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February 28, 2022

Should you offer your service for free?


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One of the main reasons why you start a business is to make money, not give things away for free. However, offering free services in certain circumstances can actually bolster your business. The key to having free services work for and not against you is understanding the right way to go about them. So, in this post, we will be outlining some essential dos and don’ts when it comes to offering free services in the field service industry so that you can get the free service technique right.

Reasons to Offer a Free Service

Here are some factors to assess before considering a free service.

1. If the free service does not cost you anything

There are certain cases were offering a product or service for free comes at no additional cost to your business, or at least, very little cost. For example, offering a free webinar on how to troubleshoot minor plumbing issues or any other such free opportunity.

Deciding if these kinds of opportunities are available to your business will depend on your specific field service industry. For instance, while offering to paint a whole room or space for free might cost your business too much time, money, and material resources, offering to fix a small portion of damage on a wall caused by an underground water leak and using some spare materials that you may have available may not cost your business as much.

2. If you can transition them to a paid user along the line

This strategy is a common approach to offering free services. It is similar to the free trials that streaming and other online services offer users. The underlying theory is to create an opportunity where you can show the customer how remarkable your services are. Once the free offer is over, the customer will be hooked. So think of a free service in this case as a salesperson closing a new deal for you.

3. If you can offer a pared-down version of your paid service

If your paid service can be pared down to a “free version”, this can also serve as a good promotional offer to potential clients. A good example is where you offer paid HVAC installation and can also simultaneously offer free HVAC servicing of a single installed unit as a pared-down version of your paid service. Free offers like this work well for new businesses—especially in the field service industry. They can help you build word of mouth and grow your business. To be successful, though, you need to make sure your free product maintains your business’ standards. There is no point in offering something free if customers are going to be dissatisfied with the experience.

4. If the benefits generally outweigh the costs

In the end, you need to ensure the benefits of offering free services will outweigh the costs. It will be of no use to offer free services if they are going to excessively drain your business of money and resources. If you determine that offering something for free can benefit you, it might be worth a try!

Furthermore, the benefits may not always come in the form of a boost in patronage. An example of a non-sales benefit is the information that you can gather from offering a free service which you can then use to your business's advantage. For example, if you offer a free landscaping service, you can use time tracking software to gather data such as the time it took to complete the project, how many employees worked on the job, how much gas you spent getting to the location, etcetera. This data can be applied in making scheduling forecasts and material cost predictions for similar projects in the future. You can also use this type of data to know what to charge future clients and set competitive prices.

How to Offer a Free Service

Once you decide to offer a free service, the second step is execution. There are 3 tips to keep in mind.

1. Set Clear Expectations

Expectations can make or break the offering of free services. Ensure that the details of your offer are clearly outlined—for the benefit of both you and your customer. Explain expectations at the time of the offer. Do not feel that you need to hide anything. If you will only be servicing one HVAC unit of a specific size for free, or doing a cleaning demo in only one room in a house for free, let the customer know. Setting clear expectations upfront can prevent people from feeling surprised and disappointed, which will likely save you from a headache down the line.

2. Keep communication professional

Do this even when the customer may be dissatisfied with your service. If you treat a customer with compassion when they are angry, they may remember your professionalism when the anger dissipates, allowing you to win them over in the end. And if you are not prepared to receive negative feedback on a service you have offered for free, you may not be ready to offer that free service at all.

3. Know when to decline requests for free services

If you find your business is getting bombarded with relentless requests for free work, especially from the same client, this may be a sign they do not value the work you do. Offering free services should be an opportunity to market your business. It should never be an avenue for people to take advantage of you.

Finally, it is okay to constantly reevaluate your approach to free services. If offering free services is no longer working for you, put an end to it. If your customers ask why you no longer offer a particular service for free, you can expressly tell them the truth. Again, setting clear expectations goes a long way in securing and maintaining customer loyalty.

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