Going the extra mile: GuocoLand vs Grab
“I’m eating better now than before this CB,” exclaimed a friend. CB, also an acronym for a local swear word, is short for Circuit Breaker, Singapore’s version of a lockdown. Living in far-flung Woodlands – not exactly a foodie haven – she used to be constrained to the offerings within a 5-km radius.
But with ground-up initiatives such as #savefnbsg and Hawkers United – Dabao 2020 offering island-wide delivery, we can now get hokkien mee from Geylang, nasi briyani from North Bridge Road and burgers from Bukit Batok.
For some restaurants and hawkers, the coronavirus measures could well be the death blow that shutters them for good, as they struggle on at least two fronts – coping with sunk costs like rental and manpower costs and figuring out the best way to get their food to customers.
GuocoLand: Above and beyond
Late last month, DJ-turned-restaurant owner Daniel Ong made an impassioned plea on Instagram for landlords to waive rentals. Despite some early grouses from tenants that landlords are not passing on the property rebates, and Parliament actually had to pass legislation to enforce it, quite a few property owners are now providing rental waivers beyond their legal obligations.
Enters GuocoLand who, with very little fanfare, launched an initiative last week for their F&B tenants at Guoco Tower which include Ippudo, Japan Rail Café and Makai Poke.
But what’s really interesting is that the developer is absorbing all the delivery costs while the tenants are keeping all the sales receipts. Moreover, the landlord is managing all the logistics, from consolidating and verifying the orders to arranging for delivery, so that the tenants can focus on what they do best – cook.
Props, GuocoLand, such proactive empathy is going to earn you some very grateful tenants.
Grab: Underdog to top dog
It wasn’t so long ago that Grab was the homegrown underdog taking on behemoth Uber. Heck, I used to choose Grab over Uber because #supportlocal.
Now that it’s the classic Goliath in both ride-hailing and food delivery, Grab’s getting its fair share of haters, which is par for the course. But it went from being lauded for its Grabcare service which offers on-demand transport for healthcare workers to being reviled for its – some would say defensive or tone-deaf – explanation on commission charges for food delivery.
It began two weeks ago with a Facebook post by an F&B owner who calculated that GrabFood might be getting up to 50% in commissions. (There’s a TL;DR infographic here.) A day later, #savefnbsg, a coaltion of more than 600 restaurants, wrote an open letter to food delivery platforms, accompanied by a graphic that showed how a restaurant makes only 50 cents from a $25 sale.I was expecting the usual PR template spiel from Grab that they do not “earn” the full amount of commissions because it’s needed to cover incentives for their drivers delivery riders as well as operating costs like platform development and marketing costs, plus “we’re not profitable yet”.
Needless to say, the posts didn’t go down well at all. I was surprised that they went with such a confrontational approach on Facebook and Instagram. On the contrary, their blog post handled it better with an informative FAQ headlined: “Where does the merchant commission go?”
Why tone matters
Yes, we understand that Grab’s community managers are probably working overtime but tone is paramount when dealing with brickbats. Here is a “what not to do” example. A Facebook user asked why he had to pay $6.90 for a 2-km delivery when the app listed delivery prices as ranging from $3-5.
Explaining dynamic pricing, “Heather” from Grab wrote: “It seems that you have made the order at noon time, which is peak hour for lunch which could be why…. Pro-tip: I usually try to order my lunch slightly earlier or later to beat the rush personally. Give it a go next time?”
Condescending much? I’m just a bystander and, already, I feel the reply is rather passive-aggressive.
But the ultimate joke was “Heather” thinking that 23:45 was close to noon. Pro-tip: If you want to be snarky, you need to get your facts right. Sass certainly has a place in social media but not in this case. And “she” put the user in a holding pattern and never got back to him.
It’s all about the feels
And as though Grab is not done with pissing off its customers, it’s now pulling the plug on its $9.99 food delivery subscription plan that offers free deliveries on 50 GrabFood orders in a month.
Earlier this week, irate subscribers said they haven’t been informed of the change. They probably missed the memo in the midst of Grab’s incessant promotional emails and notifications.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
When you’re the top dog, whatever you do will come under intense scrutiny. And when you’re the top cat (or only cat), if you try to rebut something robustly, you’ll always come across as ham-fisted. Oh, I was referring to Grab, and not a certain political party.
The thing is, all of Grab’s arguments are valid. At the end of the day, it is also a business. Just today it announced that it has slashed the pay of senior management by up to 20%.
But as Maya Angelou put it, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
When the worst of Covid-19 is over, what will merchants and customers remember about how Grab made them feel?