What has this cost the company (which is obviously set up for just this transaction and probably goes through the process many times an hour)? The call cost something. The representative’s time cost something. Let’s call it $5 (wild guess), which is a cost they then have to build into their prices, probably lowering total units sold.
But there’s a solution. I just received the following email:
Dear Dick Margulis,Bingo! One email, sent by automated script two weeks after the purchase, alerting me to what I’ll see on the bill. Total cost: less than a penny.
This notification is just a friendly reminder (not a bill or a second charge) that on Sep 9, 2011, you placed an order from [obscure company]. The charge will appear on your bill as “[even more obscure rubric]”. This is just a reminder to help you recognize the charge. You will not be charged again.
Some employee of the company suggested that strategy and hopefully got a reward or a promotion for doing so.
I don’t know if you’re old enough to recall when every box of Kodak film came with a folded sheet of instructions printed on lightweight paper. You may not even be old enough to remember film, but just go with me on this. Kodak had an employee suggestion program. Any employee could write up a suggestion, and if the suggestion was implemented, the employee would get a hefty reward. The number that sticks in my mind is ten thousand dollars, which was nothing to sneeze at fifty years ago.
Well, one inspired employee came up with the idea of printing the instructions on the white inside surface of the yellow box itself, rather than on a separate piece of paper. The cost of the reward was recouped within weeks of making the change, perhaps within days.
A decade or so before that, another Kodak employee noticed that the Brownie camera kits sold as Open Me First Christmas presents were being returned in large numbers because of dead batteries. The batteries were dead because they were inserted into the cameras when the packages were put together, in July, so they could be shipped to stores in time for Christmas sales. The employee suggested packing the batteries in a separate slot in the box, rather than in the camera. Problem solved. Returns cut to a negligible level. Millions of dollars saved.
When was the last time, in this age of MBA-led corporations with their attitude that all innovation comes from the top, that you saw an employee suggestion box?