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#301: Offering a Guarantee for Your Consulting Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 10, 2010
Updated: Monday, May 10, 2010
I know of a consultancy that puts 20% of its fees at risk based on the achievement of its deliverables. With my firm, my clients know if they are not pleased with any of my deliverables I will do whatever required to correct them and, worst case, if they remain displeased I will refund all or part of my fees even though I have never had to in 10 years. Neither of these solutions are standard within the consulting profession based on my experience but what is?

A guarantee is a way to offset a lack of trust. In relationships with mutual trust, it doesn't even occur to either party to consider a guarantee. One party asking, "Do you offer a guarantee (or warranty or other recompense for violating expectations)?" is saying, in effect, "I don't totally trust you, so how am I going to be made whole if you don't deliver as promised?" This is exactly why development of trust between client and consultant is so important, and doing everything to justify and retain that trust - for both parties - should be attended to throughout the relationship.

However, sometimes there may be a request for a guarantee of some kind. This is more common when a client knows little or nothing about the consultant and/or the referral is weak. This is one place where certification can increase trust by affording credibility unavailable for a non-certified consultant, all other things being equal. There is no standard for consulting service guarantees.

How to ask for guaranteed work is also hard for the client. Consulting services are largely intangible, often hard to measure and implementation may not be fully under your control. The distributed control is key. Accountability is a two-way street. Both client and consultant must contribute to the success of the effort. For one party to ask for a guarantee, the other must be sure that their part is also guaranteed.

Tip: Ultimately it's the client that makes the real decisions. And if the question of guarantee comes up, guarantee your work and the results based on the client's subjective evaluation up to a point or they can choose to disengage, but both of you are part of the guarantee. Once you have this discussion, it should become clear that there is usefully a lot of trust required by both parties to make the project successful and clear requirements, a solid and well understood project plan and continuous communication will do more for success than a paper guarantee

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  roles and responsibilities  trust 

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