How investing in your customers can make the difference in a competitive market

The difference between very good brands and good brands can be traced to simple human traits – if you like call it brand personality.

Check this story. An American citizen once travelled to the Orient. Because he was staying at a friend’s house instead of a hotel, he decided to buy a gift for his friend’s family. So on his way from the airport, he checked into a retail store.

Unknown to the American, the gift pack he bought wasn’t what he had asked for. Because it was wrapped, he didn’t discover that. Getting to the house of his host, the customer unwrap the gift to some ‘amazing dismay’.

He called the store customer care line to make the error known. Very early in the morning, guess who first knocked on the family’s door? It was the CEO of that retail store.

Now, he didn’t just come with a replacement for the gift, he also came along with a baby doll for the family as a present. And all over the CEO’s face and lips was written, “We are sorry, it’s unusual and you don’t deserve all that trouble”.

This story is a classic in customer management classes. The attitude of the CEO of the defaulting retail store has, as a consequence, drawn many tourists to the store whenever they visited that part of the world.

It is amazing however how that little gesture of ‘caring’, ‘respect’, ‘recognition’ and ‘humility’, has on the long run worked for that retail store more than a billion wasted on ads on billboards and Facebook Business.

In the developed world, according to Philip Kotler, a marketing guru, there are hardly bad brands anymore. The competition is, mostly, between good and very good brands. But sad enough, not all business and organisations have invested the efforts necessary to create a desirable perception.

It is important to understand that the best investment anyone or any business can make on a personal, interactive level at any contact point of business engagement is investing in the way they are perceived. That is good business.

If you care to know, most ads are now seen as commercial harassment. Too many good advertising companies are putting in the work and copies only to see the business and clients destroy the good work by not investing to buttress that perception at contact points.

Here are some 21st harsh truth about brand building:

  1. Any Investment you make in your employees is an Investment in the customer: Investments in machines and processes cannot equal the investment in the people who have contacts with the customers. A satisfied employee will ultimately have a warm, endearing engagement with the customers. How many times have you been to a bank and you notice the cashier ‘couldn’t even ‘broker’ a smile because he or she is not motivated or because they are upset by some treated received from top management. How does it make you feel when the receptionist at a hotel you‘re going to be using is all ‘stonewall’? Definitely, you feel unwelcome and may decide to use some other hotel or branch next time. Most businesses are gained at the personal interaction levels. Many of your customers may have been turning up again and again, due to the recognition and respect they always receive right at the gate or the security post.
  1. 2 Hire for value-match not for qualifications alone: Don’t aim to change people after you have employed them. Hire those who have the best skill-set and human attributes that correlate with your organisation or business’ culture. There are good doctors that piss off patients with their bad temper; the best engineers may have an uncaring tone; some receptionist can speak the best English and dress well but at other time behave snobbishly. There are also good managers with less chutzpah. Entrepreneurship is a platform to make impact in the world, so it’s important to set out to add value to people from day one and hire only those people who can help you do that well.
  2. Always look out for ways to make others happy at little cost: The CEO who made that visit to return a misplaced item merely invested two hours of his time, taxi fare and the cost of a baby. In return, his chain store gained good publicity by turning a potentially bad situation to the company’s advantage.  Because Americans value respect, the story was reported to family, friends, even enemies, back home in the States. If that chain-store had decided to globalise its business, America at that point would say ‘welcome’.

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