Rethinking Unlimited Access Level Agreement

While watching Rory Sutherland’s Zeitgeist presentation for the 20th time, I was struck (finally or again) by his story about Spotify and how they have not gotten much traction with their offer of unlimited downloads per month. He suggests that they change it to some absurdly high number like 180 songs a month.


Sutherland reasons that unlimited provides no context to the offering. As he put it, “Nobody knows what unlimited music is worth. It is a bit like asking, ‘Would you like to buy my unicorn?'”

The 180 song per month limit would give the price context in that it could be compared to iTunes at $0.99 per song. So for $9.99 a month you could enjoy $180 worth of music.

This got me to thinking.

Perhaps access level agreements should have a similar notion. Instead of saying unlimited access, perhaps it should be changed to 30 contacts (phone calls or emails) per month. Now, this would be more than anyone could possible need, and would therefore it would not be a barrier to any customer in terms of being worried about wasting a call on their particular issue. It would, however, allow them to compare it to other plans where there is a per call fee, thereby increase the perceived value of your offering.

What are your thoughts?



  1. Ed,

    I take your point, but I believe that (certainly from an accounting perspective) nearly all customers are aware that most firms charge for calls or they have migrated from a firm where they were charged. Therefore, they have a point of reference from which to assess their perception of the value to them of this offer.

    It might well be that from a design perspective with the offering we make to customers, they can choose from a range of access levels which are priced accordingly.

    I believe that we need to make it easy for our customers to deal with us and the unlimited access agreement certainly does that as there is no disincentive to them calling.

    The other issue relates to your management of the restricted access – this requires the establishment of a process to monitor the access utilized and will only serve to drag us back to recording stuff which is of no value to the customer (“you’ve reached your quota”) and negative value to the firm.


  2. Matthew, I agree that we never want to create a reason for a customer to not call us. My point (and Rory’s for that matter) is that you can create an artificial limit that is inconceivable to exceed, say 50 contacts a month. I would not even track them on your side.

    The purpose is not to create a limitation, but to create context.

  3. Thomas L Bowden says:

    Perhaps we are looking at the wrong dimension. There can be levels of service that are not tied to volume. For example, do you want 24 hour turnaround on answers, projects, etc.? Or how about restricting the range of services – narrow, standard and broad. I am now offering a n unlimited access plan, but the number of times they need to call me does not seem to be relevant limiting variable. I am thinking about going to a three tier system with varying scopes.

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