It’s all about the brand ex­pe­ri­ence

Finweek English Edition - - The orange index -

SOUTH AFRICANS have come a long way from the ap­a­thetic, un­in­formed con­sumers they were be­fore, says En­gen’s Re­tail Busi­ness Man­ager, Navin Reddy. “Our econ­omy is in rel­a­tively good shape and we see many new prod­ucts and ser­vices, lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional, en­ter­ing and com­pet­ing in the mar­ket place. This gives con­sumers more choice, free­dom and in­for­ma­tion, which cre­ates higher ex­pec­ta­tion.”

Given the ease of brand switch­ing, many brands are also em­brac­ing the im­por­tance of emo­tion­ally con­nect­ing with con­sumers. Why? If con­sumers are emo­tion­ally con­nected, they will be more for­giv­ing of a one-off bad ser­vice or in­fe­rior prod­uct ex­pe­ri­ence, he be­lieves.

When it comes to the Petro­chem­i­cals sec­tor, in par­tic­u­lar, Reddy be­lieves the in­dus­try has adopted a stronger fo­cus on ser­vice and con­ve­nience. “The ser­vice sta­tion is now seen as much more of a lifestyle choice, for top-up shop­ping, com­fort on a long jour­ney, as well as fill­ing up the tank. It gives peo­ple the con­ve­nience and time-sav­ing they so des­per­ately crave in to­day’s fast paced way of life. And the big win­ners are com­pa­nies that can meet the need for on­estop so­lu­tions, while still promis­ing su­pe­rior prod­uct and ser­vice.”

En­gen is def­i­nitely one of th­ese win­ners, hav­ing been rated fourth over­all in Ask Afrika’s Orange In­dex and sec­ond in the Petro­chem­i­cal sec­tor, one per­cent­age point be­hind win­ner Cal­tex.

“Our core busi­ness is petrol and as a com­mod­ity that ev­ery mo­torist needs, cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion comes eas­ily,” Reddy says. “Many points of par­ity pre­vail in the petro-re­tail­ing in­dus­try and it proved dif­fi­cult ini­tially to de­vise a strat­egy that would de­light cus­tomers. Need­less to say, we did man­age to de­vise such a strat­egy, which in­cluded ex­pand­ing the En­gen ex­pe­ri­ence with strate­gic part­ners in lifestyle and con­ve­nience such as Wool­worths and Wimpy – and it has been ex­tremely well re­ceived.”

He says the com­pany also re­alised that its front-line brand cus­to­di­ans, ie deal­ers, pump at­ten­dants and cashiers in­ter­act with cus­tomers daily. So it was at th­ese touch points that the com­pany had an op­por­tu­nity to en­thral and in­spire cus­tomers. A process of brand en­gage­ment com­menced with the ob­jec­tive of mak­ing ev­ery cus­to­dian acutely aware of how their be­hav­iour di­rectly or in­di­rectly af­fects the in­tegrity and eq­uity of the brand.

A ser­vice pro­gramme was rolled out, which taught ba­sic ser­vice fun­da­men­tals to front-line staff and more im­por­tantly, pre­scribed a cer­tain set of be­hav­iours to de­light and en­thuse cus­tomers at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. For ex­am­ple, en­gag­ing in gen­uine di­a­logue with cus­tomers while fill­ing up cre­ates a real emo­tional con­nec­tion with cus­tomers to make them feel that En­gen is liv­ing up to its brand prom­ise of “With us You are Num­ber One”.

“In a nutshell, it’s about the brand ex­pe­ri­ence, and this pro­gramme has been run­ning suc­cess­fully for three years now,” he says.

In a fast-grow­ing and highly com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment, what makes En­gen dif­fer­ent?

Ac­cord­ing to Reddy, En­gen’s com­peti­tors have cho­sen to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves ei­ther on green en­viro-friendly or purely func­tional as­pects, such as fuel tech­nol­ogy or prod­uct ad­di­tive pack­ages. “We on the other hand have opted to be the ex­pe­ri­en­tial brand. We recog­nise that the func­tional at­tributes of one’s brand are im­por­tant, but re­alise that for long-term sus­tain­abil­ity, a con­sis­tent pos­i­tive brand ex­pe­ri­ence is ex­tremely im­por­tant. It’s not only about what you say, but what you do – and how the gen­eral pub­lic ex­pe­ri­ences your brand.”

Cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion is an on­go­ing process and it takes com­mit­ment and prom­ise, Reddy be­lieves. “We have to keep cus­tomers in­ter­ested in our brand, mak­ing our of­fer­ing key to their lives on a daily ba­sis or at each fill-up. Our cus­tomers have an ex­pec­ta­tion of be­ing the first to get ‘the next good thing’ and as far as in­no­va­tion goes En­gen is an in­dus­try pi­o­neer.”

As in most coun­tries, there are pock­ets of ex­cel­lence and pock­ets of shock­ingly bad ser­vice in South Africa, he says, and there’s def­i­nite room for im­prove­ment. “We be­lieve the Gov­ern­ment has a strong fu­ture vi­sion and is try­ing to im­prove ser­vices, es­pe­cially with the build-up to the FIFA World Cup in 2010. In some in­dus­tries, like hos­pi­tal­ity, we can com­pete con­fi­dently on a global scale. This is a di­rect con­se­quence of the tourism boom we’ve seen over the last five or so years. This is a sec­tor we’ve em­braced and ex­celled in up and down the coun­try.”

In­ter­est­ingly, South African petro-re­tail­ing is a full ser­vice of­fer­ing in that your car gets filled up for you as op­posed to abroad where you have to do it your­self. And we have many other value adds, he be­lieves. So the South African in­dus­try may eas­ily be seen to be bet­ter than other global play­ers in this sec­tor when you com­pare the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion is an on­go­ing

process. Navin Reddy

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