A few years ago, I picked up an expensive smartphone and in a couple of months time it developed a snag. Though it was under warranty, I was disappointed, because it was new. Thinking of all unnecessary stress that warranty fulfillment demand, I went to to the service centre and showed it to the customer service person. He took my phone, gave it a quick check. He then opened a drawer and pulled out a new phone, put my SIM and the memory card in it. And that was it. I had a brand new phone. Pure delight.
My next two phones were from the same brand. Because I thought the brand behaved ‘fair’. A new phone should be replaced without any pain.
Human beings like to have a sense of fairness. When we line up for something and some guy breaks the line and goes to the counter directly, we are just short of swearing at him. Because it is not fair.
What can businesses and marketers learn from it? Well to start with, they can use the fair play in their transactions with consumers, who when treated fairly will have positive things to say about the business or the brand. I have told the story of my smartphone experience to innumerable people.
Many restaurants charge bottled water at MRP. Now isn’t that a fair practice compared to some restaurants where the same bottle can cost 3-4 times the MRP.
When we redeem air miles for kids, many airlines charge half the miles than they would do for an adult.
Similarly some buffet places charge a lower rate for a child. These experiences make us feel that we have been treated fair and our love for these businesses and brands shoots up.
Fair play is not just about material benefits. One of the deeper reasons why I go to Costa Coffee is that they employ people who can’t speak or hear. I see them as a fair play company. Giving fair chance to everyone to make a living. Or No Nasties, a t-shirt brand which only uses fair trade cotton and helps the farmers in the process.
Marketers will also face the challenge of being fair with new product launches and price changes. Here is a great example of Apple putting fair play in to practice. When Apple dropped the price of iPhone by $200 two months after it went on sale, many emails were sent to Apple by consumers who had purchased the iPhone at the pre-drop price. Apple decided to offer $100 store credit which could be used towards the purchase of any product at Apple retail or the Apple online store. Here is a link to the letter that was sent to the customers.
Now think of brands who drop prices or go on a 50% sale. Shouldn’t they have a fair play policy for the people who bought the product right before the sale at 100% price. Or automobile brands when they suddenly drop prices by many thousands and leave early buyers feeling let down. It is in these times that a thought through fair play strategy can turn the disgruntled customer in to a happy brand champion.