Three days ago, with quite some trepidation, I called MTNL customer care to try and get my ADSL Internet connection reactivated (I had disconnected it, in a fit of anger two years ago) and I was not particularly looking forward to making this call, given my earlier experiences. A matronly sounding lady picked up in 2 rings. We spoke in Hindi. She was polite, nice, answered all my questions, asked some questions of her own, put me on a short-hold to clarify some stuff and gave me my order number. A normal person…speaking normally and not from some stupid, idiotic script…happy and willing to help and sort things out.
I thought this was a one-off, but the next morning, I received another call to clarify a few other issues. Again, it was a slightly elderly lady calling, more comfortable in Hindi than English (but how does that matter), and willing to help.
If MTNL customer service can reinvent itself and create a reasonably nice and homely experience (wittingly or unwittingly), why can’t others do the same?
I wrote a column last month that we finally dropped, about the terrible customer service that one of our large corporates dishes out, whether it is related to satellite television, Internet sticks and devices or cars. Across board, the employees are disinterested, ill-informed and thick-skinned (except for those in sales) and this makes virtually any interaction with their customer service departments, extremely stressful and troublesome. This poor customer service is not restricted to their call centres, but also extend to their electronic stores, where the employees spend more time talking with each other than the customers and a good many don’t even know where their own products are located.
I am not singling out this group. A quick stroll through any of the Palladium stores at Phoenix will prove my point. Barring a couple who have high-quality employees (e.g. Canali), most of the high-end stores in this premium mall do not invest in the right people required to make shopping a pleasant experience, especially given the premium pricing. It’s as if they expect their items to sell themselves, despite the presence of employees who really couldn’t care less whether you buy or not. And this is not restricted to the shops…branded, multi-chain restaurants have the same issues.
Which is why single brand stores, or restaurants, run by individuals and entrepreneurs with passion, who transmit their passion for their customers to their employees are a pleasure to visit. And which is why an Indigo Deli is always a better experience than Veda or TGIF.
It is all about finding the right people to share your passion about the brand and the customer experience. Unfortunately, the challenges in this country with its varying demographics are so phenomenal that it becomes really difficult for a multi-location brand to replicate a standard customer experience across the country. It’s not impossible though!
Pundits say that the Indian market is different and extremely price-sensitive and brands have a hard time retaining customers. Part of this may be true, but it is also true that people use pricing as the only way to differentiate among brands mainly because there are hardly any brands that deliver a great customer experience. Barista used to do that once and we used to flock to that place. Jet Airways used to be different and had fiercely loyal frequent travelers. But somewhere down the line, they just lost it!
Those who invest in their customers will always do well! And so…treat us well. We are no longer idiots!