One of the most common questions I get asked is “How long is your warranty?” The person asking the question is looking for a specific length of time. If I simply reply “10 years,” then very often the person is satisfied with that answer and asks nothing further. The trouble is, 10 years is a meaningless answer. What if this potential concrete waterproofing customer is comparing me to my competitor who is offering a 20-year warranty – or a hundred years! What has my inquisitor learned?
To be sure, length of time is an important consideration in the value of a warranty. However, there are two far more important aspects of every warranty that must be included in the value assessment. Firstly, under what conditions will you be able to make a valid warranty claim? Some products come with a long-term warranty, but if you read the fine print, it excludes just about every possible condition that might ever happen. Secondly and even more importantly, what will the manufacturer actually do for you in the event of a warranty claim? Will they replace the defective product, fix it, give you your money back, give you free repair materials, or partially or fully pay to make repairs? What the manufacturer will actually do for you is the key to the value of the warranty.
Perhaps the most important aspect of any warranty is never written in the warranty at all – not even in the fine print. The most important aspect is will the company be willing and able to honor the warranty over the warranty term? Companies often go out of business. Sometimes they struggle with financial challenges. And occasionally a company will just decide to behave unethically. Part of your assessment of a warranty’s value must include a hard look at the history, past behavior and likely future of the warranty giver.
A wise man once advised me that the best warranty is the one you never need. He pointed out that a warranty is not a certificate. Even the most lavish warranty certificate only costs a few cents to print. The value comes from everything a company does leading up to the point when a certificate is issued. The warranty giver must not merely hand you a piece of paper, they must take an active role in ensuring your success in achieving your goals with their products, knowledge and experience. From the quality controls of manufacturing to the quality assurance of their field support; from the ethical behavior of their people to the history of the company and its prognosis for future success; a warranty is an agreement of trust.
What is a warranty worth? Its worth is equal to the level of trust you have for the warranty giver.