We all know that a strong money-back guarantee is a powerful weapon for overcoming buyer resistance and boosting your sales.
But you can run into problems when your guarantee has flaws.
The best guarantees are:
When any of these four elements is missing, sales are likely to suffer as a result.
For example, many of my clients are newsletter and magazine publishers.
A number of these publishers offer lifetime guarantees. They permit the subscriber to cancel at any time and receive a prorated refund on “unmailed issues”.
But if you offer both a bill-me option as well as payment with order—as I often come across—such a lifetime guarantee actually gives the customer an incentive NOT to pay up front.
Think about it.
Say the customer checks the “bill-me” option for a monthly magazine, gets his first issue, and then writes “cancel” on his invoice.
The publisher doesn’t send him a bill for one issue, nor does the publisher ask for the magazine back. So the customer gets a free issue.
But if the customer pays in advance, then cancels after the first issue, he gets a refund for 11/12th of the subscription price (the 11 unmailed issues) and therefore ends up paying for the issue received.
Why should the bill-me customer get a free issue, but not the payment-with-order customer? It isn’t fair and doesn’t make sense, considering a cash-with-order customer is more desirable than a bill-me order.
Solution: Offer a full money-back guarantee within the first 30 days, then a prorated refund thereafter.
Another frequent guarantee problem is wording that says you will get your money back “if you return the product in saleable condition”.
Well, the customer doesn’t have any control over the UPS man who brings the box to your door.
Your guarantee implies that if the product is damaged in transit on its way from the customer to you, the buyer doesn’t get a refund. That would make me hesitate to order from you.
I was in a video game store where a clerk refused to refund a woman’s money because she was returning a game her son had gotten as a gift one day after the 30-day guarantee period expired.
I interfered, and explained to the clerk what he was doing wrong. The woman got her money back, and I got a dirty look from the clerk.
Remember, you benefit enormously from offering a guarantee, because it gets more people to trust you and buy from you.
But the customer benefits too: He gets a chance to try the product risk-free.
Most people won’t take unfair advantage of your guarantee. If you sell a quality product, accurately described in your marketing, at a price that’s fair in relationship to its value, your return rate will be low—probably less than 5%.
That still means as many as one of 20 or so will ask for a refund. Give them back their money promptly and with good cheer. Few things will cause more customer dissatisfaction and ruin your reputation faster than being difficult, adversarial, and uncooperative when people believe what you said in your guarantee and take you up on it.
Don’t get angry with these folks. Returning the product is their right—and part of your cost of doing business.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.