Gabey Goh
Apr 6, 2016

Shell Malaysia on a mission to transform customer experience on the road

MALAYSIA - Shell is on a mission to make the brand synonymous with the “highest standard of hospitality” on Malaysian roads by 2017. Head of retail marketing for Shell Malaysia, Ben Mahmud, talks to Campaign Asia-Pacific about making it a reality.

Ben Mahmud
Ben Mahmud

In mid-2015, Shell Malaysia conducted a consumer survey, which led the brand to some very interesting insights about what makes drivers and retail customers happy.

“Overall, we concluded that customer service is an essential part of the shopping experience for Malaysians,” said Ben, in an email interview.

The survey found that:

  • 87 percent of respondents say a smile from store staff makes them happier than receiving a gift (80 percent) or reward (76 percent)
  • Almost half (49 percent) revealed that poor customer service makes them more annoyed than being late for an appointment (46 percent) or waiting for a delayed flight, train or bus (43 percent)
  • More than half (55 percent) have refrained from purchasing a brand if the staff is not friendly
  • Inversely, more than half (54 percent) of respondents have purchased something extra when staff was friendly to them.

“The results demonstrate the importance of service in strengthening our relationships with our customers, which supports the initiatives we were already undertaking with ‘Welcome to Shell’,” he added.

Launched in 2015, Welcome to Shell is a three-year transformational programme, which aims to deliver a “superior customer experience” at all Shell sites in the country. It is a promise from the brand to deliver personalised customer service, enhanced offerings and site facility upgrades for its customers.

“It is a three-year strategic shift to enhance our retail business,” Ben said. “Ultimately, we want to make our customers’ journeys better, so that they leave a little happier than when they arrived.”

According to the company, this includes a comprehensive service and hospitality training for station crew to deliver an exceptional standard of service. Enhanced offerings and site upgrades include a new retail design for Shell Select stores, availability of freshly prepared food and beverages from deli2go, as well as new and improved facilities such as prayer rooms and toilets at selected stations.

Humanised approach and out-of-the-box marketing

The transformation programme has also extended to the fuel retailer brand’s marketing strategy, with Ben reporting a shift from a product-centric marketing approach to a more humanised approach that lends the brand a more emotional touch.

“We believe this softer approach can help drive brand love for Shell, as we connect with our customers on a more personal level,” he added. “This is why we have changed our approach in terms of creatives and brand presence across the country, beyond our stations.”

The company does not disclose its advertising and marketing budget, but Ben said that the bulk of the company’s investment is focsed on enhancing the customer experience at its stations and ensuring it generates sufficient brand awareness, encompassing key touchpoints.

In Malaysia, its creative agency of record is J. Walter Thompson, while its media business is held by Mediacom.

Ben shared that with a more personal approach, the emphasis was on reaching out to customers on the road and engaging them directly, driving awareness in a manner that will bring the Shell brand to top-of-mind.

“This is why we had to relook at the mediums available to us, to see where we could use them creatively in a way that was eye-catching and different,” he added.

This relook led to the conceptualisation of Shell’s ‘Roofvertisement’—the first ad placement on the roof of a tollgate in the country. It is a concept that is new for the country, one that Ben claims takes advertising a step further by allowing it to be captured via satellite photos in Google Maps.

A team of over 12 contractors and two sky lifts spent 16 days putting the ad together onto the rooftop of the Duta tollgate, one of the tolls in Kuala Lumpur with the highest traffic.

The advertisement was assembled like a jigsaw puzzle out of 10,800 tiles all individually cropped and glued to create the advertisement, which measures 396.65 feet wide. 

“We felt that this installation was impactful, as it would reach out to over 200,000 to 500,000 estimated motorists who go past the Duta toll on a daily basis, and the figure is said to increase during the holidays and festive season,” said Ben.

“More than just capturing our brand itself, the messages on our advertisement aims to create and strengthen the awareness for Welcome to Shell and showcase our promise to provide warm and friendly customer service at Shell sites across the country,” he added.

Ben also shared that since the launch of Welcome to Shell, the team has realised that consumers now have much higher expectations in terms of content that is highly personalised and emotionally engaging.

“They pay attention to content that challenges their conventions and helps them reframe their beliefs towards our brand,” he said. “With that in mind, we are currently in the midst of finalising our communication plans for 2016 and are prioritising our initiatives in customer-based engagements that will inspire participation and sustain their involvement with the brand.”


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