Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tuning into the powers of online branding..

When asked the question, “During the next 5 years, how important do you expect these trends to be by their impact on global business and the profitability of the company?”, the higher percentages of corporates answered that for both the impact on global business and profitability of the company, “Greater ease of obtaining information, developing knowledge” and “Increasing communication/interaction in business and social realms as a result of technological innovation” were going to be very important. I went about looking at what this could ideally mean from a business perspective and that is when I noticed that these are important from a consumer perspective too. It’s just not only the businesses which obtain information about the trends; information is readily available in the internet to help the consumers make decisions. Like the businesses, which keep an eye out for trends by analyzing the big data that they obtain from each and every transaction with every customer, the consumer depends on online reviews, pricing information comparison with other sites and a whole lot of searches before finalizing on a product.

This idea of a customer centric business seems interesting and I had taken up on some social media marketing (not professionally, but out of my own interest). This stint with social media also highlighted to me the importance of online brands. There are two incidents on how businesses are actually looking at social media for building an online brand, sustaining the positivity in the brand and data analysis to maintain a customer centric approach. is a travel site which makes it a hassle free one-point shop for flight tickets, hotels and other such travel related site. This was one of the companies that pioneered in online branding as a customer centric travel site. Then, there was something called the “Kiruba incident” that came along. There was a reaction from a customer, Kiruba Shankar, who was quite influential in the blogging and social media circles about ClearTrip’s service.

What followed was mayhem, there were re-tweets, demands for an explanation and shock from the Twitter-verse.


ClearTrip on noticing this clarified saying that Kiruba had booked a ticket with a typo in his name and they had voided the ticket and booked a ticket with the correct name but messed up while informing this change to him. This resulted in him booking a new ticket as he was not aware of this development. ClearTrip took full responsibility and immediately called Kiruba up and explained him the situation and sweetened the deal by paying for the new ticket he had booked and also booked return tickets for Kiruba and his wife at their own cost. This resulted in some positive feedback for the way ClearTrip handled the incident.

Now to the second incident that happened with me, back in India, I wanted to change my landline (as I was getting low broadband speeds) and I contacted Bharti Airtel, a leading telecom provider, and they told me that I could get a landline connection with broadband connection soon. I surrendered my earlier connection and applied for a new one with Bharti Airtel. There was a long wait, followed by many phone calls and finally they told me that they couldn’t give me a connection because the number of connections in my particular street has already crossed the threshold. It was quite irritating and I took my frustration to Twitter. This was a usual rant with a hashtag #airtel.
 There was absolutely no reaction in Twitter to my post but this is what happened, I got a reply for the tweet from their official online presence for Bharti Airtel, asking me for my number. They called me and asked me about the problem and then gave us a new connection. They installed completely new equipment just to keep up their words (which cost them quite a lot as far as I could say).
Both these incidents show that companies are taking up a customer centric approaches, and in-spite of the complainant being an influential person or just a single random person, the companies have started standing up and taking notice that even one negative review among thousands of good reviews will dent their online brand. Cleartrip’s blog shows how negative reviews are considered by the company, "Reminds us of this line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, where Mark Antony says The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

1) The Kiruba Incident
2) Going from global trends to corporate strategy (Becker and Freeman, Mckinsey Quarterly, 2006 Number 3).

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