Does Convenience Trump Cost?

by Elizabeth on September 6, 2013 · 2 comments

Usually, I’d answer my own question with a hearty “No.” Convenience, I’ve learned, is rarely enough to compensate for a higher cost, especially if that cost is significantly higher. But recently, I’ve discovered if that convenience comes in the form of good customer service, then it’s absolutely worth paying a little bit more to get.

Example #1: Insurance Quotes

The first time I saw this philosophy in action was when I was comparing quotes for new car and home insurance policies for our new house. Although Company A’s quotes were consistently lower than Company B’s, I had the hardest time getting in touch with the representative from Company A. I found myself leaving phone messages that went unreturned, sending emails that went unanswered; even when I took the time to stop by the local office, I found it dark and empty – on a Thursday afternoon at 2 o’clock!

What this told me was that Company A, despite having very competitive prices, was more interested in getting my business than keeping it. I wondered what would happen if I had this same customer service issue in an emergency situation; would I feel as put off then as I did now? Would my claim be handled in a timely fashion? I had a gut feeling the answers to those questions weren’t what I wanted to hear.

Meanwhile, Company B did an excellent job of calling me back and staying in touch via email. When I told them that Company A’s rates were lower, they did their very best to lower their own quotes without compromising on the quality of the policy itself. Ultimately, I realized that I felt substantially more comfortable doing business with Company B, even if their prices were about 5% higher than Company A. To me, that additional 5% was a “peace of mind” surcharge I was all too happy to pay.

Example #2: Track Pick-Up

After we moved into our new house, we discovered that unlike our old neighborhood – where trash pick-up was a part of city services, paid for with our tax dollars – we would have to pay a private company to collect our garbage. So, I began calling around to compare quotes.

Basically, everybody offered – more or less – the same service: garbage and recycling pick-up one day a week. Each company had add-on perks, but they weren’t really applicable to our household, so we took a pass. Finally, I’d narrowed down our options to one of two companies: we’ll call them Company C and Company D. Company C’s online quote was $61.75 every three months, while Company D’s was $65.00, a difference of $3.25. Typically, I’d automatically go with the cheaper quote, but when I called each company to verify their online prices, the customer service I received immediately made me change my mind. When I called Company D, a representative picked up almost immediately and patiently answered all my questions; I told her I was still collecting quotes and would be calling back once I made my decision. Then, I called Company C… and spent 15 minutes on hold without ever hearing a human voice on the other end; when I ultimately hung up (without speaking to a customer service rep), I was told I was still the seventh person in line on hold.

Since Company D had already come with a stellar recommendation by a few of my new neighbors, this choice was a no-brainer. Even though Company C had a lower rate, the extra $13/year that Company D would charge was worth it to be able to talk to an actual person on the other end of the phone when I needed to.

Have you ever paid more for something merely because of the convenience of it? If so, what led you to that decision?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Betsy @ ConsumerFu.com September 8, 2013 at 9:52 am

I’m sure I have paid more for better customer service. Nothing specific comes to mind. I know I’ve done things myself just for the feeling of satisfaction I get being able to do things on my own – when if you looked at the time it took I could have made more than it would have cost to hire someone if I’d used that time for work.

Convenience means different things to different people and has a different value. Customer service holds a different value. Heck…personal time holds a different value. I don’t sit there and evaluate all this with every little thing I do or decision I make, but it is interesting to take a step back and look at it all every now and then.

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