Showing posts with label facebook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label facebook. Show all posts

25 May, 2014

Embarrassing Customer Moments

What customers rue most about is when a predictable customer service goes awry. Especially, if one has been pampered all the while for quite some time by the same team probably and that one negative experience makes a customer flare up very badly. Case in point is my own experience. I have been privileged to own and use a Mahindra XUV500, a premium SUV from the house of Mahindra & Mahindra, one of the leading automotive companies in India. M&M in short is more popular for their heavy vehicles and trucks but came up with India’s first SUV more than a decade back with the launch of “Scorpio”. Initially built as a five-seater, the marquee vehicle has indeed grown to become one of the most sought after SUVs in the country for its ruggedness and inimitable style albeit a bit old-fashioned. In fact, India’s incoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been using one for so many years and his Victory Sortee a week back at Delhi whilst standing dangerously on its foot board was a very popular photo doing the rounds all over. M&M launched its refined SUV to target the upwardly mobile with its premium SUV by the name XUV500 (read as XUV five double O), or Xtreme Utilty Vehicle with 5x Oomph. The vehicle is a master piece although it had teething issues soon after its launch but were rectified sooner than anticipated. Over time, consumers started appreciating the vehicle and it has gained acceptance among urban and rural users. It has won so many awards for its superb styling and road-handling abilities. I have been using it for about 2 years now and have driven about 30,000kms. In fact, I drove about 2,000 km over a week earlier in May 2014 all across Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. The drive was superb, comfortable and exciting. Interestingly, XUV doesn’t have a Brand Ambassador as such and relies heavily on social media such as Twitter and Facebook and also has a mobile application for Android and iOS. In fact Mr. Anand Mahindra acknowledged and retweeted the selfie picture I had posted on my account.

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M&M has done something which no other Auto Company has done till now – they have created a separate service centre for XUVs and premium models of Scorpio, so as to ensure that they are able to segregate customers and provide a superior experience for some. While the idea itself has been debated heavily within the Automobile Industry – whether it is a good idea to treat customers differently, the staff at M&M say that the profile of XUV customers is a few notches above those using other models and hence deserve a better experience. I have had a great experience all along with them and I have indeed enjoyed visiting the service centres, not for minor issues or major but as and when I have had a significant one which is few in number. M&M also provides a complimentary pick-up and drop of vehicles for its premium customers. During my recent interaction when my vehicle had gone for its 3rd paid-service, I had a very bitter experience with the service guys. They had over charged me, had not informed me the contents of the bill clearly and replaced parts which were in good condition. When I asked for clarifications, the staff was flummoxed and regretted their mistake.

XUV500

What upsets customers is when they feel cheated, especially by a team which has been managing their vehicles and the relationship quite well all along. It takes one small mistake and a goofy moment by one staff member who has been preoccupied with something or the other to lose all the brownie points that have been scored over time. Marketers must focus on consistency of service, be it at the Retail Store or After Sales Service. One negative experience is all people will remember for a long time to come despite best efforts put in by the team for the sake of customers. Its not just the staff of the Brand who get embarrassed but also the customer since they had never expected to be let down by their favorite brand.

22 March, 2013

Free Wifi will be a crowd puller for Retailers

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I was at the Starbucks (SBUX) outlet in South Mumbai a few days ago. SBUX, in a JV with the Tata Group  opened their first outlet in India in South Mumbai a couple of months ago. We had a long day ahead and decided to start our first meeting at this location for the sheer purpose of convenience. And ofcourse, some good coffee. Not awesome coffee, atleast for me. For which I would go back to Café Coffee Day, India’s largest café chain with over 1,400 outlets across the country which in my opinion still brews the best coffee in town despite lapses in service levels here and there once in a while. I was pleasantly surprised that the SBUX outlet offers complimentary wifi to those who wish to have a sip or grab a bite and spend time around at their cafe. Ofcourse, for me it wasn’t the reason why I chose my meeting venue there. But then, anything complimentary is welcome in this mean world, I say. So there I was, connecting all my three devices – the laptop, the iPadmini and the iPhone on wifi sponsored by Tata Communications (I felt it was a great marketing opportunity for them although they didn’t seem to use it as well as they could). I was online for over half an hour, finished my emails for the morning and was all ready to step out for my next meeting. The staff at SBUX, as friendly as they were, cheered every customer who walked in or walked out with a customary welcome or thank you respectively. Even as I was walking out, I wondered how happy I was as a customer using complimentary wifi at the café. I have a USB Data Card for my laptop, 3G for my iPadmini and iPhone. But then, its sheer convenience and speed to use wifi.

