by Sean McCoy (@TheRealMcCoyTRM) While this was popularised by Kevin Costner in the movie “Field of Dreams”, the adage seems to hold true for the development of Dubai, as a city and something of a central hub of stability and all manner of business and leisure tourism in the Middle East region.
This thought was brought home again following a recent visit there and, more specifically, my Dubai Airports and Emirates experience, supporting the theme of brand alignment and its component parts.
Dubai is now acknowledged as the busiest passenger airport in the world and has come a long way in a very short space of time. It is hard to believe that in the mid-1980s, Emirates was formed with a very small cash injection, by airline standards, following the service cutback by Gulf Air to the region.
Some 30 years later, a virtuous tourism cycle has been created for the city and Emirates as a whole; and it is rapidly following with a significant logistical hub for cargo freight, similarly positioning it at the epicentre of global trade.
Process and capability
Apart from the vision, unconventional thinking and unexpected moves by the leaders, comes a deep seated commitment and delivery to the technical dimensions of the brand-alignment process. This is the forgotten or invisible part of the journey to building a deeps-seated brand capability in the business — building the structure and systems that support seamless service; developing the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) in the team of people deploying them; and enabling technology solutions that simply deliver the marketing promise.
Effective processes are a critical aspect of building organisational capability and allowing people to perform at the optimum level. The opposite also holds true; sub-optimal processes will undermine the ability of people to do their jobs and deliver an outstanding service. Just take a look in at most contact centre experiences in the world, South Africa included.
Help at hand
Travelling through Dubai airport at a very busy time (the height of Eid celebrations and European holiday visitors impacting the usual passenger numbers), I was reminded of this again merely going through the user experience.
The simplest of things, starting from the arrival at the airport terminal, the easy and slick bag-wrapping process, a very seamless (and fast, if you are listening, SAA) check-in process, is followed by the obligatory customs and security checks. Customs officials are not necessarily the most courteous but they process the queues rapidly and efficiently, and the latest in systems such as iris-identification technology is evident. Teams of helpers are at hand to guide and direct people traffic and to assist you in the unpacking and preparation for an easy and efficient transition through the very important security scanning exercise — heaven forbid that Oliver Tambo International might try be helpful and coordinated in this equivalent process.
And at the other end of the systems process lies some very impressive retail experiences. Yes, it is typically Dubai and has lots of bling, bells and whistles, but it is there for the user to engage or while away time in transit.
Indeed, we have similar retail experiences and options like this at our airports in South Africa. The difference, however, lies in that you can get a cup of coffee and sandwich there at 3am in the morning — tried that here, recently?
Yes it might have been a lucky day as there are always a multitude of service sob stories when it comes to most airports and airlines, but one has to acknowledge what has been achieved in Dubai. It is a complex environment with a multitude of expatriate cultures, delivering the service and its own particular laws and cultural nuances that impact the Emiratis involved in the process — including traditionally bureaucratic government officials (take note, powers that be in our country) — so it has been no easy task for them, of that much I am certain.
Indeed, they have thrown money at the problem but, in the process, have built an enviable capability and success story. I am not South Africa-bashing in the process of comparison, but merely holding out what is a benchmark for us to optimise our tourism-and-travel experience and brand delivery.
Beyond the smiles
Internal brand engagement should not be confused as only happy, smiley and courteous faces engaging you as a client. Yes, the people connection and human touch go a long way to build an additional layer of service augmentation, but they cannot stand alone.
System or structural failures that undermine or disempower the ability of people to deliver extraordinary service will leave them stranded at the customer altar; no amount of happy smiles will compensate for a lack of service delivery. Ask our president — he has tried that for some time and throws in the occasional dance routine but it simply doesn’t work over the long haul.
Well done, Dubai Airports and Emirates, you deserve your status and accolades as industry giants and have set the global measure.
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. He contributes the regular “The Real McCoy” column focusing on internal branding to MarkLives.
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