not make it explicit?