I have been extensively travelling since Aug. 2012, ever since I joined Royal Enfield where I am responsible for Dealer Development and expansion of other key pet projects for the company. I book my hotels myself, mostly on my Make My Trip Mobile App for the iPhone or on their website although the former is quicker and handy. While most of the hotels provide complimentary wifi in their rooms, only a few work seamlessly. It is usually patchy and the front office staff are usually unable to resolve the connectivity issue blaming it either on the service provider or sometimes on my device! (Yes, at a Delhi hotel, the staff claimed my iPadmini was faulty). These days I look for reviews on sites like Trip Advisor while choosing a hotel that provides complimentary wifi. And most reviews are correct and genuine, as I have experienced.

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That set me thinking, what if other Retailers provide Wifi to their customers. Would it bring additional walk-ins? Would it increase the stickiness? Would shoppers be showrooming – a term used for browsing the store for products and buying them simultaneously online, thereby increasing ECommerce? If so, would it help Retailers like Shoppers Stop and Landmark Book Stores which have a strong offline/online connect? I guess there are no immediate answers. Large Department Stores in the West have a café within their store so bored husbands and boyfriends could have a cup of coffee or a mug of beer while their wives/girlfriends are shopping. These days, my friends who live in the West tell me that Wifi is almost free everywhere around, which prompts them to choose a location for their need – be it a restaurant, a café , a book store or any other format of Retail. In India, unlike in the West internet bandwidth is minimal and the speed is not all that great. Cost wise too, it isn’t worthy for most Retailers to offer it free especially for those shoppers who just pass by and not really spend at their stores. Bangalore International Airport, where I worked many years ago was the first airport in India to offer free wifi for one hour to passengers passing through the airport. And most airports in India follow the trend albeit for a shorter duration. Atleast, large Indian Retailers should try this concept. With increased penetration of smartphones and tablets, there is abundance usage of data these days. Lousy 3G speeds by most Indian mobile networks mean an alternative connectivity which is what wifi is all about. Facebook and Twitter updates by the minute are not uncommon for those who are hooked on to their devices.

It’s just a matter of time that free wifi would become the thing of the day. Even now, I am sitting at another airport lounge while transiting from one city to another. And yes, this article would be published using the free wifi. Stickiness, I would say that I visit the lounge as often as I could, and just because of the complimentary boring food. If only the Lounge was more exciting with various marketing promotions other than the TV which is blaring music and bollywood gossip from one leading Indian channel just because they probably provide free Televisions!

22 June, 2011

A deal is a deal…

Unlimited Idlis and Dosas for only Rs. 149 at the reputed Mr.Idli! Multiple varieties to choose from!

What intrigued me was the headline that came to me as a mailer from SoSasta.com, a product of Groupon which is the worlds’ biggest group-buying site. Groupon was launched in November 2008, created by Andrew Mason who is also the current CEO of the company whose former employer Eric Lefkofsky provided him $1 billion “seed money” to develop the idea. The business model is that the site offers “group coupon” and the deal is valid if a certain minimum number of users (as predetermined by the company) buy it within a particular timeframe. Usually, there is one big “Deal of the day” and it is informed to registered users by emails and SMS. The discounts usually range between 30-60% but can go as high as even 90% in some cases. The offers are proposed on Health & Beauty, Cosmetics, Eyewear and even at Restaurants, Pubs, Cafes, etc. The company, which was valued at $1.35 Billion in April 2011, is expecting to make $1 billion in Sales faster than any other business, ever. Below is the Menu Card of the offer that was sent to me by email. I called up to enquire how this works and I was informed that by paying Rs. 149 on the site, one will get a voucher which can be redeemed by the user for unlimited number of Dosas and / or Idlis from 9-11am at their store. The spokesperson whom I enquired said that they expect a person on a average to consume not more than 3-4 dosas, the original cost of which could be around Rs. 200, but this kind of promotion could go viral, and hence may attract enormous footfalls into their store, many of whom could be first timers.

