A Guarantee To Try



I hope that, like me, you are enjoying watching the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. If so, you’ll also be listening to the predictable pattern of the athletes being interviewed. “Are you going to win?” What are your chances?” “How do you feel about the next match/ heat / final?” ask the reporters.

An athlete will never say they are going to win, even if they believe it’s true. What you’ll hear instead is a guarantee to “do their best” and “give their all”. They understand that there are many things in competition that are out of their control. They don’t know how their competitors will perform, or if there will be other factors at play that will impact on the final result, especially in winter sports where there is such a fine line between winning and crashing out! Instead they focus on the things they can control, such as their style and technique, their ability to stick to a race strategy and their effort to try their hardest to win.

A guarantee to try.

Guarantees are sort of super-certainty and we naturally find them appealing. Seeing a guarantee on a product gives us an added sense of certainty that we are making a good purchase. Some companies even go beyond their legal obligations. For example, John Lewis offers an extra year guarantee on electronics and electricals over and above what the manufacturers supply. Kia Motors offer motorists a 7-year warranty, way above the industry standard of 3 years. Companies find our desire for greater certainty can be levered for a competitive advantage.

That’s all very well for physical products, but when it comes to providing services, which are focused on encouraging people to change behaviour, adding a guarantee requires a bit more thought.

A weight loss service may say... “We can’t guarantee anything! We don’t know what participants will do when they are not here, we don’t know how hard they will try or what they will eat... and even if they did everything we advise, we can’t guarantee they will lose weight, gain fitness, lower their blood pressure, or live longer....”

…because they are focusing on factors out of their direct control, including the final outcome.

Taking a lesson from the Winter Olympians, you can guarantee what you control? And you may find there’s quite a lot you control. Such as…

  • • a phone call back to customers within 30 minutes

    • a pleasant smiling person to greet customers at reception

    • clean and tidy changing rooms/fitting rooms

    • products delivered within 2 days

    • a confirmed place on the course they booked

    • a short wait time to get started from any referral

    • impartial advice

    • that you will price-match your competitors for the same service

    • that your team have been trained to a high standard

    • that classes or appointments or journeys start/depart on time

    • that all feedback and complaints are listened to and considered

    • that you will be open or available when you say you are (literally, your opening hours)

  • What do you control and what guarantees can you offer? And are you brave enough?

    (Side note: the awesome action picture at the top of the page is of the inimitable Katherine Benjamin @mskatiebenjamin – who was a ski racer in a past career. She’s also a brilliant service design thinker – and worth a follow on Twitter)