Sale Sale everywhere but not a drop of Service

In one of their bestsellers C.K.Prahlad & Gary Hamel had talked about a framework where every successful company created their core competency from a set of 3 parameters. You need to be good at all 3 but to be truly world-class be the best in at least one of these 3 parameters.

1. Innovation 

2. Operational Efficiency

3. Customer Service 

Being Innovative is hard and in the recent past Apple stands out as the best example of a company that has Innovation as its Core Competency. ( Apple excels in all 3 areas which is probably why it is at a high that no company has previously achieved) DELL did well for many years with its strong Operational Efficiency and Singapore Airlines continues to lead with its focus on Customer Service.

Lets now shift gears to India – and companies operating here. We don’t see too much of Innovation and its more of a Copy culture , Commitments don’t matter so there is limited focus on operational efficiency – the only hope we had was to excel in Customer Service. But sadly that has not happened.

Every company  has hordes of sales people – Insurance , Phones , Cars , Houses, Credit Cards … we are deluged with mails and calls. You walk into a bank and someone rushes out trying to sell a scheme or a Bank loan. 99% of these guys are half baked , don’t know the products they sell and cannot answer the basic questions you have for them. When it comes to after sales the problem is even worse.Let me share with you some experiences from leading brands in India – 4 disasters and 1 Wow.

The HP Printer Debacle 

HP is the worlds leading printer brand. I would assume controlling > 50% market share. We changed our printer 14 months back and got a HP Photo-smart. A month back it stopped working . Reliance Digital the store we bought it from asked us to contact a HP service centre. We checked their website and landed up at Redington – Cunningham Road the authorised service centre.  The hassled busy girl at the counter took an advance of 2000 Rs and said it would be fixed in a week. We called after a week , and she said one more week. After the second week when we called – she said she would revert. The third week when we called she said it would be ready by Fri. On Fri morning she said the spare was yet to come. I was traveling to Redington Chennai on Mon and met the CEO and shared with him details about the incident. Our meeting was at 930 AM , by 3 PM the printer was delivered at my home. The print head had to be changed – and it took nearly a month and almost the cost of the printer to get fixed – and if the escalation had not happened to Redington CEO I wonder how much more time it would have taken.

Cancellation after 6 weeks @ Tanishq  Koramangla 

I spotted Asin wearing a wonderful necklace at Riteish Deshmukh’s marriage  and wanted to get a similar one made. We visited the Tanishq store at Koramangla. Service was great – coffee was served and well dressed men and women sashayed by. They looked up their design brochures and found a design that was almost 90% in line with our request. An order was placed and a sum of Rs 77,000/- paid as advance. Delivery time was 2 weeks.

Two weeks later when I called the salesman, he said work was going on and it would take another week. A week later when I called he said they needed one more week. This went on for nearly a month and finally I did get a call saying that I could come to the store. It was a Saturday nearly 6 weeks from the date of my ordering . The sales man who had taken the order was not there and the manager came up and informed me that they were not able to make the necklace and hence would refund the money. It took some calls to the Regional head and in a week the chk was sent to my house.

TATA AIG – How your Nett Worth can go down ! 

Some years back I fell prey to a smart sales girl from HSBC Bank who sold me a TATA AIG Insurance policy. It was linked to markets and I was assured of great returns. My annual premium was 1 Lac & the lock in was 3 years.  Post the 3 years I needed some liquidity and since the markets had performed exceedingly well decided to encash. By then the lady from HSBC had moved 3 companies and HSBC was no longer servicing TATA AIG policies so I had to meet the TATA AIG folks. After 2 long hrs and trying to convince me not to encash they finally came with a  calculation that the amount due to me was 2.5 Lacs.  Only now did I find out that deep within the 20 page document they made me sign was a clause that stated that the 1st year processing & administration fee was 60K , second Year 30 K & 3 year 10 K – so of the Rs 3 Lacs paid , 1 Lac had gone away in service charges and on the balance with the gains the net worth of my policy was 2.5 Lacs.  I could not argue , took the money – but with the learning that if you need a Insurance policy stick to LIC . Since then I have taken 5 more policies and referred many friends – but none for TATA AIG.

