Promise? What Promise?

By Ron Rosenberg

Our article about a recent Groupon experience generated a lot of feedback, some of which is posted, along with the article, on our membership site.

The situation, in a nutshell, was that the vendor, a carpet-cleaning service, wasn't replying to our repeated calls to schedule an appointment. But it was the experience we had with Groupon in trying to resolve the issue that I want to talk about today.

This article is just a bit longer than usual, but trust me - if you have any interest in improving the level of service you deliver to your customers, clients, or members, it will be worth every minute you spend reading it!

To Groupon or Not to Groupon -
That is the Question...
There are a lot of questions surrounding the use of Groupon. For the provider of the service, it's an issue of whether the significant discounting of the initial offer will generate sufficient long-term business. For the consumer, there's some doubt as to whether the vendor will actually deliver what's being offered.

On this second point, you're not supposed to worry at all because of "The Groupon Promise," which is featured prominently on every page and every offer on the site.

It's actually a pretty strong guarantee:

"If the experience using your Groupon ever lets you down, we'll make it right or return your purchase. Simple as that."

They have a special page dedicated to this guarantee, The Groupon Promise, a link where you can learn more about the "spirit" of the promise, and even a fun YouTube video explaining how it works.

Time to Watch a Movie!

Let's start with the video. Click the image below and watch it for yourself, paying particular attention to what's implied 21 seconds into the video. Also, listen to what they say at 30 seconds about "red tape."

watch video

Then, click here to read a post on Groupon's blog that talks about the spirit of The Groupon Promise

It's actually really good - it clearly states their customer-service philosophy, including ideas like...
  • We believe that when a customer has a bad experience, companies pay for it sooner or later--so we'd rather pay fast so we can make things right before it's too late.
  • As most companies get bigger, they introduce frustrating policies that show less trust in their customers. They hide undesirable policies behind legal jargon and set up endless obstacles to reach customer service.
  • We never want to be at war with our customers, so we're taking it in the other direction. More freedom for our customers. More trust.

This is all really strong stuff. The only problem is that their "simple as that" policy is anything but simple.

But You Promised!

A call to their "Help Center" where "...a real, live person is here for you..." put me in touch with one of their representatives. She researched our original problem, and said the reason they hadn't gotten back to us was that one of their employees had a seizure so they weren't able to return the calls. She said she would put in a direct request to them, and if they didn't call back, then we could contact Groupon again.

I thanked her for the suggestion, but said that we'd just rather have a refund on this one, per their guarantee. She countered that "The Groupon Promise" was only for cases where the coupon had actually been redeemed and there was a problem with the product or service.

I explained that the "promise" said, "If the experience using your Groupon ever lets you down, we'll make it right or return your purchase...simple as that." Since setting up the appointment was clearly part of "the experience" and we were unable to even get the service, we wanted to get a refund - simple as that.

After going back and forth a bit, she offered to issue Groupon credit for the amount that we could use on a future purchase - would that be alright?

Well, no. The deal was that they would "return my purchase" - and since the video showed the person receiving a hand of cash, that's what I wanted as well.

She said that the "promise" was deliberately ambiguous allowing the reps to take the best possible action. I said that, first of all, the promise wasn't ambiguous at all; second, the best possible action would be for them to honor that promise; and third, that the comments in the blog article - the one they link to directly from the "Groupon Promise" web page - pretty much says that that's what they have to do.

After another five minutes of what seemed like a high-school debate, she finally relented, and, that just this once - and don't ever ask for it again - in this case only, and I'm really bending the rules here...(big sigh) I'll issue a refund on your credit card.

Curiously, within 30 seconds, I received an e-mail confirming the refund to my credit card - indicating that this wasn't some special out-of-process ordeal, but rather something that was a well defined part of their financial processes.

3 Important Lessons...

I spent a little time describing this,and I hope you're still with me here, because all of this leads to three very important lessons for your business:

  1. Have a Guarantee - No matter what you sell - product, service, or a combination of the two, you should stand behind it. "Risk reversal" is one of the best ways to close the sale. By assuring the customer that they have nothing to worry about, you'll get more sales.
  2. Be Clear About the Terms - Don't be coy or ambiguous about what you're guaranteeing. If there are conditions, explain them. If there's a time limit, spell it out. Be up front about everything to avoid confusion down the road
  3. Honor Your Word - If you're delivering what you promise, there shouldn't be too many cases where you have to actually honor the guarantee. When you do so, do it quickly, efficiently, and cheerfully, not standing on the "letter of the law" or other "fine print" but rather remaining true to the intent and spirit of the promise.

It's this last one that derailed the entire experience for us, and convinced us that going forward, we'll only purchase Groupons for businesses we already know - essentially defeating the whole "lead-generation" purpose of the model.

Make sure you consider these three rules as you develop your own satisfaction guarantees!