Airlines still doing well in a crisis-ridden industry should invest more in keeping customers happy.

What’s with Jet Airways? I find their service standards plummeting all of a sudden. Their check-in queues are horrendous and their customer service is terrible.

- Tahir H. Hussain, Hyderabad

Tahir, this is possibly the outcome of the fact that the rest of the aviation industry in India is in turmoil. Kingfisher is bleeding and waiting for succour from FDI. Air India is battling striking pilots and a bleeding bottom line as well. Amidst it all, the remaining airlines are the ones which are bearing the burden of added flyers, much to their joy. In many ways these airlines are enjoying fuller seats, all due to no effort of theirs. In such circumstances, airlines tend to take customers for granted, and I guess this is what you are facing.

The pity is that the airlines that continue to fly passengers in these monopolistic (well nigh nearly) times tend to take everything and everyone for granted. These are really times when they need to invest in added manpower to handle those serpentine queues, more customer service representatives to manage ruffled feathers and customer expectations. Unfortunately these investments are not made.

Remember Jet Airways built its positive equity over a decade and more of hard work and patient investments in brand image and equity management. All this can certainly vanish in one stroke. One stroke of mismanaging new customers. In the bargain, old customers get the raw end of it as well. So there goes!

This is really a crisis management situation for the airline industry at large. The ones that are still flying need to be grateful for the extra custom and not take a single customer for granted. They need to invest in keeping their brand equity intact and flying. If not for which, when the others get back (which they eventually will), they will retain none of the new customers. The risk remains that even their existing ones might want to fly out. Customer disgust is a tough sentiment to manage. And remember, the customer is irrational. As are all of us.

Hey, what’s going on? I walked into my beauty parlour on Carter Road, and find it is now ‘unisex’. And guess what, for every woman in there, there was a burly man as well.

- Tamanna P. Naik, Mumbai

Tamanna, 2012 is finally here. The true emancipation of the male has happened. At last. Now for the ‘gyan’ on this.

This trend is in line with global movements. Men become more and more vain with development. The more developed a nation, the higher its vanity quotient. Vanity spends by men are directly proportionate to a nation’s positive GDP growth rates and the success of individuals. To an extent, vanity spend, which translates into male personal care and grooming spends, is all about money spent when there is no pressing need that can consumer that money. To an extent, vanity spends are highest in that segment of society where there are the largest number of people in the self-actualisation mode.

In terms of social change, in some ways it is the male asserting his rather hidden and subjugated need for grooming. Thus far, there has been a gender inequality, with the woman claiming the terrain of grooming for herself. This is undergoing a correction.

Mobile handphone brands seem to be the ones most recalled as top brands. Why?

- Rohit Tibrewal, Kolkata

Rohit, yes, a mobile handset company is the most ubiquitous company that touches most lives in the country. Mobile phones far exceed television sets, washing machines and refrigerators in India. The 937 million handsets in the Indian market mean that mobile handsets are touching 937 million people physically day in and day out in our country. This ubiquity is a big strength. That is the reason why Nokia emerges as a big and trusted brand in this country, as the largest number of handsets are from its factories. Add to it the smart phone movement at the upper end.

Today, Samsung competes strongly with Apple and Nokia in this space. It is bringing in the best global offerings and screen offerings are being improved upon every eight months. That’s a big plus as well. This is a company that is seen to be at the cutting edge of new models, added cosmetics, new technology and more. That's a great image to have. What's in the hands of the largest numbers of people (the handphone), alive 24 X 7, and closer to everyone, even closer than their wives and husbands, is possibly a great big reminder icon of the brand and its ubiquitous value.

(Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. askharishbijoor@gmail.com)

(This article was published on July 19, 2012)
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