Amith Prabhu: Why brands get it wrong?

02 Nov,2015

Amith Prabhu

By Amith Prabhu


I would not like this column to focus on brands that create problems. But I will break that rule to write about three brands that I have personally felt slighted by and share what I think they can do to get their Public Relations act together. Moreover, there is learning for other brands from these stories that can help them stay guarded.


The brands that generally create disappointment among consumers are service brands. Generally, banks, airlines, hotels and the like. I’m going to write about three brands, what they did and what they could have done. I will also write about two brands that have gone out of the way to make amends and earned the respect of their customers.


First, is an airline company for which I have had great respect because of the way the brand has been built in the last decade, for its impeccable service and for its overall brand imagery. I accumulated several thousand points by choosing this airline 8 out 14 times I flew from India to the US or vice versa. However, when it came to redeeming my miles for reward flights the airline played games to avoid giving me what was my right because of what they claimed was an error at their end. The error still shows. The airline has lost a loyal customer in the process.


Next, is a hotel booking aggregator. I used the site to book 300 rooms couple of months ago. However, they messed up in their algorithms and oversold couple of properties forcing me to cancel some rooms leading to a loss of close to a lakh of rupees. They finally attempted to make amends by compensating me with one tenth of my losses and therefore letting me give them another chance.


Lastly, a Gurgaon-based builder sold me an apartment with the euphoria that was not called for. However, a 20 month delay in handing over possession has literally been made to seem like nothing at all. In all these three instances lack of honest communication has been the cause of disappointment more than the monetary loss incurred. I am choosing not to name the brands as the intent is not to shame them but to share instances of how brands as larges at the airline or the builder do not give importance to communication to set right part of the damage they have done.


On the other hand three brands that stand out for correcting mistakes at their end need to be saluted. The first is Disney and its Beauty and the Beast which got cancelled last Sunday due to a technical problem. The organisers not only assured ticket holders that their money would be refunded but offered to play the musical free of cost for them the following Sunday. Highly admirable.


Uber on the other hand trusts its customers. Everytime a driver has inadvertently overcharged me or committed a fault of cancelling a ride Uber has taken steps of communicating with me that they will pull up the driver. Yes! Uber drivers sometimes ask that the toll be paid despite the brand offering cashless experience and then the toll gets charged on the account. Something the brands has refunded duly on being intimated.


The difference between the first set of three brands and the second set of two is honest communication. It may not be a coincidence that the first set of three are Asian and the second set of two are American. All in all brands and their handlers in India need to learn that the power of public relations lies in honest communications.


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