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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy birthday dear customer!

No wonder we have become a ‘like’ generation whereby we limit our interactions and expressions to our friends and families through Facebook’s ‘like’ buttons only. Too busy we are sometimes even to post a comment, or a message in the inbox, let alone picking up the phone and chatting for nothing for a while. That is how some friendship has become, while the number of 'friends' in your Facebook list keeps growing, what an irony. So I knew that way that my friend Harun is busy with his life and work in Finland and we never communicated for more than a couple of years now. Everybody is busy. So when he finally decided to show up (on Facebook that is) with a wish on my birthday, all this bitter and void feeling of ‘not being in touch’ disappeared. I was wondering if its true to some extent that people in general are more sensitive, or vulnerable or receptive to attention, or atleast they expect to be remembered on their birthdays. I don’t know if its true for all ages or all gender or for all consumer in all countries or not, may be it’s a human thing that exists sub-consciously even if we consciously deny it. What do you think about it?

In the same note if you notice that your date of birth is one of the most sensitive information companies can collect while you subscribe to their products or services. How many of those companies actually do something with that piece of very personal and unique information of yours when the day actually arrives? Other than letting the data lie dormant in the company’s member database, wouldn’t it be nice if the company could do something to make your day more special to you? Say for example, you get a text from your mobile operator on your birthday exactly when the clock strikes 12 AM saying, “Happy Birthday Asif, you are given 100 taka of free talk time to enjoy on your special day as a gift from Grameen Phone and its staff. Enjoy!’. How would you feel if the brands you love return the same on a day which is very special to you? Similarly the restaurants you visit, the food malls you go to, if at any time they have collected your date of birth, they have all the more reasons to try to connect to you on a personal basis, so that they can send you some gifts in the form of freebies, vouchers to spend or any special discounts for you only valid for that day. The companies should remember however that they should not take this day as another opportunity to push sell or promote a new product, rather the focus should be more on celebrating the customer, his/her loyalty to the brand all through out. One might argue that what happens if birthdays of 10000 customers fall on one day? Or you might argue that this is extra cost for the company in terms of customer service. In that case, its always a good idea may be to either randomise this birthday special treatment within a limit of customers which don’t dent the company’s budgets. But the fact is, its better to communicate to atleast some chosen customers on their birthdays rather than not communicating to anyone at all.

It does not require any market research to predict that consumptions tend to be higher right after monthly pay days. Similarly it’s a general assumption that consumers as a community might be more prone to buying your product during community events such as Eid, Puja, National festivals etc. but if you intend to get connected to users on a more individual level, its worthwhile to plan your activities surrounding their birthdays. Every customer feels like a king for atleast that one day, and your brand can certainly make an impression by showing up with a nice little gift of thanks or appreciation. And finally for those Bangladeshi consumers who are celebrating their birthday today and reading this post, wishing you a very happy birthday and happy consumer experience with Bangladeshi brands!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

And the best business award for climate change goes to....?

Who doesn’t like to get awards? Not everyone wants to do an Aamir Khan act, where the Indian actor is famous (or infamous) for his defiance stance against Bollywood awards. Going against the wind can be a good idea for a celebrity to get noticed and create headlines. But when it comes to businesses, may be not everybody wants to take a chance to challenge business awards, especially if they are coming your way for innovative new issues and sometimes backed with financial or reputational gains. The Daily Star and the HSBC Bank in Bangladesh have been pioneers to apply the ‘awards strategy’ not only to champion current causes but also to embolden their brand images in the same push. The leading English daily of the country is already tied up with the annual business awards jointly sponsored with DHL whereas HSBC is also knows to be involved in various entrepreneurship development related projects, among other social projects.

The dynamic duo were certainly quick to spot the next best buzzword to spread in the Bangladeshi corporates. After squeezing a lot of lemon out of corporate social responsibility, make way for 'climate change' my friends. The Daily Star and the HSBC Bank recently announced climate awards in four categories with an objective to encourage individuals and institutions working to face the challenges of climate change. Certainly it’s a good thing to raise awareness about climate change and the risk it poses to Bangladesh being the most vulnerable country in this case. It also goes without saying that Bangladeshi businesses have an important role to play to increase awareness and also to do business in a climate-friendly way. Consequently there is no harm in recognising and awarding the champion businesses who lead with examples in relation to climate change threat to Bangladesh. HSBC is also calling itself the ‘first carbon neutral bank’, only God and Sanjay Prakash know what this means but I reckon one of the upcoming trendy jargons to use in relation to climate change following ‘carbon footprints’, ‘green entrepreneurship’ and the likes.

From a different perspective, if Bangladesh is like a sinking boat due to the threats of climate change, the Daily Star and HSBC are planning to award businesses who do less damage to the already sinking boat. An award for those businesses and individuals in Bangladesh who are not increasing the size of the deadly hole under the Bangla boat by means of doing business ‘dangerously’ in a way which may aggravate the climate threats. What I don’t understand is if we as a country are in the receiving end of the catastrophic consequences of climate change, then what is the point of giving awards only to businesses which are in Bangladesh? Our businesses are not responsible to bring about this worst kind of threat to our country, then why should all the rules and regulations in terms of climate protection and responsible business apply to our brands? Can we expect HSBC and Daily Star to continue this award may be under water in Bay of Bengal in 2030? Or they can try that may be this year to ‘raise awareness’ around the world, similar stunts were carried out by the aqua-friendly Maldivian government officials lately.

I recommend giving awards to western businesses who need to be encouraged by the HSBC and Daily Star for their adherence to protecting the climate through their business functions. Why can’t they lure global climate culprits like BP with this award? Why can’t we, as the most vulnerable country affected by climate change, start giving awards to foreign companies who should sort out their business acts first which are the main reasons for the global warming, rising tidal waves and changing temperatures? I think its high time that along with taming our home businesses concerning climate change, we also should bring to books, through awards or op-eds or campaigns – the foreign businesses which need to make their business processes ‘climate friendly’ first. Sanjay please pass this message to your foreign bosses.