Apparently, Groupon gets 50% of the price that’s paid by the buyer of the coupon and the balance goes to the Retailer. But that would depend on the marketing ability of the site and the retailer who negotiate their best respectively. Similar to Groupon, there are over 500 such sites world over and more than 100 sites in the US alone. In India, several sites such as SnapDeal, MyDala, Taggle, Koovs and many more have swarmed the market over the months. Since January this year, Snapdeal has been growing its revenues at over 100%, selling unused inventories of everything from sunglasses, wallets and even travel packages, totalling over 10,000 discounted deals everyday. At 25, Kunal Bahl had quit his cushy Microsoft job based in Seattle and even convinced his IIT Delhi batchmate Rohit Bansal to take a leap of faith in 2007. In a recent interview to The Economic Times, India’s leading business daily, he says "We sold about 2,200 Reebok Sunglasses in a day, at an 80% discount deal. About 400 packages to Kerala were sold in February. Our model is to go after unsold distress inventory," says Bahl who along with Bansal had to shell out $3,000 for buying the Snapdeal.in domain name — an investment that's paying off well.

Here is how Groupon works, as explained in a video placed on their home page.

Video Courtesy: http://www.groupon.com/learn

Some of the key benefits for Retailers to tie-up with such sites are as follows;

  • Create new customers for a specific category / brand. The “deal” may appeal to first time users who may not have entered the Retail store / restaurant otherwise
  • Sell off unused or distress inventory – one that most product retailers would carry at some point in time. Typically one would find them at discount stores in the suburban areas or outskirts of the city, but this model is even better as they can be shipped out of the warehouse directly
  • Utilise the unused service time, typically at beauty salons, restaurants and pubs. What used to be Happy hours may be extended as “Happier hours!”
  • Viral Branding – While the cost of discounting may seem ruthlessly high, it also acts as a brilliant way of advertising – Cloud advertising!
  • Word of Mouth publicity is very high – typically works in colleges / office environments where people could share the deals and make purchases as a group. After all, shopping and dining is a fun activity and makes so much sense when done in a group. So, a set of 4-5 friends may all buy out coupons for unlimited F&B, so they all could spend a gala evening or may buy holiday packages as a group to enjoy over the weekend

So, what’s in it for Retailers after the second or third purchase or visit? Would such a business model be sustainable in the long run? Would consumer fatigue set in sooner than later? These are some questions that are best left unanswered as this column is published. However, I assure I will review this in a year from now again with results and feedback, but for now this is one model that’s going to drive innumerable footfalls to the Retail stores. If you are a Retailer, try talking to one of these guys and get your offer up and running, wait and watch the results. If you are a potential consumer, then just register yourself in one of those websites and look forward to some exciting offers soon. Whichever way, Happy Retailing…

Photo courtesy: sosasta.com

07 March, 2011

Retailers and Social Media – setting new trends

Everybody who is somebody in Marketing is today craving about the power of Social Media on consumers. I have been hooked onto this upcoming (or is it already there) medium for over two years now, but am yet to tap the full potential, both in terms of knowledge gain as well as ways of improving business. While most of the self-claimed Social Media Gurus believe that usage of a social platform such as Twitter or Facebook itself is Social Media marketing, it really isn't. At least for Retailers and Brands. Its about how the medium is used to connect to consumers and to receive feedback from them, rather than passing communication / message such as promotions and offers. While I have been thinking of writing a column on this topic for quite long (apologies to followers of this column and even those who don’t, for not being around for more than eight weeks due to other predicaments) I read something a while ago which prompted me to discuss this topic. Feedback, as always most welcome.



