Brand Image & Customer Service – An Important Romance Of Sorts

Despite having great business models, products & services, the bane of many a business failure can be narrowed down to a handful of matters. These are also some of the things that helped businesses survive and prosper over the years. Bad customer experience is one of them.

Be it the downfall of Marriott’s public image or the plummeting of United Airlines’ shares, customer experience has proven to be pivotal for survival in the business world.

A good customer experience surely results in an immediately happy customer, and it helps generate additional revenues utilizing word of mouth, online reviews, brand recall, returning customers, etc.

Most marketing gurus would accept that the two touchpoints that build a great customer experience are people and products. However, the underlying assumption is that by “people” we mean ‘customers. This assumption has proven to be catastrophic for brands over the past.

In late 2017, the state of Utah in the United States was hit by a devastating hurricane that left thousands of residents stranded. Marriott International chartered a boat to rescue the stranded people off the coast of the Caribbean sea. To the horror of the people, the rescuers refused to take any non-Marriott guests, despite having plenty of room. As a result, even some of their guests refused to board. Later it was discovered that the crew acted such upon instructions from the management.

Despite the hotel chain spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the affected people and areas, the news created a massive whirlpool of bad PR. Stocks plummeted, guests canceled and the brand did the rounds of the media for all the wrong reasons. It cost them dearly.

This goes to show that customer service is not limited to existing customers or the goal of getting more business. Brand image is of primary importance.

Are you happy with the performance of the product/service? Are you happy with the customer service? What do you think of the company/brand? Is it environment-friendly? These are some of the many questions that arise in a person’s mind while considering a continued association with a brand or even starting a new one in any way.

In May 2011, a three-year-old girl named Lily wrote to supermarket giant Sainsbury’s saying that their ‘Tiger Bread’ looked nothing like a tiger. It did, however, look like a giraffe, and that they should change its name to “Giraffe Bread’. Brand management did take this suggestion from a toddler very seriously. They not only changed the name but also sent her a ‘thank you’ letter with a gift coupon. The clever notes suggesting this story on their packaging was noted by several people and was widely appreciated in the media. The world shared a laugh and the brand enjoyed good publicity.

There is but one moral to this story- for he is the king!

Harrowed in the depths of poor customer service may be the failures of businesses and brands, but once the lesson of taking the customer seriously is learned, all bodes well.

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