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Written Customer Agreements

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on January 8, 2007

Generally, any sale should include a written statement to protect the interests of your business. In retail sales, even the wording on a sales receipt is important.

In service-oriented businesses, customers should understand exactly what they’ll receive and at what cost. Each sales order or contract should include:

1. A clear description of the service you’ll provide

2. The anticipated results

3. All costs that are included

4. Any special situation or exception

5. Payment terms and conditions

Meet with your attorney and accountant to make sure you’re protected against potential liability and consumer action. Most situations concerning customer disputes arise when a written agreement of understanding wasn’t provided.

Gene Fairbrother
ShopTalk 800® Business Consultant
National Association for the Self-Employed

Reader Comments

Rob Frankel

January 13, 2007 1:23 PM

This is all true, and if you want a great set of starter documents that you can customize for your attorney to review (saving you tons of time), go to and look for item
Critical Business Agreements in MS-WORD Format
Ready-to-use, search and replace Business Agreements, Service Agreement, Non-Disclosure/Non-circumvent Agreement, Estimate Form. Save money by having your lawyer approve them, instead of writing them from scratch. Downloads as a ZIP file, for easy extraction on any platform.

Charles H. Green

February 22, 2007 10:51 AM

Ah, where to begin.

Let me ask rhetorically, what does the world need more of?

a. Businesses willing to take accountability for their actions, be customer-focused and deliver delight or;

b. businesses that let lawyers design sales slips so as to insure against lawsuits by disgruntled customers?

Or: Can customers tell the difference between:

a. a company willing to take risks in pursuit of product and service excellence, and

b. a company focused on reducing risks from its customer base?

Which company do employees prefer working for?

a. A company that believes in written statements surrounding every transaction, or

b. A company willing to honor the spirit more than the letter of its word?

Finally, which company will be more successful?

a. One whose primary goal is to protect its own interests, or

b. One who sees its own interests as being fulfilled by serving its customers and employees’ interests?

SmallBiz looks to me to be a good publication, with good thinking in it—as one would expect, given the BusinessWeek pedigree. And this is a tiny feature.

But it's what comes up in our unguarded moments that can be most revealing.

What comes up in this tip is only partly about helping customers know what they get--it's mainly about lawyers and protecting the company. It's no wonder that the only response you got in the comments here before mine is entirely about legal self-protection.

Come on, now, BW—is this really what you want to be putting out?

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