Marketing services is quite a challenging task compared to marketing products, given the intangibility of the former. With the latter, a prospect can see it before hand, touch, feel or even use the product for some time before the actual decision to buy or not to buy is made. Service is something where the production as well consumption happens together, or in quick succession. For eg. - claiming medical bills from Insurance companies or withdrawing cash from a bank or an ATM. Hence, the role of Marketing gets even more rigorous and challenging when it comes to a service. All a service provider hence can do is to come out with attractive captions, logos, Brand Ambassadors, claims & other Brand Elements and display professionalism in their interaction with the prospects as well as their clients.
However, I came across a couple of instances where 2 of the best know Brands across the country have goofed up a bit when it comes to what they claim v/s what they deliver. One of them is HDFC Bank, other is Dominos Pizza. Dominos Pizza is not purely a service brand, but a product cum service brand, given their emphasis not only on Pizzas but also on 'free door delivery' and 'delivery within 30 minutes'.
Lets talk about HDFC Bank first. A brand which is synonymous with Mr. Deepak Parekh (India's unofficial man for crisis) though he is not at the helm. A brand with whom I am associated for the past 5 years and so far have nothing much to complain. Probably because I did not frequent the bank much and got my transactions done through the internet or ATMs. However, I have been visiting one of their branches every month since March. I observed a basic flaw which I never observed with any of the public sector banks. 5 times I have deposited a cheque and each time I have noticed that the person at the counter doesn't verify if the amount written on the cheque matches with the pay-n-slip. Again, there is no verification if the amount and other details mentioned in the bank's copy of pay-n-slip matches with the customer's copy. The teller simply bangs a seal and the whole transaction is over within half-a-minute. This is in stark contrast to what happens in a public sector bank, where the teller takes almost a minute before a seal is hit to the pay-n-slip. When some may shrug it off as a petty issue, I see it as a potential to create confusion later on which might require me to visit the branch quite a few number of times (without forgetting the calls to/from Customer Care and mail trails which it will accompany)
Let me take a dig at Dominos now. Though I have not been a big fan of Pizzas, something tempted me to go for it. And I ordered it online. In about 30 minutes, I got a 'missed call' from an unknown number. This was followed immediately by a message from the same number "Sir pizza delivery boy. Not able to find your house. Please call back". I promptly reverted - "Call me back or you and the pizza can go back". I got the call and guided him to my place. Owing to no change with me, I paid Rs. 200 for what cost Rs. 170. The delivery boy requested for some time to get the change. I asked for his name and asked what do I need to do if he doesn't turn up within the mentioned time. He simply uttered his name and said "Call up to the store and complain for your thirty rupees". I was taken aback but remained calm. I got the change, but, after 6-7 hours and after making a call and informing the Dominos store.
What is similar in both these cases?
The interface between the customer and the organization hasn't displayed credibility and professionalism. When those on top and in the Marketing role of organizations have always ensured to 'build a brand' by building credibility via various exercises, those at the grass-root and who often interact with the company's 'bread & butter' i.e. clients, have often failed to display it. This (dis)connect between what is claimed by the top management and what is being delivered by the grass-root can hamper the brand. At times, brands will not only lose that particular client but also several other clients by way of negative word-of-mouth communication about the brand by the disgruntled client. This very blog itself speaks negatively of Dominos and HDFC Bank, doesn't it? ;-)
Service marketers cannot afford to let their interface act with a lackluster attitude. No brand is bigger than a client's ego and his hard earned money. Absence of empathy, arrogance, disconcert by the client-organization interface will affect a brand much more than a goof up in a service. Afterall, products might be manufactured in factories, but brands are 'manufactured' in the minds of the consumers.
Regards... rather, re-guard (lots of brands need to take one)