Monday, July 05, 2010

Face of the Company

What is the first image that comes to your mind when you hear the name BSNL?
Is it the image of a dimpled Preity Zinta flashing her 1000W smile and swearing by BSNL, or that of a gorgeous Deepika Padukone doing her acrobatics or that of sharp shooter Abhinav Bindra competing against the fastest BSNL broadband plans?

The only one image which comes to my mind on hearing the name BSNL is that of a callous paan-chewing government servant who watches the regional news channel which is running at full volume in a paan-stewen 20th century office, while there is a queue of customers lined up at his desk.

The problem with companies which have large customer facing departments is that irrespective of the brand ambassadors they appoint to upsell their brand; it is the executive at first point of interaction with the customer, which leaves a lasting impression about the brand.
Impressions are made and broken at this first point of contact.

Across Industry sectors such as Banking, Telecom, Retail, Hospitality etc wherein their is very little to differentiate in terms of offerings; the executives at the first point of contact do act as the Differentiators.

Many Indian PSU banks, facing competition from home grown private sector banks have gone in for an image overhaul by increasing their ad spends, and positioning themselves as being ready to meet the customer demands by providing the latest technology interfaces, pan India core banking services but have actually forgotten to invest in training their first line of interface.

I was very happy to read recently of Japans SMBC investments in Kotak Mahindra Bank; as I have fond memories of SMBC bank.

During my brief stay in Japan, I was required to get my Travellers Cheque (TC) en-cashed; and SMBC bank being the closest to my workplace, I had first visited SMBC.

On one such occasion, I had reached the bank sometime before the scheduled opening time, and was waiting outside in the lobby. At precisely 5 minutes before the designated time, the shutter of the Bank opened, and the entire bank staff (receptionist + admin staff + cashiers + managers + everybody...) was there in their uniforms wishing the waiting customers a Very Good Morning.
Once within the bank premises, there was a lady who assisted in the filling up of the correct forms, and the lady at the cash counter, while checking out my TCs remarked "Sorry to keep you waiting while I get the equivalent currency".
The entire transaction was completed within a matter of 10 minutes.

Compare this with my experience with an Indian PSU bank, which has recently gone for a brand overhaul by changing its logo, and postions itself as Good People to Bank With.

I had reached the bank just before the scheduled opening time, hoping to be one of the fist customers, and getting done with my task the earliest.
The bank shutters opened 15 minutes past the scheduled opening time; when I handed over the Demand Draft (DD) requisition form, the lady executive, while sipping away her morning cuppa, with a stern look on her face said "Do ghante baad aao..." ("Come after 2 hours")

This actually got me wondering, and I started pondering on the lines of "Jo Dikhta Hai Woh Hota Nahin; Jo Hota Hai Woh Dikhta Nahin" (What is seen, is not always the truth; and What is the truth, is not always seen!)

I have reached a conclusion that it really does not make sense for companies which operate in customer facing sectors to have large advertising budgets; rather, they could invest the same amounts on educating the customer facing executives; as these would ultimately be the "Faces of the Company".



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