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.


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The Truth About Web Design


You are sitting with the IT Manager of a potential new client, they have been through your portfolio and like what they have seen and recognise that their website needs some professional help. This would appear to be a very good scenario and it is time to go in and close the deal. But wait the IT Manager just asked me what I thought of the corporate logo or the old website design? I had presumed that was why they had called us … because well it is brutal to say the least.

Like a lamb to the slaughter I tell the truth. The design is horrid and needs a complete rework and that is one of  the first places we will start in our brand exercise. There I have said it and I know the client will appreciate my professional honesty, except the look on his face tells me different. I just attacked his work, his baby he was the one that built this, this, what words can describe this brutal attempt at design! There is no place to go, backtracking is a waste of time and the meeting is rapidly coming to a close … but not the deal. No that deal is not going to close, at least with me.

You would think if you have done this once (and I have) you would never do it again! But alas sometimes you get so caught up in the honesty of the moment (and I have) that you forget and blurt out again how bad something is … and again go home without the deal in your pocket. Generally I presume it is not because you want to show the client how bad something is, but rather it is because you are so excited, as you know your team can make a very good impression and build something that works for the client.

Lessons learned in over 14 years in this business? First designers design, sometimes well and sometimes not so well, but for the most part they make very poor software coders. Second software coders write code and again sometimes well and sometimes not so well, but for the most part they make very poor designers. Third, it is probably best not to tell either group that generalisation to their face. It does not go over well.

Lastly and I know this so well from my years in the life insurance sales, a lifetime ago, when you know you have closed a deal and everyone is comfortable and chatting with their guard down … shut up!

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


Why Social Media Works


What I have found is missing from many businesses today is old fashioned customer service. The kind of service where you connect with your customers and take a moment to chat with them. It was this type of customer service that built long lasting relationships and kept customers in the past coming back to business.

You can have a great product or service … but that can be replicated by your competition. What the competition cannot replicate is your relationship with your customers. Social Media is an excellent tool to build lasting relationships with your customers. Imagine writing a note or posting most anywhere and you get a direct response from the company president or a person within the company? These are the type things that make you go, “wow I can work with this company.”

How can you make this happen within your business and where can you find the time in your busy schedule? First off in today’s market you just have to make the time to get the job done and done right. Your competition is or will be soon … it is as simple as that. Second you are missing out on a great opportunity if you do not take advantage of Social Media.

It is not difficult to create a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ pages and that is probably the easiest aspect of the whole process. Search on Google for creating a Facebook page or any of the others and you will find step-by-step processes to get that aspect accomplished.

Once the pages are created that is where the work begins. First add links to your website direct to these accounts so that your site visitors can connect to your social media accounts. Then you need to add content to the pages. If you are a reasonably decent writer you can write your own content, though make certain the spelling and grammar is correct before you publish. It is always good to get someone else to edit your content before you publish.

What not to write … blatant advertising. Your readers are looking for help and information not another ad to go to your website to buy this product or that service. For example one of the tweets I will use for this blog is the title, “Why Social Media Works” which will include a link to this blog … which of course at the very bottom has a call to action if you the reader wants to see how OTR can help your company with their social media management. You always want to attract business but the key is to be low-key about it.

A very important aspect of Twitter is the capability to search for specific phrases that people are speaking about. For example OTR’s Twitter name is “otrweb” or @otrweb and I have that term as well as some industry terms in my search grouping. For example if someone is posting a question anywhere about #html5 I can get a notification about it even if it has nothing to do with OTR Web. This gives me the opportunity to answer their question and build a relationship … and maybe a new client over time.

I can hear you saying to yourself, who has the time for that? Searching through Tweets … there are thousands that come through my box every day. That is where Social Media management software comes to play. From a single interface you can have the software select relevant people you wish to follow, schedule Tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn posts and deliver to your desk those people that have made mention of your company. Follow up on those posts and you are building relationships.

Lastly there is the on-line blog … it is from here that you can write relevant information that can help make you a go-to guy in your industry. When you provide information that will help people it is then that you have built some credibility about you and your company. So take the steps to create your pages … get your blog up and providing good information about your industry and see the traffic to your website increase exponentially.

If all of this seems daunting to you still …  then as I stated earlier OTR is here to help manage your social media platforms. We can even write your blogs for you, create and enter your Facebook posts and schedule your tweets at optimum times. If you would like more information then contact OTR.