By Harjeet Singh Khanduja

Economy is a social science which runs on perceptions. But for me, it was a smaller seat on a plane for my short unplanned visit. I landed in Jabalpur and that very moment, I realised that I forgot to bring any woollen clothes. I had become so habitual to Mumbai that it never crossed my mind, that the weather is not the same everywhere. Even if I would have realised, I did not own any woollens back home in Mumbai. The low temperature coupled with the wind, made it worse. Moreover, the fog was not allowing me to forget that it was cold out there. Visuals make perceptions stronger.

Somehow, I managed to reach a nearby mall. There were not many shops open. Hence, my options were limited. I walked into a retail chain store. I did not have a great perception of the store; probably why I never visited a store of that retail chain in Mumbai. I asked for a warm jacket and a store associate guided me to the section. I was ready to buy any jacket but, the store associate gave me options. My decision making power eventually returned to me. I started asking for more colours, sizes, and designs. Eventually, the store associate understood my preferences and started suggesting options that would look good on me. Abundance makes economic engagement more interesting.

I finalised a jacket. I was prepared to pay the full price. The store associate told me that I would get a 30 per cent discount on the jacket. That was awesome. Yet, the matter was more complicated. If I bought another item, the discount would be 40 per cent on both the items. I walked into the store, looking for a jacket. I even found one. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to buy anything else. The store associated sensed state of my mind and recommended that I buy a t-shirt. The fabric of t-shirt was as elastic as my buying behaviour. She explained that the additional ten per cent discount would fund the t-shirt. Her logic was both compelling and confusing at the same time. I eventually bought the t-shirt too. Price and persuasion influence choices.

She then took the items to the billing counter. While billing, she found that if I  were to spend 200 rupees more, I would get a discount coupon worth 250 rupees, which I could use right away or even back in Mumbai. I expressed the desire to buy a monkey cap. The store did not have any monkey caps, but she still she tried to find something similar. She tried searching, but couldn’t find anything close. However, she did not give up. She suggested that I could buy something for my wife. It was a brilliant idea. She showed me a few options and helped me select something nice for my wife. I spent much more than 250 rupees. Economy rides on emotions.

Finally, I bought much more than I needed at that point in time. And, I was carrying a coupon for future shopping from the store, which I might not have visited otherwise. Despite that, I didn’t feeling cheated. On the contrary, I was delighted. The store associate left a lasting impression on me because she was not just selling. She was also thinking about what was best for me. It was an exemplary service orientation. This technique was much more effective than direct sales. Service orientation improves loyalty and repeat sales.

I was not sure whether the service orientation came from her family values or was result of the corporate training of the retail chain, or it was the organisation culture of the retail chain. Maybe the selection process of the retail chain was extremely good or maybe they were lucky to have an employee like her. A host of such questions were clouding my mind. I will have to visit their store again to find out the answers to these questions. But one thing stood bright and clear- “People make Brands”.

The moral of the story: invest in people.

A host of such questions were clouding my mind. I will have to visit their store again to find out the answers to these questions. But one thing stood bright and clear- “People make Brands”.

Harjeet is a SAP HCM Solution consultant, Six Sigma Green Belt, White Belt in Executive Coaching, Assessor for Predictive Index and a visiting faculty at NMIMS. He is an alumnus of IIT Roorkee and INSEAD. He is currently working as Vice President HR at Reliance Jio Infocomm. He was awarded for his “Outstanding contribution to Global Learning” by World HRD Congress and received HR Leadership Award by Asia HRD Congress.

Posted by The Indian Economist