The Real McCoy: The tale of Tim
by Sean McCoy (@TheRealMcCoyTRM) This is the story of Tim — an everyday guy doing an everyday job. The difference, however, is that Tim has the foresight, interest and passion — and possibly even the training — to do his everyday job well and in a way that makes a difference to the company that he works for.
See, Tim is a real person and happens to be a petrol attendant at a forecourt that also goes under a real brand name, Engen.
This isn’t free publicity for the fuel retailer but rather acknowledgement for an individual who is representing its brand extremely well and driving fuel sales through his behaviour — if only through my repeat purchase and concerted effort to keep returning to his station.Albeit that fuel purchase is often driven primarily by convenience, otherwise defined as an amber warning light on your dash.
For now, the location of the forecourt will be kept anonymous in order to protect the innocent people involved in delivering service excellence.
So why the marked commentary about something seemingly so routine? Well, it’s exactly that.I happened to stumble upon Tim at this particular outlet, following a flashing-amber-light episode and having to pull in for the obligatory refuel.
Tim is a large and imposing man who sidled up to my car with a real presence and disarmed me with the most amazing charm and competence in this somewhat routine transaction. His greeting was warm and courteous, and we engaged in meaningful conversation about life and the universe while he went about his business — not just the filling of the tank, but diligently doing each of the other checkpoints on the vehicle — tyres, water, oil, front windscreen and rear window cleans.
Largest tip ever
The transaction was swiftly concluded, similarly with a smile and good cheer, and I was off the forecourt in minutes, clearly impressed and having left Tim with the largest tip I ever recall giving to a petrol attendant.
Needless to say, I returned a week later to prove to my cynical self that this was a flash in the pan and I caught Tim on a good day when he was in the right frame of mind and wasn’t particularly busy.
To my surprise, the service experience was no different and I got exactly the same treatment and consistency of delivery that had first impressed me.The exchange was once again very positive and we both benefitted — me through service delight and he with a handsome tip again.
The conclusion to this story is that I now make every effort possible to proactively refuel there when I can and consciously swing by to actively seek out and connect with Tim when doing so. And, during this repeat cycle, Engen too derives the benefit of my custom, not necessarily due to any commitment to the brand on my part but because I consciously aspire to this very positive service experience.
Is common business sense common business practice?
This apparently obvious point can easily be construed as common business sense. The question is, is it common business practice?
The commercial landscape is littered with stories of highly underwhelming service encounters and far longer war stories of failed promises and shattered brand relationships. Dramatic at one level but very real at another and, without doubt, consumers whenever vote with their wallets and engage another offering in the hope of a better promise delivered.
No matter how profound or creative our advertising and communication campaigns may be, the rubber hits the road (in keeping with the automotive theme) at the point of service or product experience; or ‘moment of truth’ in marketing speak.
And this is not just for the grumpy and intolerant.
In the recent Sunday Times Generation Next 2014 brand youth survey conducted by HDI Youth Marketeers, the findings echo a similar sentiment. Across the three key segments surveyed — kids, teens and young adults — all three rated good service as the lead indicator of word-of-mouth marketing among their circle of friends, with an average across the groups of 77.6% and a particularly high rating of 87.6% amongst young adults.Ahead of dimensions such as product quality, celebrity endorsement or how the brand makes them feel.
Clearly, the market of the future will only get more demanding of the right service levels from brands and will hold them accountable to the brand promise they make in their marketing communication activities.
In a world of increased product and service parity; and in many instances service apathy, service experience is undoubtedly a key differentiator and an opportunity for competitive advantage in most categories: a simple matter of aligning the internal brand and service delivery with the external promise to market.
Making the difference
Let’s face it, to most motorists fuel is fuel, is fuel — in this instance, Tim is clearly making the difference.
Dr Sean McCoy, MD and founding member of HKLM, is a prominent figure in the branding arena, with his expertise centered on client service, brand strategy and business development. Sean has been chairperson for the Brand Council of South Africa since 2012. He contributes the regular “The Real McCoy” column focusing on internal branding to MarkLives.
— MarkLives’ round-up of top ad and media industry news and opinion in your mailbox every three work days. Sign up here!