There is an anecdote I can recall from reading a business book a few years ago. The book was about how to build business systems in a small business. In particular, the anecdote went something like this:
The author was talking to someone who said that their mother could make a better burger than McDonalds on any given day. The author then asked him if his mother could make the same exact burger everyday for millions of customers across the planet like McDonalds does?
Its a poignant question is it not? Its the very reason customers come back to brands time and again – they know what to expect because the brands have invested in business systems that ensure the brand promise can be achieved time again and again, at scale – its pretty amazing if you ask me!
So, earlier this week I went to my favourite bookshop in Nairobi to buy a book for a couple who were getting married. I went to the counter where my favourite bookshop owner was attending to a couple of clients and I waited an initial few minutes for them to wrap up. Seeing that their dialogue would take longer than I initially thought I then strolled around the bookshop and browsed a few magazines, books, etc. I then came back to the counter and found them still talking so I then buzzed off to scan a few more books and magazines. At this point, over 10 minutes had passed. I then came back to the counter and still I got no acknowledgment or service from my favourite bookshop owner. I got irritated. I had business to offer. I was going spend Kes. 3,000.00 or so. I was not getting service. Guess what? I walked out then and there and its very possible I will never go back again.
Yesterday, I went to one of Nairobi’s better established fast food chains. I ordered their signature dish of a two piecer crumbed chicken with chips. The order came fast enough but something was not quite right. Normally, they would serve the meal in their branded paper or plastic containers but instead these were served on an old school plate and bowl. Nothing really wrong with that to be honest but it seemed odd to me from what I would call the “normal” customer experience for this fast food chain. Secondly, the chicken is meant to have been the kind that has crumbs and is deep fried but for sure this just looked like a regular chicken fried “as is”. It gets even more interesting in that even though the chicken could have not been crumbed it tasted, well, bland and not what I expected from this well established fast food chain. I am sure the brand owner down in South Africa would be aghast to learn what is going on with their below par offerings in Kenya.
Earlier today, I went for a meeting at yet another well-established restaurant chain that specialises in good Kenyan coffee. I ordered my standard fare – the double cappuccino. Having frequented this establishment for a good number of years I was little surprised when the cappuccino arrived but lacked the usual cookie that comes with it – ala biscotti. What the heck? Yes, its a small detail but its part of the full deal when you order a double cappuccino for close to Kes. 300.00. I asked the waitress who served me whats up and she kindly came back with not one but two of the biscotti’s (thank you!). On this basis, basically, I reminded the establishment what they are supposed to give me from their own menu of offerings. Hmnn….somehow, this did not add up.
So, in summary, I had three incidences of great brands gone bad in terms of NOT keeping their brand promise(s) as above in one week – which is what makes all the difference when it comes to customers being loyal to them. You see, a lack of brand consistency typically shocks customers and they can leave altogether when services and products are NOT delivered as per brand promise. For me, what comes to mind is things like consistently fast and courteous service at the bookshop or delivering the very same tasty two piecer crumbed chicken that I have come to expect from the fast food chain for over 10 years. Its actually tragic when bad happens to great brands.