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Branding Business Marketing Short Story Top Work

Sorry for being spicy

Your brand is what your customers speak about when you leave the room. ~ Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

Get closer than ever before to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they even realise it. ~ Steve Jobs of Apple.

Well before the Amazons and the Apples of the world created world class technology brands adulated by their customers, I learned an invaluable lesson about building brand loyalty through a great customer experience. Unfortunately, lessons like these do not come in as ”a pre-packaged solution, with on-site customization, enabled by cloud, and rich with social media integration features”. You get the drift, right?

Most companies nowadays invest heavily in building the Customer Relationship Management tools that can provide a competitive advantage. But why do so many of them still struggle to make their investments count? Why does it still have to take months to find a customer and lose it in a matter of seconds? What can they do to improve the customer stickiness?

Most CRM systems do a great job of capturing the tactical, the data to know more about you, your purchase history, and the likes. Your customers however won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. So how do you make your customers understand that you care, without looking artificial? That’s where being authentic, personable, and being genuinely nice to your customers helps. In short, you need to be human in your moment of truth. Let me tell you a story.

Years ago I was eating out at a famous Indian restaurant with a bunch of friends. This was our first time at this restaurant and we were very keen to try out their famous cuisine. One of our friends had recently shifted to India after spending a great deal of time in the middle east. One look at the menu and we knew what we wanted to order. A tantalizingly spicy fare to go along with some drinks and chatter. Good times, bring it on.

Our order was served impeccably and in quick time. The food was true to its reputation and it hit all the right notes. However mid-way through the meal our friend from middle east started struggling. Trying to keep pace with the rest of us, he had started sweating and was clearly caught off guard. The maître d’ who was keeping a keen eye on our table from a distance spotted him and came to check up. “I guess this is too spicy for me,” said our friend. “No problem,” said the maître d’ and rushed inside the kitchen.

In just five minutes, he replaced the platter with a milder variety of the fare. That was quick, we thought and thanked him for his courtesy. This time around our friend from middle east relished the food and polished off the plate. His eyes had a twinkle and we knew whom to thank for it. After a rather enjoyable and filling meal, we asked for the bill. We were too full for desserts.

The maitre de who was kind to replace the spicy dish earlier, placed a bowl of house-special desserts on the table along with the bill. I gave him a quizzical look. Had he heard us wrong? Not quite. We turned the bowl. “Sorry for being spicy,” a neatly hand written note said. The desserts were complimentary.

Clearly, this restaurant had gone out of its way to make sure that the meal was enjoyable for all of us. A potentially forgettable dine-in had turned from a spicy affair (no pun!) to a sweet memory. This was during the times when social media had not infiltrated our dining experience and food bloggers weren’t paid for favourable reviews. Intent established, credibility built. No wonder we have been patrons of the restaurant for as long as I can remember.

A great brand is built in the minds of a customer through an experience that he’d love to talk about. To me it’s the small gestures, the little things that you can’t quite program on site that make up towards building the brand loyalty. The people that we love the most are those who listen to us and care about what makes us happy. We stick to those people through thick and thin. Surely that isn’t different when we think of brands we love.

Do you have a story when you thought the brand truly cared for you or it didn’t? I’d love to know. Let’s talk about your learnings in the comments section below.

*This post was first published on my Linkedin blog.

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