In the Trenches: When Service Offerings Begin to Blur

At Cranky Concierge, we have a fairly simple menu of services: flight planning, flight monitoring, and urgent assistance. Although we handle various tasks in each of these three categories, our basic structure makes it pretty clear what we offer — and what our clients can sign up for. But we’ve seen some lines blur lately, so apparently our offering isn’t as cut-and-dry as we’d like it to be.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Flight planning is for people who need help purchasing their tickets. 
  • Flight monitoring is for people who already have tickets and want us to follow their flights to make sure their trip goes OK and to help if anything goes wrong.
  • Urgent assistance is for people who need travel support immediately.

Urgent assistance is typically where the lines get blurred. That’s because some travelers wait until a day or two before their flights and sign up for our flight monitoring service only if they foresee problems. For example, we’ll see a surge in sign-ups right before a big snowstorm is about to hit.

Here’s how we divvy up last-minute sign-ups today: If your flight is currently scheduled to depart as planned and you don’t yet want to make any changes, it’s flight monitoring. If your flight has already been canceled or delayed, or if you want help in proactively making a change, it’s urgent assistance. That makes sense to me, but it doesn’t account for the added cost and difficulty of handling late-breaking requests.

When someone signs up the day before a trip, we need to assign their itinerary to a concierge immediately. Although the request may come in after hours, we can’t wait until the next business day or we risk not having it assigned at least 4 hours before departure so the first update can go out on time. We quickly have to send out notifications to our concierges asking who can handle the trip. In general, we prefer to send these emails out once a week to keep things organized, but we can’t do that when people sign up at the last minute.

So, last-minute signups involve a lot of scrambling on our part and not always during office hours. That has left me wondering if we should add a fourth, higher-priced tier to our services for last-minute sign-ups. After all, these clients derive a lot more value from us than others do. For example, if they sign up at the last minute because the weather is bad, they are expecting a higher probability of something going wrong. They should have a higher willingness to pay as well, right?

I really don’t want to make our system any more complex than it is. But I also want to make sure that we are charging appropriately for our services. Adding a fourth tier seems like a smart way to add revenue. What’s your take?

About Brett Snyder

Brett is the Founder and President of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. He also writes the consumer air travel blog, The Cranky Flier.
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5 comments
nbarnard
nbarnard

I agree with the others that you should surcharge.. but don't phrase it as such. Raise your prices and then provide an early signup discount. The pricing ends up the same, but this way you've managed the marketing in a cleaner way.

 

I'd also kick around making your window for a discount a week out. Nice and clean and it makes it harder to game the system.

Colonelchuck
Colonelchuck

Higher charge for last minute sign ups seems reasonable.

gordon
gordon

I agree with BSW...those that are gaming the system should pay a surcharge of some sort.

BSW
BSW

There should be a higher fee for signing up within a certain time of flying, say 48 hours. Nothing too high maybe $20 or $30 more, just slightly higher to encourage people to sign up longer before flying. Makes things nicer on your end, and encourages fewer people to game the weather. Have this include a 4 hour cut off, closer then that, and you have to use urgent assistance.

techauthor
techauthor

You can't buy hurricane insurance during hurricane season, even if the weather is clear. 

 

People signing up a few days before a flight, especially after bad weather or some similar risk has been announced are gaming the system. They will always be your highest cost clients

 

You have to do something to protect yourself., Add a cutoff date for regular monitoring service or add a last-minute surcharge; deny new monitoring  requests from new customers after the event news (weather most likely) is public but allow emergency service.

 

Don't let your most expensive customers (in terms of business effort vs revenue) cherry pick your service. 

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