When it comes to the customer experience, I love having choices. Don’t you? It’s one of the things that make for a great experience for me as a consumer. Whether it’s a variety of brands on the shelf, choices within each brand, how I pay the bill, or being given the choice to put my purchase in a paper or plastic sack, I like being the one in control. It makes me feel special and sends a clear signal to me as a consumer that the business I’ve chosen to patronize sees me as an individual. I like that. Think back to the early advertisements of Burger King where the slogan was, “Have it your way.” They understood the importance of giving people choices and were quite successful in luring customers away from the competition with this approach.
But something happened the other day that really disturbed me because it may be a trend that is looming on the horizon. As I was getting ready to make a deposit on some landscaping work I am having done, the owner of the company indicated that he preferred cash. Landscaping is usually a big-ticket expense so I pulled out my credit card to complete the transaction. I know the owner preferred cash, but this is a business transaction and it’s all about me, right? As he was getting ready to swipe the card, he told me there would be an additional charge of 5% for using the card. I couldn’t grab that card out of his hand fast enough!
Another situation I came across last week had to do with some universities in North Carolina that are passing along the credit card fees normally absorbed by the business along to the consumer. If you are a student or supporter of these schools and you use a credit card to make your purchase, you will be charged a fee for the convenience of using that card.
Those who know me, know that I like to take a balanced approach to problem solving. So I looked at this from several different angles. There is no doubt that the use of credit cards increases the cost of products and services in our marketplace and in one sense I like the fact that I am not being asked to subsidize this convenience, but on the other hand I feel like choices are being taken away from me.
There are other ways my landscaper and the Carolina universities could handle this issue. I realize that we’re all looking for ways to streamline and cut costs in this economy. A more positive spin, however, might be to offer a discount if you pay with cash. My fear is that once you provide your customers with choices, taking these away will cause dissatisfaction. Trust me; I’ll be thinking twice about whether or not to use that landscaper again.
So you as look at the choices you offer your customers and how you might go about making changes to these, keep in mind the importance of allowing your customers to “have it their way”. Your ability to attract repeat business may depend on it!
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