Friday, 3 April 2009

if you care, show it

For over a year i have struggled with the customer service approach of a large mobile service provider whose network carries my calls.

My monthly billing is very high (compared to Indian usage rates) and i should be easily among the top 5% of their customers in terms of revenue generated. And yet, i am treated with suspicion, and made to feel irrelevant.

A bill goes missing, i am told it will take 8 days. Since i have already paid the bill and only require a copy for official records, i ask why 8 days to send a bill by email. No reason...its policy. So i talk to the supervisor...." i will do it for you today (and only because its you)", he says. 24 hours later, nothing. So i call back, a new supervisor promises the same. 24 hours later nothing. By now i am feeling like they are taking me for a ride. No one seems to be interested in solving the problem...just closing the call.

So i call some friends working in the company and behold- the bill appears the next day.

And all this while, i am left with a feeling of helplessness. When i want to report the incident to the supervisor's manager, i am given an email id which says that i should get a response in 8 days. I want to be heard today. Not 8 days later.

I am bitter. I know that this company has perhaps the best network in the country, i cannot shift. So i must continue to suffer their indifference.
Bitterness, frustration are outcomes of a sense of helplessness. I felt the same way when i met the school bully! Till i threw my first punch at him.

What right does a company, that exists because i buy its services, have to make me bitter?

On a marketing blog, my own feelings are irrelevant. What's useful is that i have reflected now on what customer service processes should achieve:

- listen to the customer. Understand his problem.
- treat the customer as you would like to be treated. Dont mess with his time. And behave as you would if you were standing in front of him, and not in some undisclosed part of the world.
- empower the customer (and your front line staff to solve problems, not just pass on the buck). If you can, give the customer some alternatives and let him choose his solution.
- close the issue in the first call. Or stay with the customer and the issue till it is closed.

I do not spend time with people that do not respect me.

I had a vastly different customer service experience with the Taj group of hotels, just as recently. ( I had a problem with a policy, the lady at the desk said she could not sort it out. I asked to speak to her supervisor. She could not sort it out and suggested i email. When i said i would not email, she offered to connect me to her boss.

In an ideal world i would have liked her to sort out my problem. But i noticed that this was an organisation where senior management were not afraid to come in front of their customers. They did not hide behind emails. I got his mobile number and called.

The gentleman said he understood the problem, and would look into it and get back to me. If there was a reasonable chance of sorting it out in my favour, he would.

I dont care anymore that he does not sort out my problem. But by giving me his mobile number and direct email id, he showed that he trusted me. He heard me out.

Some organisations may be in the service business and some may be in the manufacturing. But all customer service departments are in the customer contact business. There can be no excuse for not respecting the one reason why a company is in business. The customer.


1 comment:

Surya said...

Your blog echoes most of the thoughts and feelings we have about customer service in our house (we have had a problem with reward points).

I attribute this poor customer service to the fact that companies are in the growth phase - more interested in acquiring customers than retaining them.