There’s No Free Lunch

1st February 2024

One of my mentors – Pradip Patel, the ex managing director of Boots Opticians – once said to me: “Rahil, let’s be clear, there is no such thing as a free lunch”. Now I’ve heard this quote many times before and many times since but a recent experience thrust it to the forefront of my mind and it’s been permanently lodged in there since. I had booked a holiday with a very well known low-cost airline – I did this not because it was cheap, but because the timing of the flights suited us better and I felt it was a bonus that we were paying almost half of the more premium airline. Fast forward a few weeks however, and I found myself having to try and contact the airline to clarify an issue I was having. When I tried to ring the phone number the airline would not let me talk to anyone and instead passed me onto its online AI web chat. The web chat proved beyond useless as it kept asking me the same questions and when I requested to be put through to an agent it kept asking me to try the frequently asked questions first. When I told it I had done that it would kick me out of the conversation and ask me to start again. The realisation for me was that everything comes at a price (or a opportunity cost). One has to decide on the value of something and whether you place a lot of value on it or a little and invest in it appropriately. My recent experience has forced me to assess the price of customer service and time. I feel unwilling to compromise on the ability to deal with real people with knowledge and skills compared with a automated AI system. I also abhor losing time to frivolous tasks. In the long-term customer service, knowledge and relationships will always trump computers.

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