If a subscription has a waiting period, don’t penalize customers for it

14Jul09

When you purchase a subscription or any other service that lasts for a specific period of time, you generally expect that you’ll be able to use or enjoy it for every day during that period. In the case of things like a magazine subscription, it’s widely understood that it will take a few weeks before you receive the first issue. You still get the full year of service, but it just starts a little bit later.

However, when it comes to online services that lack any sort of physical component, people expect instant gratification. The company charges your card right away, and you get immediate access. In fact, I ran into a situation like that with an airline’s premium seating program. I paid the annual fee and the website said my subscription was active. Despite this, they told me I had to wait several days before I could actually use the features.

On the one hand, they did a good job telling me that it would take a few days before the service was active. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem fair to pay for the first few days of service when you have no way of using it. I’ve seen the same problem with insurance companies, too. In general, if there’s some technical reason why you can’t give customers immediate access to what they paid for, make sure not to charge them for that initial waiting period. To accomplish this, either wait until the go-live date before you charge their credit card, or wait until the service is actually active before you start the timer on their subscription.



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