Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Are Upsells Being Oversold

During my recent series of travel, I was struck by the number of times I was offered opportunities to spend on upgraded services. From upgraded airline seats to hotel rooms, it seemed like every service wanted to entice me to pay just a little bit more for something extra. By my third trip I was so exhausted by upgrade offers that I began to imagine a one price all encompassing service.

Remember when the Saturn dealerships offered their one quote, no haggle pricing?

One of the funnier ones was the hotel reservation upgrade system. Essentially, there's an online business out there that, once you make your reservation, will offer you the chance to commit to spending a bit more for an upgraded room if it's available when you check in. For the hotel, they pitch the service as a no-lose offer. You're already committed to the service, but now there is a chance that you'll spend more, but only if it's available. What I found funny was, when I was checking in, they offered me the same upgrade deal -- there was no benefit to making the online commitment. Of course, the sad part is, remember when they used to just upgrade you? It's like they were just frivolously throwing money away on good customer experience. 

But it's not just travel. In the old days it was warranties and service agreements, but now retail upsells happen all the time. As more and more cities here in Silicon Valley impose bag bans, the transaction close is just the beginning of the sale. "Would you like a bag for 10 cents? Or we also have this nice reusable bag for two dollars. Would you like to donate a couple of dollars to the local charity?" At one of the local hardware stores, they seem to run a contest where they try and get the cashiers to compete at adding in something to the ticket.

As tired as I am of the world of constant upgrade selling, I don't foresee it going away. Look at the airlines and their checked bag fees. They have been able to rake in a ton of money from these fees -- enough to drive that same approach to all of the other aspects of their customer experience.
  • Want legroom?
  • Want to make it less of a hassle to go through security?
  • Want to have a nice experience at the airport in our lounge? 
  • How about miles? 
  • Food? 
  • Want to turn off the rolling in-flight advertisements running on the entertainment system?
  • Would you like to upgrade from cattle-class to being treated like a customer?
How long before we see credit card sliders on the bathroom doors? Or, if you commit to purchasing bathroom services before your flight, you can get unlimited trips to the bathroom for the entire flight for $10 ($15 on flights over two hours).

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