The Marketing Bureau

Specialist Marketing & Communications Resourecs




By Brian H Meredith
From the NZBusiness Magazine "Marketing Maestro" Archive.
First published March 2009

I had arrived at Dunedin Airport on only my second day back at work following a long summer break. My alarm had gone off at 4.45am to give me time to catch the 7.15 flight from Auckland. I have a car and an apartment in Dunedin so the, often, weekly commute is relatively painless. But this week was different. My Dunedin car, in the airport car park, had a flat battery.


I had a pretty full day ahead of me but the breakdown guy was there in just 20 minutes and, for $75, got the car running.

Next morning, however, I was facing an even bigger day – two major Presentations to deliver and one of those was in Invercargill!

Being the slightly anal chap that I am (although I prefer to think of myself as prudent), I awoke, sipped some coffee and then, at around 7am, headed out to see if the car was OK.

It was not. Dead as a dodo.

Slight panic began to rise. I was a little over an hour away from my first Presentation and this was to be followed immediately by a 200km drive to Invercargill for the second Presentation.

No use calling the same bloke again – jump starting was fine unless, late in the day in Invercargill, the car failed to start again.

I called the Honda Dealer in Dunedin (the car is a Honda so that made sense, eh?). Spoke to the chap at Southern Honda who answered the phone (switchboard still on night service at that hour but the service team were clearly already hard at it).

Managing, I think, to disguise my slight annoyance (at my car) and the steadily rising concern about the day getting seriously mucked up, I explained my problem and asked if he could help.

Look up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No its Superman! (Known locally as Craig Brook, Agency Manager at Southern Honda).

“That’s not a problem, Mr. Meredith. I’ll get a couple of guys out to your place immediately. They can jump start the car and then they’ll drop you off at your meeting and bring the car into the dealership. We’ll get it fixed and, when you finish your meeting, just give me a call and I’ll have someone come and pick you up and bring you here to collect the car”.


No “oooh”, “mmmmm”, “I dunno” or “There’s no one here at the moment”. Just a bloke who knows how to run a service business doing precisely that – offering a service.

Craig, if asked, would probably say “it was no big deal”.

Craig would probably be heard to quietly remark that “it’s what we are here for”.

And we would all agree – it shouldn’t be a big deal and it is what they are there for.

But when was the last time that you had a service experience that made you feel like the entre of that provider’s universe?

When was the last time you threw yourself at the mercy of a service provider (“Can you help me?”) and experienced them responding exactly, precisely and completely in the manner you hoped for?

Or are your memory banks populated by events that began with “for help in restarting your heart, press 1” and concluded with, at best, half a solution and a “Is there anything else we can help you with today?” said with the same sincerity as a gum chewing Manhattan waitress voicing her hope that your upcoming day will be all that you could wish for?

But this is not just about customer service.

The Southern Honda experience was an entire Brand experience which had a significant impact on the Brand Franchise for at least one customer (me) but probably for a whole lot more, as I truly doubt that my Southern Honda experience was markedly different from any other customer.

The phone was answered promptly, even just after 7am.

It was answered by someone who unhesitatingly took ownership of the problem.

It was answered by someone who the ensured that the navigation of the problem was flawless and the outcome pretty close to perfect (the only thing that could have improved it would have been if the coffee machine in the dealership was working when I was waiting, for just 5 minutes or so, for my car to be ready).

The guys that came to my apartment were prompt, well presented, warm & friendly and effective.

The guy that came to collect me after my meeting was smart, prompt and charming.

The dealership was well presented, immaculately clean and, on my arrival, Craig came out to greet me and introduce himself. (In fact, he came up to the vehicle and opened the passenger door for me!)

And the cost was $45 plus the price of the battery.


I have found close to the perfect manifestation of the simple but powerful reality that effective marketing is so much more to do with the entire service or product delivery experience than it is to do with the constant yelling of the “And there’s more!” anthem in costly, poorly conceived and irritatingly executed marcoms campaigns.

Brian H Meredith


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