Like all things Malaysian – such as total disregard for punctuality and being suckers for free things – loafing at Mamak stalls while sipping Kurang Manis tea (which is still manis anyway) is a popular pastime. You could hang out at a Mamak with your best buds, your significant other or just by yourself. It has a universal appeal, quite comforting and always welcoming.
But what separates a good Mamak from a bad Mamak? The atmosphere doesn’t really play a part. Food across all, if not most Mamaks are quite consistent. And prices don’t differ much from one stall to another. When you think about it, it’s the level of service that determines which Mamak stall you frequent. It’s the rapport you build with the servers and how it takes only 10 minutes to tuck into your favourite greasy dish every time, no matter how busy they are. This however may not hold true for everyone, but I think quite a few of us could relate to this observation. Service is important to me anyway.
Now that I’ve some sort established what a good Mamak is, let’s look at the bad ones. Imagine this scenario:
Bang, mari bang. Duduk bang. Maggi goreng ade, mee goreng ade, nasi goreng ade, nasi lemak ade, roti ade, murtabak ade, western ade, tose ade, chapatti ade, semua ade bang. Minum ape pun ade bang, tongkat ali ade, fres oren ade, neslo, horlo, koteh pun ade bang!
Come brother, come. Sit brother. We’ve got fried instant noodles, fried noodles, fried rice, lard rice, greasy pancakes, stuffed greasy pancakes, western food, Indian pancakes, Indian toasted pancakes, all we have brother. Drinks also we have it all brother, ali’s cane (an aphrodisiac), fresh orange, nescafe+milo, horlicks+milo, coffee+tea also we have brother!
Hmmmm… strangely the English version is longer than the Malay version.
Anyway, after this friendly Mamak fellow advertises his offerings, which in fact confuses you further, he leaves you to deliberate while repeating the same thing to the next bunch of walk-ins. While this strategy packs in the customers, it leaves the already seated customers out in the cold. I’ve been to places where they don’t even bother to collect my payment as they are still busy preying on new customers. Needless to say, I’ve never been back.
Now a question. What do many businesses in Malaysia have in common with our common Mamak stalls? Yup, you guessed it. It’s this unhealthy fetish to attract new customers, while neglecting the ones they already have. Even when it’s common knowledge that acquiring a new customer is more expensive than retaining an existing customer. And the new customer may not even be as profitable when compared to an existing customer.
While advertising is critical to attract new business and for brand building, not giving due attention to existing customers could have dire consequences. Because in the increasingly wired consumer world, one unsatisfied customer could deter many potential customers, no matter how good your product, advertising or brand is. For the uninitiated, the process of endearing yourself to existing customers is called Customer Relationship Management or CRM for short. Serve well, keep in touch and reward your customers occasionally. They will show their appreciation via word-of-mouth to their peers, friends, family and acquaintances. And nothing beats that.
Teh tarik kurang kurang kurang manis satu!