One-man brand

Simon 4:07 pm, Nov 14th 2012

Tiny companies can teach massive ones a lot about customer loyalty. With no budget, marketing department, ads, logos, brand identity or social media presence, the little guys can still get it spectacularly right where the big guys fall down.

Picture the scene. Steve (not his real name) travels home on an overcrowded train. He approaches the station platform exit clutching his single ticket. Due to a power fault, the barriers are stuck open, so he just walks through without having his ticket read. With a wry grin, he realises that he has a kind of ticket that, as a result of the barrier fault, he’ll be able to use again tomorrow, when he’s due to make the same journey. He strides off, happy to have got one over on the train company.

On the way home, Steve pops in to the newsagent, smiles hello at the woman at the counter and grabs a loaf of sliced bread. It’s busy in there and he bumps into a neighbour. They walk home together and he tells the neighbour about his free train journey.

He puts the bread in the kitchen  – and suddenly realises he walked out of the shop without paying for it. He lets out a small gasp, a mix of shock and embarrassment. Immediately, he turns, puts his coat back on and half jogs back to the shop, still clutching the bread. He apologises profusely to the woman at the counter, and pays. She laughs – it’s fine, he could have just popped in on his way past tomorrow.

How can Steve, the hardened criminal who takes joy in getting away without paying for a train ticket, also be the good citizen who returns shamefacedly to the scene of his loaf-lifting?

You know how.

The more relevant question is, what can the train company do to make Steve, and all the rest of us, feel a bit more towards them like we do towards the newsagent?

Answers on a postcard.

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