Friday, July 22, 2016

Customer delight is a function of expectations

The Kabali fever is on and I succumbed to it! After watching the movie some interesting perspectives with regard to retail cropped up in my mind. Obviously the power of branding and the ability to drive massive, unheard-of footfalls into theatres is one of the predominant thoughts. The related thought is with regard to converting these walk-ins into repeat customers and loyal shoppers.

That the movie Kabali has had an unprecedented amount of build up and hysteria is an understatement. It was released on 22nd July 2016 across the world in thousands of screens. I don’t think that any other movie has been screened in Chennai city today. All screens are showing Kabali from as early as 4.00 am onwards. Aircrafts were painted with the Kabali picture, hotels had Kabali menu and even some organizations declared a holiday as the majority of the employees were anyways expected to be absent from work. In sum, this extended weekend can safely be called as the Kabali weekend!

Needless to say this hype along with a near total secret shroud around the storyline and other details about the movie helped create an anticipation and expectation which was far more than even sky high. In Rajini terms, it was galaxy high!

I was reminded of several of the store launches we had choreographed where similar hype would be created albeit at a much smaller and localized level.

Now I come to the moment of truth; the movie experience. I am not going to share any spoilers or story details. Let the Kabali weekend play out and maybe I will add on some views regarding this later on. As of now, all ye fans can look forward to the movie without any spoilers from me at least.

The experience I would like to talk about is that of an excited viewer on the first day of a Superstar’s much awaited movie. In a manner of speaking it was the first day, first show as it was the first show in the theatre we went to see Kabali. The usual scenes of super excited crowds were seen outside the theatre. The expected thrill from the movie was writ large on the faces of everyone. As expected there was a person in a suit trying to believe and also make others believe that he was Kabali. Shouting, hooting, jostling, etc., was all adding up and increasing the excitement levels. We were allowed into the theatre and the entry of the audience was punctuated with whistles, shouts etc. The start of the movie was amazing where the audience thrill, enthusiasm and excitement were as interesting to watch if not more.

The first few scenes where Thalaivar Rajinikanth makes his entry, delivers some of his key dialogues, etc., and was greeted wildly by the audience with whistles, people standing up, clapping and more. Subsequently, the theater settled down and everyone watched the movie in silence. Barring a few moments of euphoric whistling, clapping and cheers, the three hours was by and large a quiet experience. Even the ending seemed to be subdued as everyone made their way out of the theatre.
This is not what one usually experiences in a first day first show of a superstar. In fact many people go to these shows to see the fans in action and be a part of the excitement. They then go to actually watch the movie again.

I am not going to comment on whether the movie was good or bad, speculate about the story, etc. My interest is more in the crowd or customer reaction which I think was markedly subdued. I wonder how many of them would be coming back to watch the movie again and that is what triggered a thought in the context of retail.

Is it that the hype ended up creating expectations which are almost impossible to meet? In such a scenario, initial response might be fantastic but repeat business might be difficult to get. In any retail context hype and excitement is what pulls shoppers to come into any store. The question that any retailer must answer is whether the store can live up to the hype and resultant expectations. The store by itself might be excellent just like how the Superstar’s performance in Kabali is outstanding. However even that might not be enough if the expectations created are way more than what is being delivered. 

One must always keep in mind that customer satisfaction and customer delight is more dependent on the expectations being created than the actual delivery and experience.

Picture courtesy - V Creations