Customer Service; Two mini case studies.

Back to posting on our theme of Customer Service, we begin where we left off – the delayed delivery of gas cylinder at my residence.

I investigated the whole transaction and found out that it was a system failure. AND, horror of horrors, an attitudinal failure as well!

The original commitment made to me was based on information available at that time with the customer service person manning the desk. Subsequent to that, after the delivery van was loaded with the day’s deliveries, it suffered a flat tire. Naturally, it had to be unloaded to enable the tire to be replaced and reloaded before it could go on its deliveries. This delay was not conveyed to the customer service desk. Shockingly however, I found that even had the information been passed on, there was no system in place nor was anybody expected to convey revised delivery times to customers in case any delays took place. If any thing, the employees were expected not to use the telephone to make out going calls!! The lady who had given me the commitment would have gladly called me to apologize and give me a revised time had she been empowered to do so. She was actually expected to economize rather than build relationships with customers by the Management!

This state of affairs unfortunately, is the rule rather than an exception in our scheme of things. When it comes to things like cylinders of cooking gas, it gets worse as, the dealers strongly believe that they are obliging the customers rather than serving the customer! Since it is a seller’s market, customers have to put up with such indignity. On the other hand, where there is competition, like in white goods, the situation is quite different but only till the sale is made. There are some notable exceptions to this, about which I shall post in the future, but by and large, culturally speaking, we seem to be totally averse to after sale service.

Let us take another example. The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is a public sector behemoth. Actually it is a pathetic example of how, changed situations does not generate vigor and aggressive reaction from the public sector. The Indian telephone scenario has changed so dramatically now that BSNL’s customers have been surrendering telephone connections. BSNL is losing customers while all the other companies marketing mobile and static telephone connections are growing exponentially.

BSNL however has a great advantage in that they already have laid down cable coverage and so can indeed fight competition from a position of strength. Do you think they would? Try getting a broadband connection from them. They are aggressively advertising for it but just try and get a connection and you would know why people like me use other broadband service providers.

We shall continue on correcting attitudinal problems in our future posts but for the moment let me conclude with my personal experience with MSNL. I went to the exchange, which serves the area where my residence is located to get myself a broad band connection. There is a counter there specifically to handle customer service. I enquired there and was directed to an official who would first study whether BSNL will be able to provide the service to the area where I lived and then give a chit to issue an application form for a connection.

This official’s office is on the second floor of a unusually large building and with quite a bit of difficulty, I climbed the stair case only to find the official not present nor anyone capable of either attending to me or advising me as to whether I should wait for him. Finally, one employee of BSNL took some pity on me and took my business card and advised me that he would pass it on to the official concerned who will contact me when he came to the office. This was six months ago. I am still waiting. In the meanwhile, I have joined up with another broadband service provider who is giving me excellent service.

Am I being unusually harsh on BSNL, no, exactly the same happened to my neighbor with the exception that she was advised that they are unable to provide the connection due to some “technical” reason. My neighbor’s immediate neighbor, in the same building however has been given a connection! Mysterious indeed are the ways of the public sector!

What do you think will make such organizations change their ways? Can anything be done at all to impart training to change mindsets?

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