In the Trenches: Do It Ourselves or Partner with Someone Else?
We do a lot of things at Cranky Concierge, but not all the things we do are necessarily things I want us to be doing. The best example of this? Frequent flier award redemption.
When the business first started, I wanted to focus on providing flight monitoring and urgent assistance, but I knew people would want help planning their flights as well. I hadn't really thought about frequent flier award redemptions and instead just had it lumped in with the rest of our flight planning efforts.
It didn't take long for me to see a major flaw with this. The few times people asked us to help them use their miles, it was incredibly time-consuming, even painful. It can require hours of searching; painstakingly putting together different possible connecting points to find those precious seats that are eligible for awards travel. The money we were bringing in wasn't nearly enough to account for the time we had to spend on those redemption requests.
I re-thought our pricing and bumped up the cost of award redemption. Considering we didn't do a ton of them, it seemed like it would work well to dissuade customers from asking for this kind of service. I was wrong.
It turns out that we must have done too good of a job putting these tickets together, because we started getting more and more referrals and requests. The work didn't get any easier, but now we ended up doing a lot more of it. I came to realize that we were still underpricing ourselves.
So now, I find myself wondering what the best way forward might be. We could continue to do this kind of work ourselves, but we will need to increase our rates once again at the very least to make it worthwhile. Or we could look to partner with someone else to do the work for us.
There is no shortage of people who do award redemption for a living, and they pay much more attention to the various partners and rules than we do since it's not our specialty. I've had good talks with one person about simply sending our customers to his team for this kind of work, but I'm not sure if it's the right thing to do. It might just be better to keep it in-house at a higher rate.
What do you think?
Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.