Customers are entitled to have 4 fundamental expectations met when considering buying products and services, so we're having a closer look at what those expectations are, and what they mean for you. Last week we looked at what "marketable or merchantible quality" means and this week we're looking at how you describe your products or services.
Why does it matter? If you exagerate the benefits of your products:
- you can be sued by your customers; and
- fined by consumer protection agencies; and
- have to refund monies to groups of customers; and
- have to publish apologies in newspapers, magazines, on TV and on your website.
How you describe your products and services is not just about advertising. There are probably lots of ways that you describe your products and services, whether intentionally or not. You might comment in newsletters or blogs, provide quotes or brochures all saying something that adds to a customer's understanding of your product.
When describing something, the key is to be accurate and do not make any promises that you can't keep. Last week we looked at chairs, this week lets look at something less tangible, like coaching services.
I have dealt with a company that provided executive coaching services. I paid a lot of money up front, for their services. After a couple of months I really wondered what I had paid for and went back to look at all glossy folder they provided me with at the first interview. What I discovered were some very vague and ill defined promises about how they would support me to improve my life.
Now, that coaching company might have thought that if they didn't provide any concrete promises, then they couldn't be found out for not meeting expectations. The trouble was, the way they described their services was so vague that it gave me the opening to describe what my expectations were based upon their promises. What I believed I was getting, whether or not that was reasonable from their perspective.
"If your terms and conditions are too vague, you run the risk of your customers setting the terms."
Can you imagine giving your clients a blank page to describe what it is you are going to do for them, with no restrictions except the limited amount of money they are prepared to pay? Scary thought!
Needless to say, they refunded my money. They also provided me with 6 weeks of coaching with their most senior and experienced coach and if I had worked with that person from the beginning, there would not have been a problem!
So, what promises are you making, and would your customers say that you meet those promises?
Remember, this is CONSUMER protection. It is what the customer thinks that counts, so even if you think your descriptions are accurate, how about asking some of your customers whether you are really getting it right?