Customer Service as Ancillary Revenue

TICSS Customer Service Measurement Model

Image via Wikipedia

I’m suggesting a shift from thinking of customer service as a revenue source — which by definition makes it a form of Ancillary Revenue — rather than a sunk cost.

Don’t you already feel a little bit better about customer service having framed it as a revenue source?? Let’s start with an example.

When I call an online travel agency and they go out of their way to fix a problem, that creates goodwill, which has a value.

The revenue from my next 5 purchases directly related to your customer service efforts is additional revenue.

The cost of acquiring me as a customer is now amortized over multiple transactions and not just one purchase (the one with the problem which never got fixed which led me to never buy from you again).

The revenue generated from telling my friends generates additional revenue (at a low or no incremental cost). How many seconds does it take me to Tweet or worse yet FB post my experience (which you’ll never get to see and therefore can’t fix nor will it show up on any agency report).

Increase in market cap and differentiation. A little bit of customer service goes such a long way; travelers are yearning for the littlest morsel of help. Somebody at that massive online travel agency cares — there’s actually a human on the other side of this phone call.

Take the First Step.

Start with a clear intention of tracking the costs and revenue for a given set of customer(s). Intention is everything!

Start with one product and one set of customers and go from there. .

Use accurate ‘averages’ if you can’t get specific numbers. Limit your pilot to high margin products if that makes it easier internally champion.

Work with your colleagues in marketing, sales and finance.

Track the values on an Excel file if need be.

Apply it to historical data if you have all the data sets.


Why Isn’t This Done

First, Short Term Thinking. As executives and managers, we’re knee deep in the here and now that we don’t have time to think longer term.

Second, It’s not easy. The gravity and scope of what I’m advocating hasn’t escaped me. It’s a nightmare even tracking the costs and assigning a value to them. You don’t have to tell me, I’ve done this, I know.

Third, and I’m no accountant,  but my agency operations background tells me there is no universal report that shows the numbers side by side. Nothing that shows the actual costs for the customer service (say $5.00 in agent salary, $0.25 in phone call..) alongside the newly generated (or projected) revenue coming from the incremental revenue,  goodwill and lower customer amortization costs.

It’ll be worth it in the end.

When Airlines Should & Shouldn’t Charge For Something

Spirit Airlines Airbus 319-132 N506NK

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a thought, if more than 75% of passengers purchase an ancillary revenue item, it should be included in the ticket price.

If 75% or more of people on a flight buy a meal — meals should be included in the ticket price.

Airlines should have a threshold in lieu of what seems to be a “what can we charge for” and “how much will we get away with” mentality.

Not all ancillary sources are bad. There are the “good” kind of ancillary revenue like day of departure upgrades and premium seating — which airlines need to focus on — and the “bad” kind like baggage fees, food, etc.

Airlines should get creative on “good” ancillary revenue — ie: up selling and cross selling.

In the mean time, ancillary fees are going up up and up!

There are fees yet to be introduced held up purely because the reservation systems the airlines haven’t been able to keep up with the ways airlines intend on charging passengers. The fees we already pay are going up.

JetBlue‘s executive vice president and CFO, Ed Barnes, told analysts earlier this month that the airline has lost some potential ancillary revenue during the past quarter by waiving certain fees in this year’s transition to Sabre.” – Travel Weekly

Why is ancillary revenue growing? It works!

Ancillary revenue is a significant opportunity for Continental,” he said. “And United has done a very good job. There are many issues related to rolling out our ancillary revenue products. There are IT issues, there are global distribution system issues, there are timing issues in terms of where it is in the chain of purchase, whether it’s a prepurchase or day of departure or post-purchase.” According to Travel Weekly,

When Will All This Stop?

Not anytime soon barring an airline charging for something we really won’t stand for (ie: bathrooms, to charge for sitting down on the plane versus standing up..).

Who’s Bucking the Trend?

Southwest Airlines which maintains no baggage fees.