Tesco - a return to old-fashioned shopkeeping?
In the UK, supermarkets have the art of profit honed to perfection. In the USA and other countries, supermarkets compete on price and quality. In the UK, supermarkets such as Tesco promote 'the shopping experience'. In other words, you will enjoy your time in the store, you will be highly satisfied with your purchases, but you will have paid more than anyone else in the world would have for similar goods.
This has an excellent correspondence with working as a freelance sound engineer. You could compete on price, you could compete on the quality of your work, or you could compete on the whole 'experience' delivered to your client. And if they are satisfied by that experience, they will be willing to pay you more. In fact, they'll enjoy paying you more because they will feel they are getting the best sound engineering around.
But here's a good question. Suppose there happens to be some problem that will cost you time and money to sort out. But if you don't sort it out, you will lose the client. Should you take the hit yourself and lose the client, or will the client be worth more to you in the long term. Put another way, is the cost of solving the problem greater or lesser than the future value of the client?
Nearly always, the future value of the client will be greater. Therefore you will grit your teeth and sort the problem out, absorb any costs and put in the extra time necessary. And you will learn the lesson for the future so the same problem does not arise.
However, to illustrate my point, this was not the case in a recent shopping expedition I took to Tesco...
I needed to buy a mobile phone (cell phone) because my land line had developed a fault that was going to take days to correct. So I bought a cheap $90 pay-as-you-go, no-contract model, which was pre-registered to the Tesco cell phone network. I would only need it for a couple of weeks at most and it would get the job done.
So I took it home, charged up the battery and started using it. Fine - until the battery ran out. It wouldn't charge up again. But by this time I had discarded the packaging and lost the receipt. Even so, I thought I could rely on the 'shopping experience' provided by this major supermarket chain to help me out.
So I took the phone back. "Sorry, we can't give you a refund without a receipt." But I didn't want a refund, just an exchange, and most major stores in the UK will do that without a receipt. And I must have bought the phone in Tesco because that's the only place you can buy one that is pre-registered to the Tesco network. But they wouldn't do that either. So I huffed and puffed and stamped my feet a little (using all of my meager acting ability).
Finally the store manager agreed to exchange the phone. "But hang on a minute", I said, "I need to keep my old SIM card". That's the card that provides the 'personality' of the phone and to which call credit is registered.
But they point blank refused. And my old SIM card had nearly $40 of call credit on it! They made me just give that away.
So in the end I have a cell phone that works, but it cost me close on $40 more than it should have, and I ended up an unhappy customer.
So next time I am considering whether to do my weekly domestic shopping run at Tesco, I might just decide to go to Waitrose instead. I reckon one weekly shop will easily lose Tesco more in profit than it would have cost them just to have helped me out a little with my cell phone.
So coming back to sound engineering, repeat customers are the lifeblood of any freelance worker. Look after them even if it costs you money, and don't let the same problem cost you money twice.