Ralph Lauren, the marquee Luxury brand in all senses has launched a heavily interactive iPad app to promote its RLX (Ralph Lauren Extreme) sportswear line. The photo and animation-rich app, the first the publicly-traded fashion company has created for the iPad, invites users to perform different actions that underline the apparel line’s various properties. Users can use their fingers to paint in color on a black-and-white photograph (highlighting the collection’s colorful palette), tap to freeze model-athletes in various acrobatic poses (conveying agility) and blow into their iPad’s microphone to demonstrate the “light-as-air” fabrics, among other things. It utilizes much of what the device has to offer: its built-in accelerometer, digital compass, assisted GPS and multi-touch capabilities. Users can shop the collection within the app, share images via Facebook and e-mail, and save images to their photo library. Like most fashion apps, the vast majority of users will open it once and never again — but that appears to serve Ralph Lauren’s purposes well enough, given that the app promotes a single collection.

What started more as a mere communication (internet advertising followed by emailers a decade ago) evolved into a multi-million audience with the social media networks springing up by the day. Facebook, (valued at $82.9 Billion) one of the earliest entrants in the social networking space and a darling of the masses seems to lead the pack with tons of brands vying for mind space on the digital platform. It changed the way brands communicated – from one-way “take-it or ignore” communication to two way "compulsive interactivity". Brands are not just telling about themselves to their audience but also listening - started asking them what they wanted, what they liked and didn't. Specific to India, Shoppers Stop, Pantaloons, Wills Lifestyle, Vero Moda, Adidas & Nike are prominent in the apparel space; Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Hard Rock Café, Dominos and Taco Bell in the QSR space; Café Coffee Day & Barista as the two prominent café chains; and there are even malls such as Inorbit and Phoenix Mills that have their own community space! All these pages are updated frequently, ranging from twice a week to thrice a day, depending on the level of engagement that a brand wants to have.

Then came Twitter –a social networking and microblogging site where the user can post messages upto 140 characters (only), has followers and can follow other users as well. While this is mainly considered for personal networking and news updates due to the frequency of postings every day (over 65 million tweets a day according to Wiki), brands are vying to be heard in this space too. Many of them who are on Facebook double up their efforts to communicate through Twitter, while the popularity of it is not even half of that of Facebook which has over 500 million users!

Another big trend these days is the emergence of Foursquare, a location based social networking tool that allows the user to invite his or her friends; once connected, the user needs to check-in using the app (available for Android devices, iPhone, Symbian and even Blackberry). Users virtually check-in to locations that are listed everytime the app is refreshed. The network of friends would get to know the whereabouts of each other, except that one should be careful in his or her judgment before inviting the Spouse or Boss into the network, for they may want to keep them away from such coveted information! Globally, many brands have tagged themselves with Foursquare and offer specials to “Mayors” (a user becomes a Mayor with maximum check-ins in the past 60 days; and there can be only one user as Mayor everyday), ranging from a dollar off on a Frappucino at Starbucks to getting free bread sticks at participating Pizza Hut outlets in the US. “We want to give our customers an incentive to return to their favourite Pizza Hut as often as possible,” says Chris Fuller, Director of social media at Pizza Hut, Dallas. “This is a fun, interactive way to fuel customer loyalty.  “Mobile tools and social media have become part of the daily routines of our customers,” he said. “They get their news, share their stories and, yes, order pizza from their phones without ever placing a call.  

Cafe Coffee Day is the first Indian brand to go live on Foursquare. On your third check-in at CCD (applicable only for Bangalore for now), you will get a 15% discount. And if you are the Mayor, CCD will serve you a free coffee and a 20% discount on every 3rd check-in. Aside, Cafe Coffee Day is the first Indian brand on Foursquare to have their own Brand PageWith 7 out of 10 phones being sold in metros already being smartphones and getting less expensive (I wouldn’t say cheaper!) by the day, between Rs. 7,000 – Rs. 9,000 for a decent entry level one all the way upto super smartphones and tablets averaging Rs. 30,000, these apps will only become more popular and user friendly. Its up to the Retailers and Brands, how much they would like to involve themselves in this new media. After all, it doesn’t come easy and cheap – either it needs a dedicated in-house team or an outsourced one, either way requiring an in-depth knowledge about the medium. Time will tell, how well this media is used. Until then, stay connected with your favorite brands and ofcourse, your's truly.

The Popcorn Conundrum

Just realised that I have seen 3 movies over the last 3 weeks at theatres. Two were in top class cinema halls in a Tier 2 town and another w...