Friday, May 27, 2011

Customer Service In India - A Long Way to Go

I walked into Landmark, Somajiguda the other day with a Transcend USB that I had bought from there a couple of months ago. For some reason my system stopped detecting the USB and I took it back since there was a warranty period. The salesman checked it and said that even his computer was not reading it. He took it to the floor manager (or store manager) who was nearby and he checked it as well. The questions that followed were on expected lines - when did you buy it, do you have a bill for it etc. And finally, the "you must take it to the Transcend service center." If that was the case, why ask these standard questions - would it have changed anything? Anyway I suggested that maybe they could send it to the service center themselves as the retailer but they suggested that they had a policy about after-sales and that was not their domain. Politely of course.

I asked them where the Transcend service center was and they started rummaging in desks and mails and made some calls. They were very polite, but they could not get me the address of the service  center in Hyderabad. Since I was waiting, the young salesman said that he would text me the address and also mail it to me so I need not wait the extra ten minutes. I returned home late in the afternoon found that there was no mail or sms. I finally checked online at the Transcend site and got the address from its India website. It was only late in the evening that I saw a mail from the salesman. What bugs you most in customer service is when you promise something and do not deliver it as per your promise. So when they start talking ten minutes or so, I give it half an hour, one hour, but not six hours!

All this for a USB that they had aggressively promoted when I went to buy it. It costs some Rs.1200 or so and I thought that maybe, since even they had checked it on their systems, they could exchange it or replace it. But I have another trip to make to the service center, which may result in another trip to pick up the USB after it is repaired, travelling some 8 kms either way in peak traffic to places that have no proper parking. You get it - it is not the easiest once you have a problem after the sale is done. And one of the reasons why I shop at Landmark is because I feel that the retailer would give me some comfort. If it does not, I can as well buy it anywhere else.

It is in these small things that I find customer service fails to go past the smile and the politeness - when it comes to the actual act, they are found wanting. I faced a similar problem with Sony when their service personnel did not turn up for almost 4-5 days after the tv was delivered to install the television and when they did - it was with great reluctance, a lack of a smile, and a vibe that pretty much said - "ok, so you want it installed today, I'll do it, but only because my boss asked me to." Of course the store manager was good enough to call me when I was just about to flip, and tell me that his technicians were in Chennai for some training program and he was short staffed. But that would have sounded so much better if he said that to start with and not after me making calls to the call center! Or even Airtel DTH which took a month to install their service that came along with the Sony TV. Was it because of the low priced scheme that they decided to give it low priority? One month when every competitor is installing it the same day? Come on guys, its time to move beyond the call centres and really thinking about what customer care means. It merely means that you deliver what you promised. Else make no promises.

Since I started writing about my customer care experiences I thought of the best and the worst ones and believe me, I really had to search for the good ones where they did just that little extra bit to make me feel taken care of. Where they were professional enough to take the query and handle it competently - and in a few cases actually took the trouble of gong the extra mile, putting the smile on my face, making me really grateful for their service and making my day. But the ones that are lousy came up in a trice, for sheer lack of customer orientation, lack of consideration for after sales relationships. From banking clerks and officials who behave like customers are a bunch of retarded bozos who are completely infringing on their time, to supercilious salesmen who ask inane questions in the hope of putting you off even before you make a request, to those who believe that passing the buck is the best way to handle customers - you have it all. I will list my experiences next, in praise of the best and a mention of the worst later.


Dr. Seven said...

Two encouraging signs after a generation (I remember the India of the early 1980s).

1. You actually expect good service! We never did in those days.

2. Rudeness to customers was a given. Now at least there is politeness, even if the systems are not quite in place to deliver actual satisfaction.

Here's hoping that will soon follow!

Speaking of acting like customers are a pain, I remember a sign in the State Bank of Hyderabad, Osmania Univ branch, that I think all customer service people should be made aware of. It said something like "The customer is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it." There was more that I do not remember.

naveen said...

I can't wait to see your list.

FYI - I still follow your blog.

Harimohan said...

You are right. We actually have reached a stage when we 'expect' good service instead of being treated like some nuisance. Politeness is another good development of training processes though most mouth the words - still I'll take it.
Hope the rest follows. To begin with, I am hoping to change my attitude and not fight with the customer care guys and be gentle with them. I think I already am.

Harimohan said...

Lists coming up soon. Good to see you still read the blog.

Rajendra said...

An opportunity for some training programs on Customer Service?

Harimohan said...

Raja, Not a bad idea but to us as we are today, if the service provider just fulfills what he promises without a hitch, it is already a delightful experience. They do not need to give us extras to make us feel over the moon. Unfortunately there are too many promises, too little done to fulfill the promises. Makes you wonder why almost all big brands seem to miss out here. Maybe a training program is not a bad idea after all! The program will make it mandatory to keep promises, and if they cannot, to not make promises!