As the current rumblings over empty Olympic seats, the ‘fit’ of various sponsors to the Olympic brand and ideals, and the widely anticipated worries over whether the infrastructure will be able to cope suggest, there’s no pain without gain. For those attending any of the events, a degree of trade-off has played its part. I’m sure for most people, being part of history will outweigh any inconvenience, discomfort (physical or philosophical), or expense.

In fact, doesn’t every purchase, service transaction, or interaction with a ‘brand’ involve this kind of mental trade-off, albeit often on a smaller scale? Personally, I can think of three recent experiences where I’ve had to trade-off the time and/or money I’m prepared to invest in something against the benefit I’m getting from that ‘cost’.

1. Investing time to improve the experience:

In years gone past, we have booked our family holiday through a traditional travel agent to save time. Last year the six of us had a truly unexpected and unpleasant 2 hour transfer in a cramped coach for a 30 minute direct journey, so you’d think it might have been logged somewhere or even remembered by the sales person we have used for nearly 10 years, when we rather tentatively went back again a few weeks ago. They didn’t make us feel very valued …  “we’re very busy now, could you call back after the weekend” … it felt like familiarity had bred a form of contempt for our business. So we decided to book our flights, hotel and transfers ourselves.  It took a lot longer to do, but we feel we have ended up with a more bespoke holiday for a lower overall budget, and my wife and I have enjoyed doing this together.

MORAL: Don’t take your customers for granted, because if you can’t demonstrate the value of your proposition, you’ll soon cease to be relevant.

2. Investing money to get better service:

Our overflow freezer in the garage has broken. We know the type of replacement we want and the budget we want to pay. Our local specialist delivers and fits the new unit and also (crucially) takes the old unit away, so we feel he’s worth the extra money to an alternative on-line purchase direct, just to make our lives easier.

MORAL: You have to justify a higher price with additional tangible benefits. Charging less only works well if you also stay above the line of acceptable service.

3. Investing time to make things better (rather than just walking away):

At the end of last week, I had what could be called an ‘off-hand’ service experience when a local garage put on new front tyres for my car. I asked them to write on my paid invoice that I was far from happy with things. A follow up call by a well-trained person from their head office has prevented me from being a lost customer as they professionally and genuinely checked out what had happened and they expressed the hope I would give them a second chance to show they had dealt with the problem person and situation.

MORAL: Disgruntled customers will still come back, if your service recovery strategy is fast and (demonstrably) effective. Take the time to learn from your lost customers, or those about to be lost.

As the Olympics continue their spell-binding action this week, I’m hoping the thousands visiting venues will receive good service, have a great experience and go home at the end of their day feeling their custom, time and money was appreciated.