Reflections of the MP: Destroying your Brand

09Jun

Reflections of the MP: Destroying your Brand

What is a brand? You will get several verbose definitions, depending on the book you look up. To me, a brand means just one thing, trust. All activities done by your organization will build up your brand image, which translates to trust. Every time a customer interacts with anything related to your organization, be it your people, your products or your advertisements, it will create an emotional experience. And be careful, this experience will eventually translate into trust, whether the customer will trust spending their money by buying from you.

Having completed his studies, our son returned home to join the family before Eid. He chose to fly the newly introduced Best Air, quite obviously wanting to fly a Bangladeshi airline back home. Beyond the two hour delay at KL Airport, he found as did most of the passengers, his luggage had not arrived. Angry irate passengers, mostly laborers who had come to join their families for Eid were consoled by the ground staff with promises of bringing in the luggage the next day with the next available flights of any airlines coming from KL.

The next day, my son tried to call up the now non-responding customer services phone number. Late in the afternoon, finally the customer services person quite innocently claimed that the phone line was open and then said, our next flight is coming on the 14th, which was a week away, and we are sorry, your luggage will only come then, and then quickly hung up. On the 14th, the calendar was again pushed forward to the 25th, this time the excuse was the morning mist in Dhaka!

Any organization will have service failures. There is no hundred percent guarantee things will always be right. What I find more often than not is a lack of training for handling such failures. So what happens is that the service persons responsible for handling customers make a mess, putting up excuses or even worse, more false promises which they know fully well, will not be kept either.

I recall a flight on Biman to Paris some years ago. I was to attend a two weeks Marketing Course at INSEAD, Fontainebleau, which is a small town, an hour’s train journey from Paris. Already six hours late to take off, we spent another two extra hours in Dubai before we began the next leg of our journey to Paris. One of my co-passengers was a gentleman from the French Embassy in Dhaka. He predicted all too knowingly, that we would not stop over in Paris but continue on to London, the ultimate destination. He continued that he had been through this before, and lo and behold, as we neared Paris, the pilot apologized and due to technical difficulties, we were going straight to London.

As we landed, we were greeted by British Airways ground staff who quickly put us on the next available flight to Paris. What about the luggage? Leave your address, we will send it to you. Having reached Paris, I could take the last train out to Fontainebleau and reached the sleepy station past midnight. As was instructed by INSEAD, I asked the station master who had already gone to sleep on his folded hands at the station table, where could I find a taxi? He looked up, mumbled and pointed in a northerly direction and promptly resumed his sleep.

A couple too had alighted at the station, just the three of us. Quite obviously there wasn’t a soul in sight at nearly 1 am. I asked them how would I reach INSEAD? Since they lived near the campus, I might as well join them for the long walk ahead, they volunteered. And anyway, there were only six taxis in town, and the driver-owners of these taxis would not take it kindly to be awoken up for a fare at this time of the night.

As we walked through the sleeping town, we heard a voice singing away merrily in the otherwise quiet of the night. It turned out to be the town’s baker, getting his bread ready for the morning, the whiff of fresh, oven baked bread drifting down the road. My partners greeted the baker as we passed his window. As we trudged on, the quietness of the town was punctuated by the baying or bark of a dog at a faraway distance. I was only too glad that I had company! It was past 3 am when I made it to INSEAD, the receptionist startled at my appearance at that unearthly hour.

Tired to the bones, I slept through nearly the whole of next day. My luggage did arrive by taxi the next evening, thanks to the efficiency of British Airways. Such experiences make or break the trust with the brand. Do you think I would risk flying Biman again? Or my son, Best Air again?