It’s an unpopular opinion but any consequential task shouldn’t be left up to free software. If it’s important to your customer or crucial to your operation then free means you’re paying for it somewhere. So free lost and found software shouldn’t exist and let me tell you why.
Free isn't Free
Businesses need to make money to stay in business. Thanks capitalism! So if it’s “free” that means the company is making money off you somewhere.
Facebook is a classic example of free that costs you. As a free social platform Facebook collects vast amounts of data on it’s users and then proceeds to sell that data access directly to advertisers.
This data collection strategy has taken on a life of it’s own, often to the detriment of it’s users. Facebook’s data harvesting has grown to such epic proportions that it goes well beyond it’s user base. Even if an individual isn’t a Facebook user the company still compiles profiles, ominously called Shadow Profiles, on these individuals through various websites that use the Facebook Pixel for analytics.
So you and your customers are paying for it whether you know it or not.
How "Free" Lost and Found Software Costs You
Lost and Found software companies aren’t charities. Although, many companies are founded with the of best intentions, often times due to a tragic incident related to loss, they typically suffer from ill-conceived business models.
So when the time comes that money needs to be made to stay alive it is often at the expense of you and your customers. Here are some of the common ways that free software costs you and your customer.
Gouging the customer on Shipping Cost
Most free Lost and Found software will push both the organization and the customer to return the item by shipment. While this is often a super convenient feature, it is also an incredibly common opportunity for the software price gouge your customer.
Managing shipping is not easy problem. There should be a cost to solving it for the organization and the customer but $50+ to ship a phone is just excessive. Customers are often in desperate need for the missing item and pay the highway robbery to have it returned, but is that a customer experience you’re comfortable with supporting?
Pro-tip: encouraging your customer to pickup an item in-person is often a great opportunity to reengage the customer by offering a deal… looking at you bars, MLB stadiums, and entertainment venues.
Selling your customers' stuff
Making money directly off your customers’ misery. There are some software companies out there, I don’t want to name names but I’m sure you could find them in the crowd of companies, that make a significant portion of revenue by selling your customers’ found property for profit.
This actually creates an incentive to not return valuable items so they can make more money selling the property for cash. Your customer service and your customers’ interests are not only misaligned but now in direct conflict.
One of the reasons here at Liff Happens all money generated from the property disposal process is donated to a charity of our partner organizations choosing, we even wrote about the process a bit here.
Good / Cheap / Fast
While not a business strategy necessarily but a truth of the universe, things can be good, cheap, and/or fast… and you have to pick two.
Unfortunately, good tools cannot be fast AND cheap. There is always a catch.
So if you like something, whether it’s art, entertainment, software, or tools, you need to justify supporting that thing for it to continue to exist.
Lost property can be a massively negative experience for your customer. Don’t make the mistake of leaving your customer service outcome up to a free software solution. In summation, free Lost and Found Software shouldn’t exist.
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