Guarantee For Success

by : Bob McGrath

If you're trying to get a new online business started, and you don't have a clearly stated guarantee policy, I can GUARANTEE you that a year from now, you'll still be trying to get your business OFF THE GROUND, unless you've gotten discouraged and given up!

Even in the traditional brick and mortar world of off-line sales, people need to touch and see a product before they have enough confidence to buy. That's why stores like Sears and JC Penny do so much more walk-in business than catalog sales. In an online business, this consumer apprehension is intensified by not having a physical store, or in many cases even a phone number to turn to if a product doesn't meet expectations.

Add to that the common fear many consumers have about credit card transactions in cyberspace, and it's not hard to see that you need to put your prospective customers at ease if they're to become buyers.

How can you make your customers feel that doing business with you is not a risky proposition? The answer is incredibly simple...offer a money back guarantee!

Let's take a look at the up-side of offering a guarantee. First, it provides a statement of personal confidence in your product. To be blunt, if you lack confidence in your product - you shouldn't be selling it anyway!

The same is true even if you're marketing someone else's product for a commission, or an affiliate program for a multi-level marketing sales program. If the parent company doesn't eliminate risk by offering to refund fees within a clearly stated time frame, find a different program to market. You'll be amazed how much easier it will be to sign up new affiliates if you eliminate the risk.

More on the up-side - A solid guarantee policy gives your enterprise a clear image of professionalism. After all, only a legitimate business would offer to give dissatisfied customers their money back, right?

There are so many entrepreneurial start-ups on the Net today, that many opportunity seekers are skeptical of any program giving the appearance of being a small home business. The assumption is: "They're no bigger than I am, and may not be in business next month, so why risk my money with them?"

Offering a money back guarantee dispels the small entrepreneurial image, and alleviates skepticism more than you can imagine.

Now let's take a look at the downside. If you offer a money- back guarantee, you'll be deluged with refund requests, right?

This is only true if you're selling something that is not as you describe it in your sales literature. If you've done an accurate job of explaining the features of your product to the customer before they make their purchase, there won't be any surprises that will trigger their refund reflex. In other words, give them what they paid you, and they'll be unlikely to complain about it.

Overall, the percentage of buyers asking for refunds from reputable online businesses is very low. A 10% return rate would be surprisingly high, and you would want to take a hard look at either your sales material, or your products themselves, to try to determine what was causing the dissatisfaction. Be sure you're not promising something you aren't delivering.

Of course, from time to time, you will probably get a refund request, people being generally a fickle breed. What to do? Process it immediately - no questions asked! Make it as painless for your customers to get a refund as you do for them to make a purchase. Stand behind your guarantee policy. Flaunt it - cheerfully take care of dissatisfied customers. Make it a pleasant experience, then request a testimonial about your guarantee policy...turn it into a positive part of your marketing literature.

Don't be concerned with losses; they'll be minimal. If you're shipping hard goods, of course, wait until the customer returns the product before you process the refund. However, if you're selling downloadable software or website access, you'd be hard-pressed to convince me that you experienced a measurable financial loss even if a customer dishonestly didn't destroy the software they downloaded. With a website membership, of course, you should deactivate their password, but whatever you do, don't let pettiness or greed cloud your judgment and delay prompt processing of refund requests.

You should try to seek out comments from dissatisfied customers as to the nature of their complaint, so that you can take any action necessary to improve your product, but don't make this a condition of the refund. Send the refund notification in an e-mail, and then close by politely requesting comments as to where your product failed them.

A word of caution...DO NOT make your guarantee policy complex or vague...the cleaner and simpler, the better. Best is: "If you are dissatisfied with your purchase for any reason, we offer a 100% money-back, no questions asked, refund of your purchase price." It is acceptable to set a time limit if you must, but make it reasonable. If it will take them a month to use and honestly evaluate your program, don't limit the guarantee to a week.

Vague, unclear guarantees will place you under a blanket of suspicion, and will do more harm than good to your sales efforts. Leave the conditions out...simply accept ANY REASON, or even NO REASON, for customer dissatisfaction.

Don't nitpick in your policy. Even if your credit card processing company doesn't refund the service fee to your account, give the customer 100% of their money back. Losing a few dollars on a refund is far less costly than losing hundreds of sales with a convoluted refund policy.

The boosted sales that a liberal guarantee policy will give you far outweigh any minimal losses you might incur from processing infrequent refund requests.

There is simply no better way to increase sales than to make doing business with you a completely risk-free proposal for your customers. A guarantee is essential to a sound business plan.