What makes a brand global is not the geography of its offices. It’s not the white, black, brown, yellow faces that work there. It’s not the number of zeroes in its turnover. Nor is it the overseas stock listings.
Before we guess the answer, let’s consider these two instances:
My wife purchased a top from Zara, without trying on. She was sure it would fit her. And it did. But Murphy proclaimed his law; the shade didn’t go with her skin. She decided to exchange it. They surely would have other colours. There was. But lucked out again. Size not available. The good people at Zara checked with their warehouse. Long drawn faces shaking side to side said, “No colour, no size”. They then did the next best thing: swapped the garment with a voucher for the same amount.
One day, when my wife emptied some 823 things from her clutch, there, the forgotten voucher waved out to her. Like the cat that got the cream, she hightailed it to the store and picked out a handbag. When she produced the voucher at the billing, long drawn faces shaking side to side said, “Two days late, voucher expired”. Six thousand bucks gone. Worse, ‘Actually-I-don’t-mind-the-colour top’ gone too.
Theobroma, a 15-year old Parsi-owned cake shop, is now 25 odd stores across Mumbai, Delhi and Pune (No franchisees). Recently they opened one close to our place. My wife picked up some baked goodies, only to realise, back home, there was a pastry missing in the order. Perhaps it was the soft walnut brownie she dug her teeth into that convinced her that it could be an oversight by the cake shop. Moreover, she had already chucked the bill in the bin.
Few weeks later, she was back there, buying more treats. She casually mentioned the missing pastry in her last order, expecting nothing but a smile and a shrug. A smile, she did get. And with it, a free pastry was packed, no questions asked. Politely handing her the shop’s phone number, they requested her to call, if such a thing were to happen again.
Let’s try and understand the difference in the two cases.
- Zara, a multi-million dollar fashion brand, followed SOPs… which decided to play spoilsport to a good customer experience
- Theobroma, a local bakery, decided to sidestep the process… and ushered the customer to a delightful closure
Let’s ask ourselves, why was process bypassed in one case and not in the other?
‘Zara couldn’t. And Theobroma could.’
Prraarp! Wrong Answer.
Companies spend millions on standardising process guidelines and implementing them to establish harmonised saliency for the brand.
And probably an equal amount, on tools and techniques to increase and measure customer satisfaction.
In between the brand and the customer lies the black box: the employee.
An employee at Zara followed the rules, afraid that he would lose his job (or at least, equivalent amount deducted from his salary) if he stepped out of line for a customer.
An employee at Theobroma empathised with the customer, thought about the customer’s ROI, ignored that there was a possibility that the customer was lying; and understood the value she brought to the business (Despite his action having no effect on his salary). He gave a free pastry, confident that his employer would stand by him and not raise questions at the end-of-day stock-taking.
Back to the question: what makes a brand global?
It’s the attitude towards its customer.
Correction, the attitude of its employee towards the customer.
Bring on the arguments in the comments section below. Of how fashion and food are different industries. Of how global companies ‘have to stick to rules’ and local businesses mein sab chalta hai. Of how the ticket size of product is a decisive factor.
Until such time that ‘employee empowerment’ is taken out of corporate AVs and placed into corporate policies, guess where my wife will and won’t shop.
Watch this space for my next: The Customer is Unforgiving.
– By Porus Jose, Creative Director, IdeateLabs