But the customer was so appreciative of the gesture that she decided to tell the world. That little piece of receipt went social and then viral, and ultimately made national headlines in the US.
You might think could have happened at any restaurant chain in America. Not really. Red Robin’s employees practice a culture called ‘Unbridled Act’, which encourages positive behavior.
And apparently, this wasn’t the first discount given at random to customers. They’ve been doing it for a while, it just so happens that this particular gesture made the news, probably because of the oh-so-sweet personal message.
Intentional or not, it worked. And worked in a way that even a big budget 30-sec TVC or a print ad with a catchy headline will never emulate.
Sometimes, it’s just about the little things. You know?
Sometimes, this whole advertising-marketing-branding thing can be a bit overwhelming. It just gets too needlessly complex, and hopelessly off the mark.
For the average consumer, advertising and all its associated activities are often intrusive, irrelevant and unwelcomed.
We marketers often forget to keep things simple and tend to treat consumers as idiots, as very eloquently explained in the following letter by a fictitious consumer:
I’m much smarter than your marketing gives me credit for. I don’t like to be sold…I don’t care about your advertising, your free samples, your promotions, your special offers. I don’t like to be told what’s cool, new, improved, last-longer, smells better, tastes better, or is less filling…I don’t care about your brand, it doesn’t matter to me. I avoid your interruptions to my busy day whenever and wherever I can…I don’t have time to pay attention to your sales pitch…You are white noise to me and I have tuned you out. If you want to be a part of my life, here’s what you’ll need to do:
– Be honest with me
– Keep your promises
– Treat me with respect
– Provide me with more use value than you take from me in cash value
– Teach me better ways to grow and expand my life experience
– Help make my day-to-day easier, lighter, more relaxed and enjoyable
– Help me to experience greater connection to what’s important to me
Do these things for me and you will win my trust and devotion. Then I will gladly welcome you into my life, and share the value of our relationship with others who are important to me.
Thanks to Brand Strategy Insider for the letter, and I sincerely hope we all can endeavor to treat consumers with the respect they deserve.
If you can’t serve your customers, bash them up. A method practiced by a certain KFC employee; allegedly of course.
But you can’t refute the video evidence. Even if he was provoked, this is still no reason for an employee of a global fast food chain to get all Bruce Lee with anyone; let alone a customer.
But strangely, I wasn’t all too surprised.
That’s because I’ve been noticing the lowering standards of customer service in Malaysia for many years now. I’ve also written about my own experiences and the possible reasons behind such dismal customer service.
The KFC tagline these days is “So Good”. I guess they are not only referring to the chicken (again, allegedly), but also to the whacking that one would get from disgruntled employees.
But that’s the problem isn’t it. The brand spends millions to say something and the employees – who are probably working long, unforgiving hours for pittance – say another. There is hardly any synergy between what you see and what you get from Malaysian businesses these days.
And the worst part, no one is bothered.
Like the many customer service mishaps of the past, this video will be forgotten and conveniently dismissed as a one-time-only incident beyond the company’s control.
But I would really like to see is Ronald McDonald kick someone’s ass though… that would be awesomely funny!
You hardly get a ‘thank you’ these days. Service with a smile? Forget about it! Being served up to expectations is as rare as a working public payphone. Yet we let companies, businesses, service providers and brands get away with it.
The truth is we have become so accustomed to shoddy service that we don’t really care anymore.
“Just give me what I want, and I’ll be out of here” we say to ourselves.
A business can make its employees wear as many “Service 1st” or “I Serve with a Smile” badges for the sake of improving service levels. But if the person delivering the service is not bothered, the badge may well be another piece of office accessory, and nothing more.
Humans, by nature are proud. We want to be recognised for our efforts and every mini achievement is celebrated like a roaring success. Over time, we think we are better than the people around us.
A simple example; how many of you think you are better-than-average drivers?
My guess would be that everyone thinks he/she is a good driver than the next person. It is this kind of thinking that has killed customer service.
“I am doing my best already”
“Nobody can do it better than me”
“You think standing behind the counter is easy?”
The practice of overestimating our ability actually serves as a confidence booster. This egotistical behaviour is great for overcoming challenges or problems but only makes one look disinterested and nonchalant when delivering service.
And a customer service personnel that looks or talks like he rather be somewhere else is exactly the kind of stuff we customers hate.
So get your customer service guys or front-liners to lose the ego or get ready to lose customers.
This was a slightly long community service message brought to you by a freelance copywriter who’s pretending to represent all customers.