Axis Bank Home Loan 

Axis Bank is a good bank. I have had excellent service from their Privy & Wealth management section. I recently took a home loan. All home loans are serviced by DSA agents (Agencies who work on commission). Having taken a few loans in the past I was wary about 2 things and specifically asked him two Questions

1. Is there any insurance linked to the home loan ? 2.  Is there a limit on how much I can prepay in the course of a year and whats the prepayemnt penalty if any? 

He was emphatic that Axis Bank had no insurance mandate and there was no prepayment penalty. With this assurance we moved fast and within 10 days had the approval letter. The letter clearly mentioned that loan would be sanctioned subject to my taking a 50 Lac Insurance Policy against the property. The DSA tried all reasoning and explanations – but it was a clear case of wrong commitments in a desire to close a deal. I had to speak to some Sr folks at Axis bank and fortunately the matter was resolved – but this was one more example of a good brand delivering poorly on customer service.

All of us have experienced similar incidents and I could go on and on – and its baffling at the scant respect for customer service and meeting commitments from some large corporations which position themselves as great trustworthy brands. Sometimes the smaller mom & pop shops go the extra mile at ensuring customer satisfaction.

The Flipkart Experience 

At the other end of the spectrum is the small online startup Flipkart. It is sheer pleasure to interact with Flipkart. the website is smooth easy to navigate  , payment gateways always work , the choice of products is a wow and most importantly the quality of customer service and response is outstanding. Most people buy from online sites because its cheap – I would buy from Flipkart even if it was at a premium. They exceed expectations at every step and honor all the commitments they make – no questions asked. Flipkart is the gold standard on Customer Service in India. Its setting the standards for online business and lets hope these standards become the norm in the long run.

How is it that in the same country a startup with young CEO’s in their 30’s deliver CSAT experience which some of our largest Corporations are unable to even comprehend. Is it lack of vision , lack of investment , or just the culture of ” Chalte Hai” ?

Whatever it is Young India is going to get more demanding and if Indian Companies don’t fix their service orientation  we will see many big names going down the drain in the coming years. This is both an opportunity & a threat

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02 comments on “Sale Sale everywhere but not a drop of Service

  • vak1969 , Direct link to comment

    Comment received by Raman Vittal Via Facebook

    Most companies in emerging markets like India take advantage of the weak regulatory environment on customer protection and fair dealing with customers by not investing sufficiently in customer service – the focus is only on achieving 20% plus income growth YOY and if that means cutting corners on after sales service and staff training/monitoring – so be it – the same company will not tolerate a single customer complaint unresolved / or resolved with a delay in Singapore and Hong Kong due to the strict penalties the regulators can enforce for non compliance with customer protection laws. The big consumer market in India adds further to this problem since most companies still do not value satisfied and long terms customers due to the availability of the millions who are yet to be sold the first product.. thankfully there are a few exceptions who provide decent service too – the likes of Tata Sky and Airtel comes to mind..

  • B RAMESH UPADHYA , Direct link to comment

    Yes, you are right. The consumer problem is also of ‘ Chalta Hei’ though himself suffered due to deficient services. The current problem with our people is , (1) no time to gather informat to build a case and dont leave unless resolved and updated to COOs of the supplier, or the general public through some Consumer magzines like Consumer Voice , social network etc.. (2) Shyness on courage to question and get response in writing from the supplier/service provider, thinking why only me to question to get problem resolved. I have such issues still unresolved though I kept every communication back up print outs, including Regd.Post Ack Dues with BSNL, Canara Bank, Artha Health, Country Club, Golden Palm resort, Club Mahindra etc.. to name a few. Unless one understand the value of money invested and the pain it takes to earn such many by any one irrespective of rich, middle class etc.. A VOICE SHOULD BE RAISED AND FOLLOWED UP TO CLOSE, Giving up attitute is not equivalent to Pardoning. I would have shared above stories, but am afraid every one has time at their disposal to read with patience. B Ramesh Upadhya.

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