I’ve written many times about the various meaningful use guarantees that many companies have made over the years. athenahealth being one of the first to do so. In fact, they’ve made it part of their company culture to make guarantees. They’ve done it with Meaningful Use, ICD-10, EOBs, PQRS and MSSP guarantees. Jonathan Bush, President and CEO of athenahealth, recently did a blog post that explained why they do these guarantees:
When Leon Leonwood Bean, founder of L.L.Bean, first created the infamous Bean Boot (officially known as the Maine Hunting Shoe), he sent mailers out to local fishermen and hunters to promote the new boot and guarantee complete satisfaction. Within a few weeks, 90 of the first 100 boots purchased were returned. The leather uppers had separated from the rubber bottoms. Though it almost put L.L.Bean out of business, L. L. stayed true to the guarantee and refunded the customers. After borrowing more money to perfect the boot, he put them back on the market. This winter, over 100 years later, L.L.Bean couldn’t even keep up with the demand for Bean Boots. They’ve even become the latest badge of hipsterdom.
Today, L.L.Bean continues to guarantee satisfaction on all its products. Customers are always trying to return 10 year old boots for brand new ones. But the company doesn’t get persnickety about it. The amount of business the guarantee drives (as evident by this year’s demand) more than makes up for the cost of some free boots, which may never have become a practical winter fashion statement without putting money on the line.
Jonathan Bush goes on to talk about how many people think that the guarantee is about marketing, but it’s not. It’s about a corporate mandate that inspires innovation around something that’s important to customers. You can see how this works. If your bottom line is affected by a guarantee, then you’re sure as heck going to work like crazy to figure out how to solve that problem. At least you better, or your going to go out of business.
Pretty smart thinking as long as you’re smart about which things are worth guaranteeing. The wrong guarantee and you could have your company spending time innovating on something that doesn’t matter. Of course, at least you also get the benefit of the guarantee marketing bump whether Jonthan wants to admit it or not.