Unsolicited Advice on Taking Your Customers' Money

The low point of a service experience is often the part where we have to hand over our money.  Here are ten ways to make it as painless as possible:

  1. Keep it simple, transparent and fair.
  2. Respect our humanity. We know one company that refers internally to customers as RPUs (Revenue-Producing Units). This is unlikely to help them deliver on #1.
  3. Involve customers in developing your pricing model.  They have preferences, and they’re often eager to share them.
  4. Your competitors’ shady fees are an opportunity. One reason Macy’s thrived during the Great Depression is because it chose to defy some of the appalling industry norms on pricing (e.g., advertising one price, charging another).
  5. If you must change the contract, give us lots of advance warning and a thoughtful explanation. For an example of how to get this right, see the transition of the New York Times to a paid, web content strategy (thanks, Jim Watson from ME). Nobody liked the change, but we understood it, and we adapted.
  6. Make sure your pricing is aligned with your brand.   When the Four Seasons charges some people thousands of dollars to stay in its flagship Manhattan hotel, and then asks them to dig out their credit cards to pay a $19.99 wireless access fee, that’s, um, a disconnect.
  7. Avoid piling extra charges on to the payment process.  We don’t like being punished for holding up our end of the deal. And certainly don’t insult us by calling it a “convenience fee.”
  8. Create more value than you capture.  That’s the fundamental pricing strategy of every great business.
  9. The other guy's model may not help you.  The answer for your business depends on the very specific contract (spoken and unspoken) you have with your own customers.
  10. In general, treat us like adults.  Don’t try to trick us or hide the truth. In the words of one of our readers (Wize Adz, who are you, friend?), when you take our money from us, “don’t be a d*ck.”
Thursday, July 19, 2012