Service guarantees are often a bit of a gimmick – how exactly do you structure that? How could you expect a client to ‘return’ anything in a services engagement for money back? How do you clarify a triggering event for the guarantee?

We’ve seen a number of approaches, often well-intentioned, come and go in this industry, and we’ve defined our own approach for this sometimes challenging aspect to our business.

We feel that it is our job to win our client’s business, every day. We have to be adding value, and providing a service at a good value, every time we contribute to a client project. We take pains to ensure we are doing just that – we work to understand each client’s needs in detail, leveraging our engineering backgrounds, before engaging any development or other resources. We carefully screen our talent pool to make sure every placed resource has the technical and consulting chops to make a difference. We actively manage our engagements, spending time with every client and client team to regularly assess our contribution. So, we have confidence that every team member is a good fit on each project.

We have chosen to back that confidence up with our wallet. We guarantee the first 40 hours of any resource on any engagement. If a client is dissatisfied with a person’s contribution or performance, they may order a zero-notice stand-down on that resource within those first 40 hours, and they pay nothing for that time. It’s pretty rare for a client to pull the trigger on the guarantee, but it is there, in every engagement, and for many clients it helps to build their confidence, particularly early in a project.

Some may argue that 40 hours is not enough time to thoroughly gauge and evaluate a developer or other team member. Certainly, you can’t get a handle on every single nuance and variable in that amount of time, but we find that our clients are generally shrewd judges of character, and if they missed something in their screening interviews, a personality facet that renders a resource a poor fit, we hear about it pretty quickly. The guarantee gives the client peace of mind that they can correct any early misstep with low risk.

There’s no test or evaluation criteria for the guarantee – in our world, the client exercises this right at their sole discretion – keeps things simple. Again, we do our absolute best to staff appropriately, and the history on guarantee triggers bears this out – they are rare – but we stand by the guarantee as a useful tool in our overall engagement management philosophy. Interested to hear any other thoughts on this topic.