What’s On

The case of missing customer centricity

Companies are gushing about customer centricity these days. The customer has to be at the heart of everything and must always come first. But don’t let customers catch wind of this. Because they’ll wonder who used to come first, and will hold marketers to their word. Customer centricity, after all, is not measured in words, but in deeds – especially when things go wrong.

It’s a certainty of life that things can and do go wrong. At some point a plaster will fall into the soup or a mouse will get into the dough. Companies used to turn crimson in shame, keep ‘the incident’ under wraps and would, under legal duress, place an itsy bitsy ad in the back of the paper. But they now seem to be shameless. Millions of things, from tins of soup to Toyotas, are recalled. And they don’t do it secretly, but in a big, in-your-face
and compelling way. They don’t just give you something for your trouble. No, they run an image campaign designed to underscore the brand and company’s customer centricity.

Recall campaigns are no longer produced by fear-struck company lawyers, but by sly marketers. It’s just a matter of time until a big supermarket chain takes out full-page ads in newspapers to recall its dwarf cucumbers because the poor things may have stood in a draft in the warehouse. The most wasted day of all is one in which you have not recalled something.

Unfortunately airlines haven’t reached the same altitude of customer centricity. Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport takes the cake with 70 per cent of all flights being delayed and 20 per cent being cancelled. So when smoke started coming out of the volcano in East Java in August this year, the holiday fun for many was well and truly over. Whole families were stuck for days or even a week. No announcements, no apologies and no control over the hysterical situations at the airport. Everything was swept under a Balinese rug of volcano ash and circumstances beyond their control.

Commercials for Asian airlines unfailingly showcase serene stewardesses. Air princesses with customer centricity in their DNA who pamper passengers from head to toe and cater to their every whim. With the promise of such boundless customer-friendliness for travellers who haven’t suffered a delay, you’d expect happy endings in the galley for those who have had a 70-hour delay. Or at least a plastic bottle of wine on the return flight. Or – Asian modesty is contagious – a personal mea culpa email. But none of that happened – nada. It seems their customer centricity is also seriously delayed.

Dick van der Lecq

Dick van der Lecq is the Managing Director at DDB Unlimited. He was previously the Managing Partner at Etcetera.