Value Based Customer Service


Value Based Customer Service

It has been said that the airlines are one of the primary examples of value based pricing. They have convinced the public that if the person next to them is flying for much less than they are it is because of some factor that we (the passenger in the seat next) could not get because of time or some other nebulous consideration. The airlines have convinced us that we should pay additional to fly with luggage with an increasing rate for 1 bag or 2 bags and a horrendous rate for 3 or more bags. Here have a couple of cookies and a pop … really it’s on us! We seem to accept this and are happy to fly on their airline. 

What they have missed was the unintentional results of this “value based pricing.” As they started to charge for luggage, passengers reduced the larger bags and started using the carry-on.  The value based customer serviceconsequence was the carry-on bag now filled the overhead bins to the extent that the airlines were forced to offer to check your bag for free at the gate. Today you get on a plane and often have to place your laptop bag under the seat rather than into the bin because there is no room. Or you can pay an additional fee for more “value” and jump to the front of the line so you can be the one to get your bags into the overhead bins.

What the airlines have forgotten is the other “value” and that is the value of the passenger who is the customer. It is the customer that pays the fares, the customer which generates the revenue base that allows the airline to schedule the flights.

 The formula is Customer> Value> Price> Cost.  The idea is the customer perceives the value and is willing to pay the price. 

A further unintentional result is the manner in which the employees end up treating the customers.  The culture runs down from the top and when the CEO’s and CFO’s decisions are based upon selling perceived value that philosophy carries over to every department of the company.

A real life example … recently I was flying from Boston to Denver on a United flight. The passengers were herded into Groups 1, 2, 3, and 4. Group 1 boarded and then group 2 and so on until it came to group 4. At that point there was an announcement that the overhead bins on the aircraft were virtually full and it was probable that you would have to check your bags or place them under your seat. One CSR came down to the agent who was checking the tickets and asked if he could announce that people that were willing to check their bags could come forward and they could board right away.  In a loud voice and with complete disdain this agent stated, “I do not do that any longer as the passengers were getting smarter and simply tore the tags off while going down the ramp and then boarded the aircraft with their carry-on in tow.” Of course the cattle in Group 4 were supposed to hear this and be properly chastened, as they were the group that placed the lowest “value” on the flight and as a result were the last group to board the flight. It was a despicable display that treated the airlines customers as worse than second class customers.

The question is how was all of this allowed to come about? We the passengers must take some blame but that is difficult because for the most part all of the airlines do the same. Banks are another example, do it our way or don’t do it at all. This whole value system comes down from the top of the organisations. Pricing executives are hired and moved to the upper floors of the corporation. Value has become king and service moved to the lower realms.

I am not against sales and purchases being made on value.  I am willing to pay what I think/believe something is worth; but it cannot be at the expense of courtesy, dignity and customer service. It cannot be because each company has gone the same route and left the passenger with no choice except to accept they are cattle to be herded into Groups. These same executives that preach value based pricing must also preach excellence in customer service. Every passenger is important and should never be made to feel lesser and unimportant to the airline or any other company. 

I have railed against an airline and in particular United because I had firsthand experience; but the principle remains the same for all business. Price on value and sell on the perceived value, but always remember the basic truth and that is the customer is always number 1.

Starbucks does it well … ever paid for their coffee? You are paying for the experience and the perceived value and you are treated well.  Airlines and banks figure it out and do it better.

Ian ConklinIan Conklin is the President of OTR Web Solutions a web development company building marketing websites since 2000 with offices in Canada, USA, Europe and South America.

OTR Web is a Value Added Partner with HubSpot.


For all your Inbound Marketing and Website requirements Contact OTR Web.


Customer Service and Banks


Customer Service & Banks – An Oxymoron?

If a business owner ran their business like a bank runs theirs … would that business have any customers? Do you remember when banks actually took notice that they were in a service industry?

Walk into any Canadian bank and ask to open a corporate chequing account – the response is, “Do you have an appointment? You answer no, I just want to open an Customer Serviceaccount.” The teller looks at you in frustration as though you were from another planet and responds, “You must have an appointment.” Then carries on with a trained smile, “We have an opening on Monday or Tuesday of next week, which of those days would be good for you?”

Let us turn the tables around – say this same teller walks into your electronics store and states, “I would like to buy one of your 60″ TV’s” and your response is, “Thank you that’s great … let me see, ah yes we can fit you in next Tuesday or if you are in a hurry maybe late Monday afternoon. Big smile “How does that work for you”?

One would presume the teller/customer would leave and head over to the next store to buy their TV … only the next store states the same thing … and the next store and the next. All responding the same.

The electronics stores all followed the leads of the rest of the pack and latched onto a mindset that the customer was not the important thing … profits were the important thing. If customers want our products they will line up with what works best for us … just like a bank.

The banks? Well there is nothing we can do about that in Canada, aside from opening an account south of the border, where due to the plethora of banks they still have to provide service. What we can remember is our Canadian banking experience and look at our own businesses and make absolutely certain that the arrogance of the Canadian banking system does not creep into our businesses.

The customer is and always will be our reason for being in business. Being a businessperson is first learning to serve. By all means make a buck or two out of it, but service to our clients is paramount. If it isn’t we soon cease to be in business … unless you are one of the big 5 Canadian Chartered Banks that is.

Your comments are always welcome – for or against.

ian_conklin2Ian Conklin is the President of OTR Web Solutions a web development company building marketing websites since 2000 with offices in Canada, USA, Europe and South America. OTR Web is a Value Added Partner withHubSpot.

For all your Inbound Marketing and Website requirements  Contact OTR Web.


Customer Service – What??


Customer Service – What??

Have you ever gone into a business and got the sense that you were a nuisance to their day? The other day I went into a body shop here in my town. I walked into the front office which was empty, but a few moments later a lady poked her head in the door and asked if she could help me. I stated I needed an estimate done and she rolled her eyes in frustration and said, “maybe in about 10 minutes”.

Okay I can understand being busy and I can even admit that when my phone rings sometimes and I am in the middle of something a “perturbed thought” can flash through my mind. But the caller gets “Good day – OTR , Ian speaking” accompanied by a smile that they cannot see but hopefully hear.

Back to the body shop, my response to her was that’s OK not a problem and walked back out the door. From there I went down to another body shop, where there was staff in the office and was greeted with a friendly can I help you? I asked for an estimate and it was promptly performed while I waited. The estimate came in at $2500 and the owner said to me he “did not think it is worth doing … not a good return for the amount required”. We did however spend $500 there on some new lights and I left knowing I had met a good place to do business and a place I could refer people and a place I would come back to.

I was on a business page on Facebook today and they had a picture up of their front door, stating people that did not pull their pants up were not welcome in their store! Here is a customer servicestore owner that does not recognise that customers come in all shapes and sizes and some dress well and some often poorly and in many cases not up to our “standards.” But they all have one thing in common – they came into our business looking for a product or service or just to get to know who we are and what we are about and we had better treat them well or they will take their cash to our competitors!

Other than making us feel better about ourselves and superior to the people we are keeping out, what is the advantage in alienating groups of people that actually spend cash in our businesses?

Oh, what would have kept me in the first body-shops store? How about this scenario; Hi welcome! How can I help you? I respond I need an estimate. Answer, You know I am right in the middle of something but I can get at it in 10 minutes. Help yourself to a coffee and I will be right there. Is that OK? I’d really appreciate your patience.

Now if she had done this I would have stayed and I wouldn’t have had a blog to write today! Your comments are always welcome so please take a moment to write.



Ian Conklin is the President of OTR Web Solutions a web development company building websites since 2000 with offices in Canada, USA, Europe and South America.