A service voucher is a type of coupon offered by a business or public agency that allows those in need of social services to get them at a reduced cost. Services usually included in such a voucher system are those that people may need but cannot afford. A few examples would be rehabilitation services, home repairs and transportation. The service voucher is usually not free but comes as a reduced cost to the customer, often with the organization or agency subsidizing the cost to keep the service provider from losing money by accepting the voucher. Most service vouchers target those who do not have the financial resources to pay full price for such services and availability may be based on income.
When a business or government agency decides to create a service voucher, it targets a market. This market often includes people in the low-income bracket, but it also may be specific to the service. For example, a rehabilitation program voucher may only be made available to recently released criminal offenders. Services that anyone can use, such as discounts on groceries or public transportation, will typically use income as a criterion to determine who gets a voucher and who does not.
While it can be, a voucher is usually not free, but the price may be greatly reduced to make it affordable for the target audience. This allows the target audience to receive needed services. It also can help the business providing the service because, while a business may be reducing its profit by offering a lower price, an effective service voucher will likely drive future business for the company. The business also may be reimbursed by a public agency for at least part of the regular price of the service being provided. This ensures that the provider can afford to participate in the voucher program, thus ensuring that voucher customers will have access to the service.
When it comes to pricing a service voucher, the issue may be discussed among owners of businesses, unions and public service agencies. This keeps the voucher program from creating unfair competition for businesses not participating in the program. Participating businesses may not want to lose money on materials and labor costs, so prices will likely be set so the business will either make a small profit or at least break even. Services to be provided through such a voucher program also are discussed until the voucher terms are agreed upon.
A service voucher frequently targets an audience with financial problems, but sometimes a voucher will be included with a product purchase. For example, if someone buys a computer, he or she may receive a voucher for free technical support for a limited time. This will help the consumer set up the computer without having to pay extra for the technical assistance. If technical support is needed after the free period expires, a customer who was well served by the free support may be more willing to pay the same company to continue providing that support.