Every business is a service business.

We apply the tools that make service businesses stronger through better strategy, innovation, marketing and day-to-day management.

Thank you for joining the conversation.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I look a gift horse directly in the mouth.

Should you complain when receiving a service free-of-charge?

I expressed some dissatisfaction this weekend when taking glass products to my local community recycling depot.

The source of my displeasure was that this was my 2nd attempt at doing my green duty to all the glass we’ve consumed over the past few months.

The previous Sunday morning, I rolled up, ready to do some recycling, only to find the recycling depot closed. A sign on the locked gate clearly informs all that recycling hours are Tuesday-Friday, 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM, and Saturdays, 8 AM to 4 PM. Which means that in my week, I have exactly 8 hours available to engage in this form of environmental stewardship.

So, when an absolutely friendly volunteer asked me how I was, I replied honestly that I wished I could take care of this tomorrow, and that their hours of operation were inconvenient. The response from the attendant expressed, “Hey, we’re here doing a public service. The least you can do is show up when it’s convenient for us.”

I think I was in the right to complain, but it sure didn’t feel welcome.

My take is that a service is free, likely because of what the provider gets out of it.

Their benefit is usually monetary, either from what they receive in return for a by product of the service or from third party who acts as payer for the service (though if funded by tax dollars, you could argue that the service is not truly free). It turns out both are involved in the case of the recycler. If this is the case, the relationship looks very much like a traditional service transaction, and even if you aren’t paying anything at the time you use it, the party performing the service still gains enough benefit to hear your criticism.

Even if the benefit is truly altruistic, the provider has the objective of maximizing how much altruism they can produce, which still requires the fundamentals of good service management. Alerting them to delivery issues helps them correct for the shortcomings and provide a service capable of doing ever more good.

Of course, I’ve seen cases where my opinion is not appreciated nearly as much as I think it would be.

So I ask again: Should you ever complain for service that is being rendered for free? When and in what circumstances? When (if ever) shouldn’t you?

1 comment:

Matthew said...

This one resonates - I think it points squarely to some of the most critical aspects of the service experience: selecting people to perform a service, educating them on your business model, guiding and rewarding behavior for enhanced service delivery, setting up systems for the collection of customer input - I could go on and on.

Of course, doing any of these things is predicated upon understanding who your customer actually is, what your service is actually providing, and who your providers are. Of course, the individual that you dealt with might have no idea how the business works, nor has received any training, nor has any systems/processes at their disposal (pun intended) to help them effectively deal with these sorts of situations/comments.

Also, it appears that there is a dual status (customer/supplier) for citizens frequenting the recycling facility, only reinforces the lunacy of the response you received. Do I hear the approaching footsteps of an entry on the co-creation of service?

This makes me think of an experience I had in a drive thru not long ago, but I'll save that for a comment in a later post (I'm sure you will address drive thru experiences at some point!

Keep it going - good stuff here Redburn.