Smart Money ran an article yesterday about a trend they've spotted: companies charging for "premium" customer service. Examples include Time Warner Cable ($180/year for a 24-hour support line and semi-prompt service calls), Apple (small business tech support with extra hand-holding), and Dell ($100 to $200/year for access to better trained technical support).
This is an idea which seems to make a lot of business sense--if customer service is worth something, why not charge for it--but from a consumer perspective I think it may be a tough sell for some companies.
If a company isn't providing me with what I consider adequate basic service (and, ahem, not everyone on that list does), then a pitch to buy "premium" service will likely be met with the following reactions:
- Anger, at being charged extra for what ought to be included in the base price, followed by
- Astonishment, at the chutzpah of a company trying to sell me something they so obviously have trouble delivering, and finally
- Laughter, at the out-of-touch executives who dreamed up such a scheme.
On the other hand, if a company which already provides excellent service (Apple, for example) offers me a premium service package, I may actually consider it. I'm not as likely to feel like the company is trying to nickel-and-dime me for basic service, and I'm more likely to believe that the "premium" service will actually be something better than average.
Ironically, the companies best able to get customers to pay for better customer service may be the ones already providing better customer service for free.