I must admit it; I was rather cheesed of with Maxis to start with. And then they go and air that stupid ad claiming they put customer service first. Of course, I sharpened my pencil and gave them a piece of my mind lah.
Maybe I was slightly rash and less eloquent in that post. And since this is a blog about marketing communications; let’s see what really went wrong with Maxis in that perspective.
Here’s what my favourite branding blog – Brand Strategy Insider – had to say about Brand Arrogance.
“Consumers don’t value brands; they value the idea the brand represents to them. This idea will always be worth more than the product, or the actual bricks and mortar of the business enterprise. When marketers behave arrogantly, the value of the idea people care about is instantly diminished. And once this happens, the road to redemption is long, difficult and expensive”
Simply put, you like a brand not because the logo is red or that the product is great. Consumers actually value the personality that the brand projects more than anything else.
It makes sense because telcos offer essentially similar products and services. But what made you choose Maxis or Digi or Celcom? Think about it.
It’s like making new friends. You only click with certain types of people; as you do with brands. But once a ‘friend’ crosses you, it becomes really hard to be good friends again. There is just something intrinsic about this process that science can’t explain.
Once you screw up with a customer (especially a loyal one), you usually have to work really hard to win him over again. And most times, the defected customer will never return.
There’s a classic Direct Marketing adage that goes like this:
It’s more profitable to retain a loyal customer, than to attract new customers
For all the advertising and promotions brands conduct to conquest new customers, why not sincerely care for existing customers instead? Those who are already customers may even advocate the brand to their friends and family for free.
And we all know nothing beats the power of word-of-mouth communication.
Clearly Maxis does not see it that way. I guess we are nothing but Ringgit signs that make their cash registers go Ka-Ching!
I know bull crap when I see one, especially when it comes in the form of advertising. And even more so when it comes from a brand that treated me like crap for being their customer for 12 years.
Over-promising has become the bane of the ad industry. But it’s not something new, it has been going on for ages; possibly even when the first line of copy was written or when the first TVC was aired.
The worst part is that we consumers have come accustomed to over-the-top or exaggerated claims. A case in point…
Another one, because this is fun…
So when I saw the new Maxis TV commercial that aired recently, I almost choked on my own saliva. For such a smug, pompous and arrogant brand, this ad is totally not reflective of their actual personality.
If Maxis had really “put customers first” they need not spend millions creating and airing this ad. Their customers will already know and appreciate their customer service efforts. It is because they actually take customers for granted is why such an ad with a ludicrous claim is needed.
“Thank you for calling. Your business is important to us. For English Press 1. For Bahasa Malaysia Press 2. For Mandarin Press 3. For Tamil Press 4. For Punjabi Press 5. If you still can’t get it that we don’t give a rat’s ass about you, Press 6”
What happened to the good old days when an actual person picked up your call? Yes it makes business sense to have an Automated Voice Response System. And yes I am aware that this rant is roughly 15 years late. But still, it is a rant worth making.
Businesses spend millions on compelling, evocative brand building advertising that promises the world; and then fall flat on their face when it comes to over-the-phone customer service.
Imagine calling your credit card company, and after going through like 3 levels of menu options it is revealed that all the customer service personnel are busy and will attend to you shortly. Oh yeah… and I also want you to imagine you just got mugged and calling to report your card is lost.
Now you know why there’s stuff like road rage and perhaps even suicide.
Outsourcing of call centres could probably be blamed for this deterioration of service. Let’s say you found a goose that lays golden eggs. Would you ask your neighbour to take care of it? The answer would be a vehement no.
But businesses have no qualms asking a third party to handle the queries, concerns or complains of customers. Aren’t we – the customers – supposed to be golden egg-laying geese? Apparently not.
That’s why, if you notice, many brands are substituting phone numbers with web URLs in their advertising. They don’t really want to hear from you.
I say screw it. Call and bug the hell out of them… if you can get someone on the other end that is.
I did it. Yes sir I terminated it. I maxed out my relationship with Maxis and am now a follower of the yellow man. But something unexpected happened at the Maxis centre today.
I was ready for a tedious, long and unpleasant process of terminating my broadband account. In fact, I was just waiting to be ticked off by someone so I could vent my anger and give them a piece of my mind in eloquent ‘French’. I walked into the Maxis centre ready for war almost. Hoping, just hoping, they would make the mistake of asking me:
Why are you terminating your account sir?
But it did not come to be. Instead, I was treated better at Maxis centre today than I ever was as a customer. I did not need to take a number nor stand in line nor be subject to any scrutiny. I kid you not. There were like at least 20 or so people who were waiting, but I was ushered straight to an empty counter as if I was a VIP.
