My wife has a top-level membership with one of the national fitness clubs and a couple of months ago she overheard other members talking about a membership benefit that was being taken away. It was a benefit that my wife had never used, had never even thought about using, and had no plans to use. But it didn’t matter – she was frustrated. Frustrated enough, in fact, to spend an hour online later that day to see if there was a competitor that offered the same benefit that had just been taken away from her.
An added benefit or something given away for free tends to transform, over time, from being an “extra” into an “inalienable right” in the customer’s mind. The variable to solve for in this equation is “over time.” For some consumers, it may be years, while other consumers make the leap in a much shorter time span.
If your company, in an effort to save on costs, begins to charge for or eliminate altogether something that was previously provided for free, beware that you may have invited trouble to walk through the door. You will face a potential backlash that may cost the organization multiple times what it thought it could save.
Cost-cutters sometimes argue that only a small percentage of clients take advantage of the offer, so it will only be a small fraction of customers upset. Unfortunately for them (and others who insist on learning the hard way), even those who historically didn’t take advantage will still feel cheated as you have taken away their opportunity to take advantage. This is what frustrated my wife so much with her fitness club. She derived value from knowing the opportunity to use the benefit was there and when that was taken away, her membership decreased in value in her perception while the cost remained the same.
On top of that, those who do routinely take advantage of such offers and additional benefits also tend to be the most vocal consumers. A dangerous subset to provoke.
Think through all of the potential implications and unintended consequences before taking back something your enterprise has long offered as an added benefit or as complimentary. Not giving it away could cost you dearly.