Volunteering a Small Credit

Something I try to encourage companies (and their customer service representatives) to do is to offer a small service credit to customers who have had issues and have had to call or email the company several times. Even if the problem wasn’t necessarily the company’s fault, the service experience wasn’t unpleasant, etc., it is an act of good will (and good business) to proactively offer the customer a small discount on their next bill. When I suggest this, I’m usually asked why in the world a company would offer a credit to any customer who was not:

  • Demanding a credit
  • Threatening to cancel
  • Threatening to sue, call the BBB, etc.
  • Violent

The act of proactively offering a service credit is almost unheard of. The idea, however, is a good one(I think). It shows that your company is dedicated to great service and to a great customer experience. Volunteering (as opposed to the customer asking or demanding) makes a big difference. Even if it is just a tiny service credit, the act of offering it proactively is always helpful. Customers will likely be impressed and appreciate the gesture. They’ll be impressed and appreciate the gesture because companies offering a service credit proactively is so out of the norm that it is a big deal.

One of the best parts about this is the service credit doesn’t have to be a large amount. What determines a “large amount” obviously depends on your business and the particular customer, but I’ve seen companies that bill $15 a month offer a $5 service credit to a somewhat flustered customer. The customers usually appreciate the gesture, especially every dollar given as a service credit is a dollar the customer doesn’t have to pay. Companies that charge $50 a month sometimes give a $10 service credit, which is perfectly reasonable. I would say you should make it roughly between 5% and 35% of the monthly bill, with the percentage getting smaller as the monthly bill increases.

What customers like most is that you are considering the inconveniences and problems they’ve had. And then you’re doing something about it. It just makes the customer feel good.

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7 Responses to “Volunteering a Small Credit”

  1. Benjamin Myhre said:

    Apr 03, 08 at 10:57 pm

    Great point. If you take a customer that is teetering between satisfied and unsatisfied and give him some reassurance the business is appreciated, I am guessing that the return would be phenominal.

    It would be interesting to see the retention rates of companies that utilize this on a regular basis. It would also be interesting to see if referral rates increase.

  2. PaulSweeney said:

    Apr 04, 08 at 4:00 am

    Just an added twist on that one: by pro-actively contacting the client and offering the credit, no matter how small, you set up a pro-active “compromise”, and in terms of “Influence” (The Book!) the customer is almost always forced phychologically to reciprocate. I would hazard a guess that if someone called me and offered me $10 credit because I though my last phone interaction with customer service didn’t go so well, I bet that I would spend that and more in the store. T’would be an interesting study!

  3. KermitFan said:

    Apr 04, 08 at 4:18 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more — the volunteered credit goes a long way with customers. A few months back, I called in to Comcast because my OnDemand service was acting up (and gave me an error code that told me to call Comcast). The call was exceptionally pleasant, and the operator that I spoke with worked on troubleshooting my error code. After resetting my digital cable connection, she apologized for the issue (that wasn’t her fault), and told me that I would be getting a credit on my next bill. The result: I’m a beyond happy Comcast customer. Because of her small gesture, I had additional confidence in the service provided to me, and it made me feel good about contacting Comcast in the future (which, I’m happy to report, I haven’t had to do!).

    Bottom line: the small gesture made me a customer evangelist, and was well worth the ~$10 that was credited to me.

  4. Service Untitled said:

    Apr 06, 08 at 1:22 am

    Thanks for your comments!

    Benjamin: That would be interesting. I’m not sure how closely companies that do it track the results, but I imagine the returns are definitely worth it.

    Paul: That would make sense. It definitely makes you appreciate and think more of the company, if nothing else.

    KermitFan: Glad to hear that you had great service from Comcast. I’m also glad to hear this idea works at large companies that aren’t typically known for their service (like Comcast).

  5. redmoon said:

    Apr 25, 08 at 12:00 am

    I agree with being pro-active and offering credit, but typically many Call centers deals with complaints all day.. at what point does offering credits for customer complaints become a loss?

  6. Service Untitled » Expedited Shipping as an Incentive - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Apr 30, 08 at 5:03 pm

    […] I am a big advocate of giving credits to help “ease the pain” that customers feel when they’re inconvenienced by one thing or another. What a lot of companies often neglect offering to customers is something that is usually just as (If not more) important: expedited shipping. Just how much sense expedited shipping makes for any particular company will vary greatly. Large companies that ship a lot of products (and thus have a lot more leverage with their preferred shipping company) will find expedited shipping to be a lot more cost effective than small companies that don’t usually ship products. The cost of expedited shipping depends on the product, the shipping company, and perhaps most of all, what your company means by “expedited.” Some companies consider expedited faster than two weeks, others consider it faster than 24 hours. These are all things you’d want to look into and make decisions about before offering expedited shipping to customers. […]

  7. credit said:

    Sep 02, 08 at 9:18 am

    Thanks for the informative post.. and thanks for adding our comment to the blog