I was out of there in roughly five minutes! I got out so fast, that some of the waiting customers gave me dagger like looks for somehow obtaining special treatment. It felt as if Maxis were gleefully processing termination of accounts because they had way too many customers.
Actually, I am glad for the pleasant experience I had at the Maxis centre. It was surely a refreshing change than when I had to wait for more than an hour to apply for supplementary lines.
But something’s not right you know. Shouldn’t they treat customers the way they treated me today? Hey… I’m not complaining. What’s done is done. It’s just strange that my best experience with Maxis is when I went to terminate my account. Unbelievable!
The thing is I am angry. Yes, angry. Not cheesed-off, neither dissatisfied nor unhappy. I am mad. I created this blog so that I can have an opinion. And have a freaking opinion I will
You know, I wanted this post to be a meaningful, heartfelt review of my online escapades of 2010. About how I made a humble yet determined start to create an online presence, which culminated in this site being listed on Page 1 on Google if you’d searched “Copywriter Malaysia”; for a very brief period that is. But screw that and let’s get down to business.
In my 12 years in the advertising industry, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. And I’ve also seen many more committed by brands, marketers, agencies, advertisers and the like. And among all the mistakes; the biggest most unforgivable sin that a brand or company can make is taking their customers for granted.
And I have recently been given the middle finger by a company/brand that I’ve been loyal to for 12 years.
Ask any direct marketer worth his salt and he will tell you that once you become a customer, you should immediately be put into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programme. And most of the time, it doesn’t take much to keep a customer. A hello once in a while, maybe a small discount for purchase and perhaps a free gift or two; if budget permits of course.
The point is you want to keep your existing customer happy or at least contented. Just to let them know that they are valued for the business they’ve been diligently giving to you. And as long as customers know they enjoy just that little bit more than non-customers, everything should be well and good.
So for 12 years I was a happy camper with Maxis. No real issues or crisis-like situations, I simply got what I paid for. And then one day, I stumbled upon the fact that I was paying RM30 more than new customers for their broadband service. I was surprised and honestly thought that this was a small problem that their customer service will easily fix. Boy was I wrong!
Here’s the gist of the conversation:
Me: Hello, Maxis Customer Service?
MCS: Yes sir, how may I help you?
Me: Well, I’m just wondering why I’m paying the old price of RM98 for 3GB broadband whereas new customers only pay RM68?
MCS: Well, you must be still under contract sir?
Me: No, my contract ended just last month. Correct?
MCS: Yes, sir your contract has ended.
Me: So why am I not enjoying the reduced price of RM68 for the 3GB package?
MCS: Well sir, you purchased the package for RM98, so you will have to pay that amount indefinitely.
Me: What?! Nonsense! Are you telling me that new customers can enjoy the new price but old customers still have to pay the higher price?
MCS: Yes sir.
Me: So what do I have to do to enjoy the RM68 price?
MCS: Well you have to terminate your current broadband account and return the modem. Then register again to enjoy the RM68 price.
Me: (not believing this shit!) Errr… you mean I have to cancel and register for the same thing over again?
MCS: Yes sir, that’s the only way.
Me: Errrr… (WTF!… lost for words, hang up)
If the price of a good or service goes up, I don’t see any company saying “oh, you can still pay the old, prior-to-increase price because you have a contract”. They don’t just make the new customers pay the increased price while the existing customers pay the old, under-contract price. But when the price is reduced, every effort is undertaken to make it difficult for old customers to enjoy the new reduced rates.
We don’t even have to look at this from a marketing, CRM or customer service point of view here; just see it based on freaking common sense! Some of my friends claim that I am a bit of a diva here. They say I should just go to the Maxis Centre and re-register to enjoy the reduced rates. But why the fuck should I? I don’t want to go along with the idiotic process of re-registering for the same bloddy thing because that would make me a bigger idiot.
Maxis is seriously deluded and very arrogant to think that I would succumb to their plain bullying. I think I am going to the Maxis Centre after all, but the re-registering will certainly happen someplace else. Yes, I think I’m going to take my business (Broadband + Principal Mobile Line + 2 Supplementary Lines) elsewhere because loyalty obviously doesn’t matter.
P.S. I gave Maxis close to 3 months to explain themselves, during which time I’ve been letting my RM30 a month go down the drain. After contacting their Customer Service, I recently raised the issue in their Facebook Page (with my name and account number). I have since received no acknowledgement whatsoever… not even a squeak.