Service Agreements Don’t Always Serve

Customers want value, and if your service agreements are confusing, they’ll think you’re just trying to sell them something
Service Agreements Don’t Always Serve
Ellen Rohr is the president of Zoom Drain and Sewer LLC, and is a columnist for Huffington Post, PHC News, and a contributor to many business journals and trade magazines.

Perhaps my favorite (and most productive) consulting activity is to go on a ride-along. I hop in the truck, or work alongside a team member. I open my ears and eyes, shut my mouth, and always learn something. Afterward, we debrief and examine what went right and what could be improved. 

We require so much from our team members, operationally, technically. And they are required to meet sales goals, too. I believe that a nice, solidly skilled employee with a simple, friendly sales process is a gold mine of relationship building, problem solving and profits.

Except when that employee is talking about service agreements. 

Recently, I went on a ride-along. The service tech was terrific. From the minute we arrived, “Timmy” charmed the customer with his Southern manners and calm, technical confidence. She even offered to make Timmy lunch after he was done pumping the tank.

Then all the love and “warm fuzzies” went hightailing out of the room the moment Timmy started in on the service agreement. 

“Oh, Mrs. Homeowner, I notice that your service agreement has expired. Would you like to renew it?” 

“Um, sure. I guess. … What is the service agreement for again?” 

Explaining and selling a service agreement to a customer is not usually easy. The technician just pumped the tank, so what do they need it for? And often, what isn’t included is a longer list than what is included.

After some awkward conversation, Timmy fumbled for, then found and presented a four-page agreement that listed services included – and not included - all for the super confusing price of somewhere between $189 and $529 depending on what is referred to in an asterisk somewhere. I am not exaggerating. 

Well, it went from bad to worse at that point. Timmy never got lunch. Mrs. Homeowner did not buy a service agreement.

Here’s what I hate about service agreements …

  • They don’t cover anything. As a homeowner, I am painfully aware of what a service agreement doesn’t cover. To make matters worse, you often give away a lot of service that the customer is not appreciating or paying for. It’s a lose-lose situation.   
  • Asterisks. I hate small print, *s, and anything else that looks like we are trying to pull a fast one. 
  • They are presented poorly. Most importantly, employees are not properly trained to present the benefits in such a way that they don’t trip over themselves in the attempt. Maybe because the benefits aren’t that impressive? 

Bottom line: As a business owner, I understand why you offer service agreements. But why would your customer want one? 

Disagree? Agree? Think you have a better approach to the service agreement concept? How do you successfully sell a service agreement? Let us know. Comment below or email


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