There are (or should be) two sides to your “service agreement” – the contract you give your clients to sign when they hire you.
I’m NOT talking about the physical front side and the physical back side of the actual paper. I am talking about the two purposes of using this kind of contract.
The first purpose – I call it the “Front Side” – is to make you more money. The second purpose – I call it the “Back Side” – is to save you more money.
Let me explain by starting with the Back Side. What I call the Back Side of a contract is what most people think of for a contract – those terms that protect you if something goes wrong. Some people call this “boilerplate” or “legalese” – and roll their eyes while saying it. But don’t be too dismissive – these are important! Your service agreement does need to have good Back Side provisions to protect you.
Back Side provisions could be ones that deal with late or non-payments, limitations of liability, indemnification, rules for litigation (or mediation or arbitration), and so on. They are the provisions that kick in when something goes wrong. They try to limit the amount of exposure and risk on your end. That’s why having them in your service agreement can help you save money.
But don’t forget about the Front Side of the contract – these provisions can help your business make more money. Many service providers don’t think to include any Front Side provisions or they only include a few of them.
The Front Side sets the tone with your clients and establishes your professionalism. It’s the softer side of the relationship. These aren’t the provisions that deal with what happens if something goes wrong. These are the provisions that help everything to go right!
For the Front Side to be most effective, you should set out how you do business. These parts of the agreement an image of a serious business that clients can rely on to get what they need. They set out what you are supposed to do and what the client is supposed to do. They manage expectations.
By building trust with the Front End, you create a clear and defined relationship that creates confidence on both sides. Client satisfaction increases because misunderstandings are avoided and questions are answered.
A good Front End in your service agreement can help with these 5 important goals:
1. Deliver On Your Promises – A contract communicates what your promises are and defines what you’ll provide. It allows your clients to see that you deliver what you promise (the promise is defined in the contract and can be used to measure what is delivered).
2. Give Great Customer Service – A well-written contract shows you care about providing quality work, it shows that you have put effort into the relationship. The contract can answer their questions before they even know what questions they have.
3. Show Excellent Communication – Having everything laid out can help to create a direct and honest relationship where expectations are defined and managed. You should use language that shows you’ve listened to what they need and are tailoring your services to meet those needs.
4. Deliver Quality Work – A quality contract goes a long way to show that you provide quality work. How you do anything is how you do everything.
5. Act Timely – Your service agreement can set out timelines and deadlines for delivery – for you and for your client. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to avoid disagreements when everything is set out clearly and expectations are met.
Don’t miss the opportunity to have some “good feeling” provisions in your service agreement. It balances out the negativity of the Back Side and can help establish a mutually beneficial relationship with your client.
A well-rounded client service agreement is an important part of your business legal infrastructure. Take some time to assess yours and see if you need to make changes to your service agreement.