Jim was on a roll. In the past five months, he had come from the bottom of the sales chart to the top. Everyone at the office was impressed. He was determined to stay number one. With this in mind, he decided that every client was going to receive additional attention at no charge. Stop in and visit them, see what “no-charge” help was needed and provide it. Let his clients know that he was available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
And for the next three months, Jim’s clients thought of him as the best salesperson they had ever known. One client in particular was flabbergasted when Jim drove two hundred miles to get and then deliver a needed spare part on Saturday afternoon.
Another client even called Jim’s manager to tell her just how impressed she was with Jim’s sudden appearance late one Friday when he sat down and helped them get an order out the door. “He pitched right in,” she said.
But then a strange thing happened that no one, not even Jim could figure out. He started slipping down from number one in sales to number two, then to number three and then a sudden free-fall to second from the bottom.
Something’s wrong, thought Jim. Every client loves me, but I don’t have anymore orders. Don’t they appreciate what I do for them?
Jim’s clients love him because they get extra services for free. If, and when, they have a need for more of Jim’s product, they might buy from him. But a curious thing happens when people get something for free; they are less likely to buy in the future. After all, why should they? They get so much for free now without asking.
There is nothing wrong with going beyond the call of duty for a customer. But here’s a question — you take a New York City cab to your destination, get out and tell the driver to wait for an hour while you run inside to a meeting — do you think, assuming he even waits, that he’s going to wait for free or is the meter always running?
Let’s assume for the sake of argument, that this same taxi cab driver doesn’t charge you for waiting and neither of you discussed it. Every other taxi cab driver you know charges for waiting, and this one doesn’t.
Suppose you get in his cab again two days later. Aha, you think, the fellow who doesn’t charge for waiting. So you attend a three-hour meeting, get down to the cab and find out the meter has been running for three hours. How do you feel? Like you have been robbed? Like you’ve been cheated?
Do you have any right to these feelings?
Customers, if given free services will be trained to expect more and more free services. Their expectations of what is free will escalate in direct proportion to the amount of free service provided. And like your experience with the cab driver, if you stop providing these free services the customer will feel robbed and cheated.
Does the customer have any right to feel robbed and cheated? Probably not, but that still does not make the customer feel better. So what does the customer do then? Goes somewhere else.
The best approach to free service is to never give it. Ever.
If you give it away for free, then don’t expect to ever get paid for it — ever.
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