Protect Your Client Experience: Add This To Your Contract Today
As a business owner, you’ve likely spent a good amount of time focusing on how to enhance your client’s experience. From sending out an aesthetically pleasing welcome packet to sending thoughtful gifts at just the right time, upleveling each client’s experience is an ever-evolving priority for all of us. If you’re anything like me, all of the ideas and suggestions on how to do just that may leave you feeling slightly overwhelmed and inundated with information.
However, today I want to share a story that happened to me last fall, that brought to light the importance of the most simple, fundamental piece of your client experience. It’s something you have likely overlooked but is a cornerstone you can put in place within 5 minutes today. While it may not be the most exciting part of your client experience, I can promise you it is an absolutely essential step that you can’t skip over! You might have (rightly) guessed that I’m going to say that essential piece is a contract, I’m actually referring to a more specific paragraph that should be in your contract.
The backstory: I’d had my eye on a piece for my office that I maybe I didn’t quite need, but you know, I needed it. That item was the Creative’s Calendar from Lindsay Letters:
Stewarding this business well are of paramount importance to me, so while it wasn’t the most exorbitant expense, I saved and thought hard before I purchased the calendar. But for obvious reasons, I couldn’t wait to add it to my day-to-day. One night at the end of Black Friday, I snagged this barn wood beauty for myself.
As excited as I was to add this calendar to my office, with November and December being the hectic times that they are, the estimated delivery date came and went without my notice. And as all good epiphanies go, one night just days before Christmas I woke up in the middle of the night and realized: the calendar had never arrived!
After tracking down the shipping carrier, I found that the transport update merely said “package damaged beyond repair.” A further search found that believe it or not, the truck shipping the package had caught on fire somewhere in transit. The shipping company was wiping their hands of culpability, which meant that it was between myself and Lindsay Letters to decide who should pay for a replacement. While this sent alarm bells off in my head, of course, my immediate reflex was to check the terms and conditions of sale from my purchase. I was just looking for three words:
RISK OF LOSS
Black’s Law Dictionary defines risk of loss is defined as:
“The chance of bearing the costs that are associated with destruction, damage or the inability of locating goods, documents and other property.”
In other words, if a package gets lost, stolen, or damaged at any point from the moment it leaves the maker’s hands, who pays for the replacement?
Knowing this and knowing what I know from past experiences where my own calligraphy goods were damaged in transit, as much as I love the company Lindsay Letters, I was nervous about having to pay to have this item shipped again. Because of its size, I knew shipping wouldn’t be cheap, much less an entire replacement item.
Whether you’re a service provider such as a photographer shipping out albums after the wedding, or a calligrapher shipping out large, time-intensive items, it is vital that you contemplate risk of loss in your contracts when shipping an item. Your business can’t afford not to.
I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning again: contract law is considered the trickiest part of the bar exam, and the “risk of loss” portions of bar prep are some that I remember vividly as being the trickiest. So, while they might be seemingly simple provisions that should be added to any contract, they require carefully detailed language. If they’re left out or improperly drafted, and something gets lost or damaged from the point of leaving your hands until it gets to your client, you don’t want to be left in the awkward situation of having to fight that with your client fight who has to pay for what. Damage must be recompensed, and it is far better to determine who pays for what in that scenario prior to it happening, rather than having to awkwardly fight it with your client after they are already upset.
In short, I consider risk of loss provisions arguably the most important in any of my contracts, and absolutely the most often overlooked in contracts I review. They’re a way to preserve your client relationship at the outset, without even realizing it.
While this story is a great example of why ROL provisions are so essential for business owners (after all, who expects a shipping truck to catch on fire and be entirely demolished?), the greater lesson of the story revolves around the client experience.
I will forever be a lifelong fan of Lindsay Letters, because while they had that foundational ROL cornerstone in place, they were able to build upon that foundation and create an unforgettable client experience. My realization and conversation with the shipping carrier occurred sometime just days before Christmas, so of course (while I think the world of Lindsay Letters), I never expected to hear from anyone during that time of the year when I emailed the support email.
However, not only did I receive an email within the day (which is impressive enough!), but I received an email from Lindsay herself. I’m a lawyer, so I’ll shamefully admit I was prepared for a fight, but Lindsay immediately took control of the situation and got everything squared away. There was no talk of whom would pay for what; instead, she took it upon herself to personally rectify the situation, send me an (entirely unnecessary) apology, and ship the calendar immediately. Keep in mind, the issue with the damaged item was clearly never her company’s fault, yet the situation was effortlessly and flawlessly handled. Lindsay Letters handled this unforeseen, crazy situation in the best way possible, and I’m now a lifelong fan of this company.
If anything, I hope this story helps to teach three lessons: 1. We can’t foresee every situation. After all, sometimes delivery trucks catch on fire and destroy what you’ve shipped; 2. The most fundamental, simple protections are always the most important. You must have a sufficiently drafted ROL provision in your contract; and 3. While fundamentally, you must be legally protected, that’s just the foundation: you must invest in enhancing your client experience. Admittedly, this a lesson I am still learning, but one that business owners can’t afford to overlook.
If you haven’t considered who bears the risk of loss in shipping, that’s an important step you can take today! And I’d love to hear- how do you enhance your client experience?