Great Customer Experience is not Just the Responsibility of the Brands

Yesterday, I went to a unisex salon for a grooming session. I was attended by a young stylist. I started to engage him in a conversation. I asked his name (Sohail) and the place from where he came from (Chandigarh).  I asked him about how long he was in Bangalore, how did he end up here in Bangalore. He said how his uncle had come to Bangalore in search of work and he got him a job at this salon (owned by someone in Delhi). Apart from the salary he was drawing, he also had a paid accommodation provided by the salon.

Then he asked me about how I ended up here in Bangalore, how long have I been here and where do I stay. We shared a few laughs about how almost everyone we meet in Bangalore is not from here but is from somewhere else.

We then spoke about his dreams (he wants to save enough money to own a salon in his home town and travel the country). We then spoke about dreams in general. He offered me some tea, which I graciously accepted and enjoyed. While we were having this side conversation, he had finished my grooming session and it was time to part ways.

He asked me when would I be back and requested that I book an appointment beforehand and specifically ask for him by name to do my grooming. He also thanked me for taking interest in him and talking to him. He said that not many people take interest in people like him.

I came back home and did not think much of the conversation.

Of late, I have been thinking and reading a lot about customer experience. One thing that stood apart for me in my reading, especially after my experience at the salon was how one sided our conversations regarding customer experiences are.

We are only thinking about what can brands do to improve their customers experience with the brand. In doing this, we forget that in any given situation, there are two sets of people involved – the customer and the brand.

While all brands should definitely work towards improving the experience they provide to their customers, it is not the be all and end off customer experience. It is in their best interest to do so.

The question is what role do we play as customers or consumers in how we experience the engagement with the brands. Do we want to be passive and demanding that the brands go all out to improve our experience or can we do something that can improve our experience irrespective of what the brands are doing on this.

We as consumers can take it upon ourselves to have a great experience in every interaction we have with any given brand. We just need to understand that every experience is powered by humans (at least till now) and if we take a little bit of interest in them, they will take a lot more interest in us.

Some things that we all can do as customers to ensure that we have great experiences in our interactions with our favourite brands could be:

  • Give respect: Treating people with respect (whether it is the stylist at a salon, a retail assistant in a mall or a customer service assistant in a call centre) has a direct impact on the interaction we have with them.
  • Take Interest: Being genuinely interested in the people who are serving or interacting with us enables us to have a much richer interaction. All it takes is for us to ask some questions so we get to know them a little bit. For example, do we know the name of the person we are interacting with, where are they from, what are they doing here, what are their aspirations, etc.
  • Smile: We will be surprised when we look at ourselves in any given interaction with brands. Most of us never smile when we are interacting with people (or brands). Just smiling increases our chance of having a good interaction.

When I sit down and think about all the time that I’ve had good experiences in the past, I can always trace it back to having had a good conversation with the people engaged with me. I remember having interesting conversations with air hostesses, cab drivers, retail assistants and clerks, bank tellers, call center employees, customer service representatives at service centers, receptionists and auto-mechanics.

Every single time I’ve had these conversations, I remember going back with a good experience.

Given that this the case, the question then is the following:

  • Why are w(m)e not doing this more often?
  • Why aren’t more of us doing this more often?
  • Why aren’t brands encouraging this behaviour?”

I think it is time that we as consumers also take charge of our experiences.

Are Twitter Contests the Next Big thing in Customer Engagement?

In the last 2 weeks, I have seen a flurry of twitter contests being run by various brands, including news channels (ABP News), Software Marketers, Film studios, Fashion brands, TV stations, Online retailers, Comedy shows and a lot more.

The common themes in all these contests were:

–       You are enticed to participate in the competition via the possibility to win a gift coupon or some sort of prize

–       You are required to follow the brand’s twitter ID.

–       You are required to answer a set of questions and retweet the questions to your followers

In my opinion, the primary aim of all these contests seems to be:

–       Get more people to follow them

–       Get more impressions (through RT’s)

–       Get their brands to trend on twitter

These are easy to measure metrics, which they can then use to show brand engagement and the Returns on the Investment.

This seems to be a quick win for the brands as the participation levels in most of these contests seem to be quite good and they are able to add significant number of followers to the brands twitter handle (though, that by itself should not be the primary aim for the brands).

What is not known so far is the potential for continued engagement of these people with the brand?

In my opinion, the questions that these brands need to answer are the following:

–       How do we continue to engage with the gained followers post the contest?

–       Do we make such contests a recurring event (weekly or fortnightly) so that the amount of engagement continues to be high? How long can this momentum be maintained?

–       How can we tie these contents to the other marketing campaigns that the brand is considering?

–       Is it possible for the brand to be able to tie these contests to a social cause that the brand can associate with so that, not only does the brand gain more impressions on twitter but is able to support a cause while at the same time get some good PR.

PS: Some brands that did run twitter contests this month are Audi India, Dalal Street Journal, Disney India, Domino’s Pizza, Dreamscape Film Co, Elle, Garnier, ICICI Lombard, Jockey India, Kiehl’s India, L’Oréal Paris India, Lakme India, LP – Louis Philippe, MadOverDonuts, MaxIndiaLtd, MaybellineIndia, Micromax Mobile, Myntra.com, Nissan India, OUATIM Dobaara (movie), Tata Nano, Veet India, Zee Studio, SAP India, ABP News, Apollo Hospitals, AXN India

Just the variety of brands indicates that this has been successful across sectors, industries and business models.