Why is it not difficult to understand customer expectations?

Because we all are customers. Most of the times. We regularly buy a lot of things that we need (and many things which we don’t need but we want..). And sometimes we get pissed off by that shopkeeper or that company. And we get delighted at some extra discount, service or some favor. And we become loyal to some brand or some store…. And we resent some other brand or some other store and tell others not to go there…

If we are in the business of some product, we may know that product, market and industry too well. But, we are not so familiar with all other products, markets or industries.

So, for all these products we are naive. And when we think of evaluating or buying these products, we behave in the same way as the customers for our products behave.

So, if we observe what we, as a customer, expect from a product, we can understand how our customer may expect from our products or from us. A lot can be learnt about our customers, only if we closely observe our own behavior.

And, just like as a customer we won’t like to be taken for a ride, our customers also don’t like if we treat them like a Bakra. So, please don’t look at a customer as a sacrificial goat that has come to fulfill your profitable dreams. Be aware that a customer is also a human being, just like us, and she also has her own aspirations and dreams, joys and emotions, frustrations and disappointments. Customer ko kabhi bakra nahi banane ka….Kyunki hum bhi kisike customer hain, na…?

Observe your customers to get valuable insights…

A friend, who is a business coach to a famous sit-in restaurant chain in Mumbai shared this recently.

The client has many outlets in Mumbai. Their outlet in Malad, Mumbai was one of the very oldest and successful one, doing great business. But, it was not on the main roads. It was down inside a by-lane of Malad. The owner wanted to shift it to S V Road, an always busy road. Finally, a new commercial building came up and the restaurant outlet shifted there, in a much bigger, brighter place. The owner was sure of increasing business many-fold.

But, even after six months of starting at the new location, the outlet was losing more and more of its business. Month after month, its sales was declining. More and more regular, loyal customers were dropping. In fact, these six months of the festival period were generally the most profitable months. Every year since last 15 years, they had done the best business during those months in the year. The owner was puzzled at this sudden negative trend in the business. The coach was approached to find out the problem and to suggest a solution.

After discussions with the owner, some key staff members and observing the place during afternoon and evening busy hours for few days, the coach understood the problem. He asked the owner “Did you have the older outlet with the transparent glass walls? Could the passers-by on the road see what is happening in the restaurant?”

The owner : “No. It had brick walls. But we were suggested to have the clear, transparent walls at the new place by our interior designer, as it would make the place look bigger and brighter.”

Coach : “That precisely is the problem. The customers coming to your sit-in restaurant are not comfortable being seen while they are eating. And now you have made them more visible on the busy S V Road…! No wonder, they don’t want their lunch or dinner on display. Unknowingly, you have made them uncomfortable….”

The owner realized the big mistake. He immediately got those glasses covered to ensure privacy of diners. The restaurant returned back to its renewed glory in few months.

Sometimes, we miss very simple things about what our customers like or dislike. Observing our consumers can provide valuable insight into their world.

Narendra Modi, please MODIfy public transport in Ahmedabad

Narendra Modi has undoubtedly done a lot to MODIfy Gujarat.

His no-nonsense approach towards getting things done is what India needs. In the absence of any other equally resolute, determined, articulate and confident leader who also has huge public acceptance, he remains the only hope for a MODIfied India. He has clearly shown by his work in Gujarat that he has all the credentials to surely make a positive difference to India.

But, among all the good and great things that he has done for Gujarat. There is one small thing which needs his attention. And that is, public transport in Ahmedabad. My recent and earlier visits to the city showed that the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) is anything but efficient. The frequency is bad, buses are in bad shape, the drivers are careless and always-in-hurry and the service is pathetic.

The auto rickshaw service in the city is worse. The metering system is almost 30-years old. The auto drivers are always aiming at fleecing the passengers for some easy money by taking new people in the city for a ride literally. The general attitude of the autowallas in the city is rude and greedy. I have hardly come across any co-operative auto man in Ahmedabad. Their lot in the railway station area is the worst. They don’t follow metering system and even the Traffic Police don’t do anything even after told to intervene.  There is also a shared auto system (called ‘shuttle’) in the city which carries at times EIGHT passengers along with the driver. I have sat in such a ‘shared’ auto with 7 others… It is downright risky. But in the absence of any other viable transport system, people have to take such risks.

Ahmedabad is growing in all directions, but this growth will not sustain if corresponding public transport facilities are not added. Currently, public transport infrastructure in the city is grossly inadequate, and traffic police is virtually invisible to control the menace of auto rickshaws.

NaMo should intervene and influence the town developers in Ahmedabad, with the example of Mumbai. A lot of progress of Mumbai has happened thanks to its robust public transport system of local trains, buses and auto/taxis.

Till then, a visitor to Ahmedabad will have to bear the brunt of the rude, greedy auto-men and inefficient bus services. This makes the city visit memorable for all the wrong reasons. Along with developing all other parts of the state, NaMo must immediately look into this issue and MODIfy it also.

Jo Dikhta Hai, Wohi Bikta Hai? Does branding mean only being visible?

A friend shared one recent experience which highlights how many businesspeople think branding means only making our products visible.

He has recently published one book. He is in the process of marketing that book. He contacted some bookshop chains, but being self-published book, none of them is willing to keep his book on their shelves. Also, he being an unknown name was another reason for the refusal.

Soon after being rejected by one leading bookstore chain, he got a call from somebody who claimed that he had ‘good contacts’ with almost all bookshop chains and he can ‘place’ the book on their ‘bestselling’ and ‘xyz store recommends’ shelves, as he had some ‘setting’ with the purchase teams of the bookshop chains. ‘Sir, jo dikhta hai, wohi bikta hai… Maine bahut saare authors ki branding ki hai aur unhe bestseller bana diya hai… Aapko bhi bana denge…’

My friend, being a very sensitive guy, was shocked to know this. (And, if that ‘setting’ expert was telling the truth, then the owners of bookshop chains have a real reason to worry about.) He had already thought that literature was an ‘innocent’ profession, untouched by all the dirty shades of other businesses. Along with this belief, his idea about branding also shook up. He always believed that his book will sell only if it is good and liked by the readers. He always says ‘My book can’t be sold, it has to be bought.’ (Very profound product wisdom this is. Think over…) But here was some branding Guru, claiming that he will construct the brand of this author, by simply placing his book on the shelves of the bookstores, through some off hand mechanisms.

I realized many of us make this mistake while thinking of developing our brands. We think that if our product or its name is visible more and more, it will automatically sell more. What if the product itself is a failure? What if the price is wrong? What if it is inferior to the competition? What if the communication is tardy or the packaging poor?

The product will fail, if the hype created by such outwardly ‘branding’ efforts doesn’t live up to the expectations of the customer.

If only visibility makes a brand, then the zealous act of hanging rows of banners everywhere and making a ‘wannabe’ politician annoyingly visible, must make him a big shot. But just as hollow ‘papdi’ does not become politician, a brand does not get built by some deceptive ‘setting’ of some crooks.