How “Free” Always Pays for Itself

February 24, 2016 | Author: Kristin Guthrie

Smiley faces drawn on the dinner bill. Chocolates on your hotel pillow.

“Have a nice day” on an invoice. Compared to the “serious” aspects of daily business, these common gestures can seem silly.

But according to a study conducted by Brigham Young University, those simple, silly acts account for some big money over time.

How free always pays for itselfWhat’s a peppermint worth to you?

When a server brings you a check, you will tip the server whatever you feel the he or she deserves. But take that same server, same restaurant and meal, and add a mint to the check tray, and your likely to increase the tip by 3 or 4 percent.

For the server, free gets even better. If he or she looks you in the eye when they’re delivering the bill and the mint, tips increase substantially. They bring you a second piece of candy, and the tip will often shoot up to 20% higher.

How free always pays for itselfIt’s not just appreciation. It’s reciprocity.

Why are we influenced by these little gestures? It’s the way we’re wired. We know we’ll pay for a product or service we use – that’s the way life works. But the mint doesn’t fit with that scenario. Though it's been given to us gratis, we feel obligated to recognize the effort.

You’ll find another example of the reciprocity reflex in your mailbox. Those personalized return address stickers you get from a lot of non-profit organizations – they cost pennies to produce. But the automatic response to compensate for the kindness brings in billions for those organizations every year.

How free always pays for itselfPotential Airline Implications

Encourage flight crews to write thank you notes on first class napkins. Then evaluate inflight product sales after the fact. Was there an impact? Try putting a bowl full of bright candy at the ticket counter. Or add a smiley face, or a “come back and see us again” note on the back of a passengers ticket.

They’re simple, silly – and one of lowest-cost, highly effective ways you have to influence customer loyalty and goodwill.

How free always pays for itselfHoneywell’s Take on the Study

Often, good business practices come from connecting the straight line dots. The customer is given something, and the customer responds with financial or attitudinal compensation.

Based on this research, we’re now looking for simple and delightful detours. Encouraging customer service employees to create unexpected, feel-good moments. A hand written note on a contract. The addition of an emoticon to a business email. Or even adding a nice comment on a shipping document before dropping it in the box.

Kristin Guthrie

Kristin Guthrie

Kristin Guthrie is the Vice President of Customer Experience for Honeywell Aerospace. She is the advocate for the AT&R customer experience (CX), translating the CX vision into action benefiting customers via multiple channels and touch points. Kristin has over 21 years of leadership experience positioning brands, products, and services in various sectors, including aerospace, home security, and consumer electronics. Kristin has a track record for promoting and building brands with customers, advertisers, strategic partners, and celebrity sponsors. She has received a number of awards for her outstanding success as a marketing professional. Kristin has an MBA from the University of North Texas and a B.S. in Marketing from, Kansas State University. She is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt and is also Marketing Leadership Education Program certified.

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