Reverse the risk for your clients

01 December 2016, at 12:00am

Paul Green explains how offering potential new clients a guarantee of high quality service in your practice can help them decide to come to you.

SO YOU’VE GOT THIS CLIENT. AND HE’S NOT HAPPY. It’s not the clinical work so much as other things that have made him unhappy. It’s more that his expectations haven’t been met. Maybe a vet said he would call him at a specific time and didn’t. 

What would you or your practice manager do to fix this situation? It’s a customer service issue. So you’d speak to the client, let them vent for a bit, apologise and make it right, yes? This is what most practices would do. And yet very few of them actually advertise this fact.

It’s a hallmark of being an independent practice. Most independents are so proud of what they do, and so good at it, that it wouldn’t occur to them not to fix a customer service issue such as this.

This is what’s known as an invisible guarantee. It’s something that the business does automatically, yet never shouts about it.

Guarantees are very, very powerful things. They remove the perceived risk of using a business for the first time. That perceived risk is very real in most buyers’ minds. It directly affects their behaviour.

The risk is not so much one of losing money, but rather the risk of making a mistake. When people say “but what if...” they’re telling you they see a risk and it’s stopping them from making a buying decision.

The big opportunity for your practice is to reverse the risk – for you to take on board the risk and make it your problem, not the client’s problem.

Tesla, the electric car company led by Elon Musk, understood this when it launched its Model S just under three years ago. People were comfortable buying an expensive electric car, but they had some perceived risks – the biggest one being “what if there is no market for second-hand Teslas in the future?”

So Tesla introduced its Resale Value Guarantee programme. It guaranteed the resale value of the car for three years from point of purchase. In fact, in later versions of the programme, it guaranteed that the Tesla would be worth more than competing premium car brands, such as BMW and Mercedes. 

It’s recently closed this programme because it did what it was supposed to: ensure there was a healthy resale market for second-hand Teslas. Now there is, the programme is not needed.

When Whitbread created the Premier Inn hotel chain through a merger and rebrand of two chains, it wanted to dramatically raise the perceived quality of budget hotels.

It invested millions into the room quality; the beds; and ensuring there was always food available on-site. But it realised that the greatest fear that travellers had – the biggest risk that made them hesitate when booking a budget hotel – was “but what if I have a bad night’s sleep?”

So they introduced the Good Night Guarantee: “We’re so confident that you’ll have a great night’s sleep that, if you don’t, we’ll give you your money back. Just speak to one of our friendly team.”

Money back when we screw up might work for a hotel. In fact it has helped Premier Inn become the leading budget hotel in the UK. In your practice, I wouldn’t go anywhere near money back. Yet you need to do something. Few vets do this, so it will give you a competitive advantage.

When someone is looking for a new practice, there is the perceived risk of it going wrong. If you can remove the perceived risk of buying from you, you will attract more new clients.

Guarantees work because when two parties do business, there are always uncertainties. That means one side takes on most of the risk.

A guarantee says to your prospect: “Hey, the risk’s on me. We believe in what we do, and we stand behind the claims we have made.”

In fact the first step for you in addressing “but what if...” is to look at your invisible guarantees. Think about what your practice does already to make sure clients are satisfied and delighted, and then see if you can formalise it. Write it down and make it as easy to communicate as the Good Night Guarantee.

Your guarantee should do four things:

  1. Assure your client that you believe in the quality of what you do.  
  2. Spell out your terms and conditions clearly.
  3. Specify a generous time period for evaluation.
  4.  State what you will do if the client is dissatisfied.

Here’s an example: 

“We have the friendliest and best customer service of any vets in YourTown. If you’re not utterly satisfied for any reason, just tell us within 24 hours of your visit and we’ll do everything in our power to fix the problem.”

That’s your invisible guarantee, turned into a formal guarantee; something that puts into words just how high the quality is inside your practice.

Once you’ve formed a guarantee like that, you should then put it everywhere. It goes on your home page; in your leaflets; printed on an A6 poster that goes up in the waiting room.

A good guarantee does not just reverse the risk for clients and prospects. It also differentiates you from all the other vets they could choose from.

In a world of uneducated buyers, making it less risky for them to pick you means you will get more new business.