Make Sure To Communicate Value When Adding Extra Charges

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On the recent weekend, we expected family and friends would be dropping by at irregular intervals with their various activities — making regular meals less likely.

I decided to stop at The Pickle Barrel — a well known Toronto restaurant and delicatessen — to pick up some bite-size deli sandwiches so we would have some easy snacks available whenever anyone was hungry. However, we are not fans of their lox and cream cheese sandwiches which are part of their pre-made party platters.

I asked if I could get a selection without these sandwiches and they confirmed this was possible — but would require a wait while they made up the platter. No problem. I placed my order and said I would be back in the recommended 15 minutes.

When I returned to pick up my order they rang it up and I was surprised that the price had increased by 50% versus the posted price. When I questioned the accuarcy of the bill, I was informed that mine was a custom order and this resulted in the surcharge. This was the first I heard of any surcharge. It was also something never charged in the past.

I asked to speak to the manager since I felt they should have mentioned this when I placed my order so I could have decided whether I wanted to; 1) the pay the surcharge, 2) take the standard platter, or 3) not order at all.

The manager claimed he was unaware of the surcharge and would look into it — but was unwilling to take any action.

I left wondering what function this manager played. He claimed ignorance of a policy that a cashier was implementing — yet was unwilling or unable to do anything about the policy.

More importantly, I was surprised by his complete lack of interest in the issue. It was simply, “I don’t know and I don’t care”.

My Perspective: Of course, the issue was not the charge, or the amount. The issue was that an extra charge was not clearly communicated to me and resultant I was surprised by the change. This left me feeling trapped into a purchase I may not have wanted.

On a more expensive purchase, in addition to breaking trust, this could lead to embarrassment if the customer was unwilling or unable to pay the demanded amount.

It is critical that any extra charges be clearly communicated to customers before the service is provided.

Plus, it is equally important to make sure that you communicate the reason(s) for the extra charge in a manner that demonstrates value to the customer.

Transparency is a key driver of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Don’t risk losing a customer because you assume they understand your pricing structure.

Review your pricing structure to ensure there are no hidden surprises and that every employee is clear on how to communicate the value associated with the change that justifies the increase.

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