19 January 2017 13:47:28 IST

Don't judge a brand by its ad

Utopian scenarios shown in advertisements are far removed from reality

What’s the easiest way to break the ice in a room full of strangers? Just ask them what they think of Reliance Jio service and lo and behold! you’re in a room full of friends! I am sure a lot of people will be eager to share, criticise and give you feedback.

Today, people have a strong view and increasingly high expectations from their service providers. And here is another interesting insight about customer service. Many of us who are customers and also work in the service industry, have different standards for ourselves when we are service providers, and when we are customers.

Let me try and explain that from my perspective. While I tend to be extremely demanding as a customer (just ask my wife) at a restaurant or at a retail outlet, I am not so understanding of my own customers when they ask me for something. I end up classifying them as ‘too demanding’! Whether we like it or not, when it comes to customer service, we are a bunch of hypocrites! But why this sudden interest in customer service which is a concept as old as the hills? Well, because I saw this new commercial for a Samsung service.


As far as commercials go, it’s pretty interesting, even if it is long winded. The service executive takes a long drive through winding roads, falling trees, overflowing rivers, and sheep to fix a TV that is broken. The customer, a young girl, places several calls, anxiously asking him to reach before 7 pm. Imagine his surprise when he reaches the place only to find it a home for blind children.

He repairs the TV, even as the blind girl keeps worrying about the time. As the TV set gets repaired, she rings a bell and a whole bunch of children, come down a flight of stairs to experience a singing reality show on TV (at 7 pm), in which once of their own is participating. The girl who called the executive, tells him, “She is from our hostel and is my best friend.” Our service engineer goes back, thinking about the relationships that are so important.

This commercial is for the launch of Samsung’s service, and is meant to portray how it reaches out to even the most remote place in India.

Interesting and memorable advertising

I am sure the ad will be well-liked and probably win some awards as well. Which reminds me of a couple of other ads from the past that were interesting.

Let me start with Vodafone, a brand with very poor service (and I can personally vouch for this), but great advertising. Remember the Vodafone pug dog and the little girl? All commercials featuring the duo are cute, as the girl is adorable and the dog even more so. The canine is extremely loyal and follows the girl wherever she goes, going so far as to carry her tie to school that she forgets to wear! In an extremely creative fashion, the commercial tells us how extensive Vodafone’s service is and how it follows you, wherever you go and is always ready to help.

The next commercial is for a completely different category — a nationalised bank. It shows a conscientious bank employee, who is very worried that his elderly regular customer has not come to the bank branch on the first of the month to collect his pension cheque. He comes frantically searching for him and reaches the house, only to find him playing with children.

After he hands over the pension, the customer sheepishly tells him that he had got the date wrong. The two laugh and proceed to share a cup of tea

Far from the truth

We are supposed to be impressed at the personalised service that Bank of India provides. Which leads me to the important question — is this for real?

I have worked in a nationalised bank for four years, and bank extensively with another. While I do believe that nationalised banks provide more personalised service than their private counterparts, they are nowhere close to the giving service the way it is projected in this commercial.


Service is difficult

Having spent all my life in advertising, I know that the creative types are good at making great advertising for inferior products and services. I am certain that the agency which handles Bank of India does not hold accounts with the said bank, and hence has no idea of how the actual service is. Or they are keen on glorifying one isolated instance of great service.

They are like celebrities endorsing products they don’t use. How often do banks return cheques of customers wrongly credited, or credit wrong amounts to accounts, or make customers wait inordinately without apologising for the inconvenience? But if you look at the advertising, you will think the banking experience to be utopian, with great customer service. But it is sadly far removed from reality.

I wish companies spent less money on advertising, which is the easy part, and really focus on service delivery, which is the difficult part — it involves training, hours of practice, and people with an enormous attitude to serve, who value their customers and are willing to put up with long hours and pain.

More significantly, customer service is all about delivering expectations. So why on earth would anyone wish to hype the expectation so much? I don’t have an answer. Do you?