Brand front-end creates good Public Relations

I am a keen observer of service brands and how they operate within a challenging sphere. My life in Gurgaon revolves around three to five buildings. I live in one, go to earn my daily bread to one (Metropolis), have fun and play at a third (Galleria) and then there are two more to which I go for meetings or food (Cyber Hub and One Horizon Centre). There are three brands I transact with at these buildings most often. Starbucks – at four of these five buildings and I have written a story in the past about a pleasant experience I had, thanks to a partner called Usha. The two other brands I engage with are – Cult for my fitness regime and Axis Bank for my business banking needs.

Well, this column is about Cult and Axis Bank and my interactions with their representatives and how Public Relations starts and ends with people like Venkat and Jasmeen. I become fiercely loyal to brands based on a few things that appeal to me. This fierce loyalty can border on addiction. I also know how to get over my addiction when the brand plays truant.

Well, first the story of Cult. I have been a member of this new fitness centre chain since its inception in my neighbourhood. However, except for the trainers who are exceptionally good, several other aspects at my centre have fallen by the way side in terms of quality in a span of one year. The experience promised before and after the one-hour class has deteriorated gradually. There are various elements one can list out. First, arbitrarily replacing international Zumba with a locally-created Dance Fitness which saves the organisation big bucks. Next, the reception area at my centre which was air conditioned suddenly moved outdoor and one has to change footwear in the horrible heat. Often the ACs do not work properly, the water bottles are very often empty and the guys who fill them do it a messy way. The list can go on and on but as long as my core training was intact I was not concerned about the rest. However, one day when even that slipped because the regular trainer was replaced by a rookie I brought it to the attention of the management by sending an email to the founder himself. A call came to me almost immediately and a promise to fix things was made. I will review if these changes have been made on May 1st but the fact that as a response to my mail a call was made and someone heard an ordinary customer like me means a lot. Thanks Venkat for that call. I have hope in the brand.

Next, I was at Axis Bank to exchange some Indian rupees for foreign currency. The entire experience at the counter was pathetic. The lady in charge had no clue what the price of a dollar that day was and had to call her colleague to find out. She did not share clear information on the documentation required to complete the transaction. This put me at great inconvenience as I had to make multiple trips to my office in a span of two hours to fetch additional documents. Well, all it took was for me to politely express my displeasure to the manager of the lady in question without making it sound like a complaint but making her feel that she was not ensuring adequate training for her junior staff. She then swung into action to fix the problem they had created and in a matter of five minutes, what could have taken another hour, everything was resolved and I was sent home a happy customer. Thanks Jasmeen for taking charge. I will continue doing business with Axis Bank though I have been a customer of 15 years and 12 years with Citibank and HDFC Bank respectively for my personal banking.

Well, Public Relations is not about media relations as most people make it out to be. It is about these actions and behaviours, which can become the gold standard of building reputation.

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Amith Prabhu
Amith Prabhu is the Founder of the PRomise Foundation which organises PRAXIS, India’s annual summit of reputation management professionals.

He is also the Founding Dean of the School of Communications & Reputation (SCoRe).

He can be reached at @amithpr on twitter.

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