Will Hrithik Pay Extra for his Birthday Cake?

Today is Hrithik Roshan’s 45th Happy Birthday and he is probably ordering cake. In large, expensive party quantities most likely. Would Hrithik be asked to pay the extra few hundred bucks required to qualify for a “premium” delivery? Will the cake delivery folks make him feel special or ask for money to do that?

When I transact, I expect a certain level of comfort, if not delight, with the customer experience. More so if I consider myself a loyal or valuable customer. But recently a number of Ecommerce sites have asked me to pay a little extra to get ‘special’ treatment. The amounts are smallish, but the extras are not particularly great either. I worry more that if I don’t pay, they’ll downgrade the service and penalise me. Kind of like extending the business class analogy to regular shopping. Business class exists not because it is particularly fancy in itself, but because Economy is kept deliberately terrible. It is the contrast that makes it so aspirational.

I really don’t want to pay extra to continue to get the same service. But worse, where I spend what I consider are substantial sums with the company, I’m feeling offended that they actually want me to pay to join their silly club. So offended that I plan to jump to an alternative as soon as one appears – even if it costs more.

A few years ago Sachin Tendulkar (or his fans) had a hissy fit when British Airways asked him to share booking details when he had tweeted for help for some relatives. He expected to be known as a good customer and be immediately recognised as such. You might say that The God of Cricket is worthy of that (assuming there are enough cricket tragics reading this.) Fair enough. But in our own lesser-gods-ways all of us have these expectations from brands that we invest in. And when they start pricing that recognition, it damages the customer experience. It is a popular practice though – so do you think it works? Let me know.

I’m writing this on a flight to Delhi that’s 5 hours delayed, landing at 4pm instead of 11.30am and therefore wasting the entire day, and disrupting the calendars of those we were to meet. Close to 2 hours was sitting in the parked plane. You can visualise that most of the ‘guests’ were very unhappy. I was, in fact, thinking that in such scenarios they should have a provision to give the passengers snacks when the staff rolled out free tea. Insignificant price-wise, but I felt special for the moment and it made me less violent and likely to bust the emergency exit and go home.

Customer experience is an under-rated function with confused ownership, but it is the only thing that will give you a sustainable advantage. Brands should focus more on magic moments and less on nickel-and-diming their core customer base. And that requires more functions to be integrated with building and sustaining the customer experience. I’m going to be discussing omni-channel customer experience and where marketing fits in tomorrow at 3pm IST on a webinar we are co-hosting with #letstalkcx and Oracle. I’m delighted that we’ll have Ajit Belani of Aricent and Naval Khosla of Oracle for this discussion.

Whether we are Hrithik Roshan or Regular Rani we all want to be special and recognised – this is a basic truth across all our relationships – personal, as a student, as an employee or colleague or vendor or customer. Not having a formal process for the experience whether it is a product, service, or work undermines all the effort put in by the brand elsewhere.

In case you’d like your brand to be recognised, do check out our upcoming Hot Brand Summit where we publish a list of the Hottest 50 Brands in Bangalore (Feb 8, Taj Vivanta), Mumbai (Feb 15, Four Seasons) and NCR (Feb 22, The Leela Ambience).

We’re nearing the 400th issue of this weekly newsletter. That’s 7 years and 9 months. Two weeks from now I shall definitely be ordering cake 🙂 Thanks to all of you for making this such a fun and engaging journey!

I realise that good content means different things to different people. This week Stormy Daniels spent 8 minutes live broadcasting herself on Instagram folding laundry to provide people an alternative to watching Donald Trump’s Oval Office address on The Wall. I’d tell you what she was wearing, but this is a family publication 🙂

Now here are MY story picks for the week. Inspired by Apple’s little dig at its competitors at CES, Las Vegas, I’ve pulled together stories on Taglines.
Wipro. Has. A. New. Logo. But. What. About. The. Big. Story. 
9 Advertising Taglines From The 90s You Love