Right away that title is misleading, deliberately of course. Trinidad KFC teaches us nothing but we can learn a lot from the recent events online and off, revolving around the increased prices on their menu that sparked a public outcry that still continues at the time of this article.
Health arguments about KFC aside, I personally love the recipe and was a ‘regular’ consumer with no particular buying frequency and no special loyalty as I would invariably prefer Royal Castle one day or Churches another.
I emphasized ‘recipe’ as that’s what I love and I’ve never loved KFC the company, i.e., the local franchise holder Prestige Holdings for as long as I can remember and for many reasons; many of those reasons manifesting all at once as a result of the aforementioned scenario.
Quick facts and observations about Trini KFC restaurants in general
There are 55 restaurants across Trinidad & Tobago with none really standing out, which means they equally represent the ideology and business approach of their owners.
1. Poor customer service is standard
All the rules of Customer Service 101 are out the window across the board so much so it ain’t funny. Long lines, the same long wait for service regardless if there are 2 or 20 people in front of you, sour-faced and ill-mannered cashiers, frequent running out of every item except the 2 liter flavored soda that they always seem to have on hand to give instead of Pepsi, and I can go on and on and on…
2. No apparent supervisor/manager
Everyone seems to be doing their own thing and there is no one to complain to or oversee what’s going on to make things run more efficiently. Even if there was, the same indifference to customers applies.
3. Customers in line always complaining
I’ve never stood in line and not hear customers bitch and moan about the sorry state of the customer service, size of chicken and local KFC restaurants in general.
4. Marketing has always been professional
No expense has ever been spared on top notch advertising in all media, and by the quality you’d swear that this was an equally top notch restaurant chain.
4. Over 40 years of the same modus operandi
The above has been status quo for all of my living memory.
What the hue & cry brought about
When Prestige Holdings released their price increase notice, citing the usual corporate and marketing babble and bullshit reasons, the consumer reaction was swift and immediate.
Consumer anger and resentment voiced online
Trini consumers immediately voiced their anger on KFC’s own Facebook Page. The posts were 99% negative except for the one or two trolls (KFC cronies I suspect) begging to differ.
No replies from KFC to any posts
There were no official replies directly or indirectly to consumer outrage. They continued voice their disapproval, and KFC continued subsequent posts as if nothing had happened.
KFC removed announcement post, deleted comments
The admins of the page subsequently removed all of the comments and re-posted the announcement, but this time acknowledging the public outcry but with their customary indifference.
Retaliatory ‘Boycott KFC’ Facebook Page went up
So vociferous was the outcry that a Facebook Page was launched inviting consumers to ‘Boycott KFC’ that grew to a few thousand in just a few days.
KFC pounced on a lone positive comment
This comment was like manna from heaven and the page admin was all over it like a corbeau on a carcass, asking for the poster’s contact info to follow up on this possible alien sighting.
I presume a number of possible outcomes:
(a) To get the details to erect a statue of the person who made a positive comment
(b) To get details to erect a statue of the KFC employee identified providing good service
(c) To get details to find out how it happend to prevent it’s re-occurrence
(d) To fire the employee and make an example of her
What we can learn from the above
In reality, Prestige Holdings inadvertently teaches us a lot about online marketing in Trinidad and Tobago that we need to be wary of in our own marketing campaigns (again, online and off).
1. Trini consumers are online in their numbers
Your own social media campaigns (especially Facebook) may belie this fact because your Facebook stats may say otherwise. You are often wondering if Trinis are online at all, here’s your answer, and you have to find the right buttons to push (not the kind that works against you though).
2. Negative advertising trumps positive
Prestige Holdings did not deliberately set out to raise this ‘jep ness’ but such risk is inherent for any business announcing a price increase. A similar and also current example is the Diego Martin Maxi Taxi drivers announcement of a $2 hike in fares. But their increase affects a specific geographic area, while KFC’s affects everyone and brought more air-time to their dirty laundry at the same time.
It also released the pent up feelings of customers who took the opportunity to not only vent, but OFFLOAD on social media.
3. You must plan for for consumer reaction
I refuse to believe that the lack of direct response from Prestige Holdings’ marketing department (or the agency in charge of marketing) was part of their ‘strategy’. If so, I’m left to assume that these ‘professionals’ got their degrees from a dollar store.
That there would be rampant public dissatisfaction was a given from the get-go, and knowing such, a prepared response should have been at the ready.
Instead, KFC ignored everything that was said and issued only a statement, playing down the vociferous feedback, further angering their customers.
4. Competitors can take their cues
Bathroom wall or not (and that’s not the debate), sensible and rational people can still, as Trinis say, ‘pick sense from nonsense’. It doesn’t matter if they’re the vocal minority, and I believe the majority is speaking, perception is a hell of a thing. Enter the competition waiting on the sidelines to now swoop in and take advantage.
Jap’s, Royal Castle, Church’s, and even home-fried chicken have been the threats to jump ship.
5. A monopoly doesn’t shield
Local KFC’s have a monopoly on the Colonel’s recipe because it can’t be duplicated. But they don’t have a monopoly on fried chicken or eating out in Trinidad & Tobago. ‘Long time’ when there were fewer choices we sucked it up and took what we got, Which leads to my next point…
6. Every rope has an end
Ent? You can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool some of the people all of the time. Business has evolved in Trinidad & Tobago to such an extent that even small and medium businesses need marketing professionals. And that’s for two reasons: (1) The market has become more sophisticated and competitive, and (2) the customer is more ‘king’ than before.
In this day an age in Trinidad & Tobago, it doesn’t matter how mighty you are or once were, you can’t rest on your laurels and be complacent.
7. Even big companies/advertising agencies lack online marketing skill
Prestige Holding’s lackluster online handling of this debacle proves that having the resources for online marketing doesn’t guarantee success. The root of the problems are being ignored and they can’t seem to see the forest for the trees.
They’ve failed to social media to engender loyalty and develop a rapport with their customers.
Consumer power on the rise in Trinidad & Tobago
One of the main takeaways of this episode is the rise of local consumer power into a more organized force that has to be reckoned with. The reign of customer indifference, which has long been the hallmark of Trini businesses, has come to an end. The main reasons are:
- There are more avenues to express dissatisfaction
- A wider range of choices nowadays
- more educated customer than ever before, thanks to the internet
It’s only bad for bad businesses
Good companies that take customer service seriously needn’t worry and can actually capitalize on the missteps of their competitors.
It’s a good wake-up call if you’re one of those because the number of days you can still ride that train is numbered.
No matter how long you’ve been around, how big you are, no company in Trinidad & Tobago is bulletproof. If you think you can play with the Trini consumer like you did in the 80’s and 90’s, think again— you’re going to get eaten alive!