Price vs. Customer Service

I’ll admit that I sometimes get sucked into that crappy show “Rehab,” if only to wonder why people willingly pay $50-$150 for admission and $20 a drink to hang out at a pool. This week featured one of the waitresses serving a cabana of Brits, whom she assumed wouldn’t tip. She reminded them that they needed to tip her repeatedly, to the point of being obnoxious, and then chased them down when the tip wasn’t sufficient. That, combined with my experience of ordering blinds, got me thinking – what’s the price of good customer service?

Do Servers Always Deserve 20%?

Sure, I have to agree that a bunch of guys with a $3200 a bar bill should have tipped their waitress more than $200. At the same time, was it appropriate to chase them out and tell them they “owed her” $600? She may think she gave them great service, but they may think that constant hounding for a tip was irritating and she therefore deserved less. I know servers work hard, and I never tip less than 15%, but I still think 20% is only for excellent service. Crying and carrying on because she got less than she thought she deserved was childish. If the establishment requires servers to tip-out, then that’s something they should take up with the establishment, not their customers.

Are You Willing to Pay More for Good Customer Service?

In some respects, I would be willing to pay more for a product if I thought I would need regular customer service. For example, when buying a computer, I would choose a manufacturer known for good customer service over one known for bad customer service. The prices would probably be comparable, but I might pay $100 more for a better manufacturer because something is very likely to go wrong.

On the other hand, I wasn’t willing to pay several hundred dollars more to buy blinds from the independent blind salesman who stressed his reputation and business manner. Instead I opted for 3-Day Blinds, which is also known for producing a quality product, and whose sales rep was equally nice and responsive. If anything, she was better because she wasn’t obviously nonplussed when we didn’t place the order on the spot.

The independent seller offered to look at the second estimate and “get within the range,” but that still sounded like he’d cost more. I don’t expect to need a lot of ongoing customer service for window blinds, so I opted for the better deal from a well-known company.

Does the Length of Involvement Play a Role?

At what point is the price more important than good customer service? If the service is part of the experience then I’ll pay more for it. When I bought homeowners insurance, I opted to pay a little more for a policy from an insurance agent who represented one of the bigger insurance agencies than to add homeowner’s to my current low-cost auto policy. The biggest reason was the customer service – the insurance agent was very friendly and attentive while preparing my quotes. She also thanked me for calling her. My current insurance company sent me to a call center, even thought I’d called the office where we bought the insurance. When it comes to insurance, this is a long-term relationship. Paying a slightly higher premium for an agent I know will be there for me is worth it to me.

What about you? Are you willing to pay a premium for good service? Where do you draw the line?

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