In my treasure hunt for stories on customer service/experience, I reached out to who else than Rajanga Sivakumar, a revered Guru on Hewlett-Packard’s vast range of testing and measuring instruments/solutions, and now practicing as a Business Excellence Advisor.
In this guest post he pulls this story out of his jumbo bag of anecdotes – my first success in getting him to tip over his bag
[This is a real incident, the names of players, organizations, car models etc. not specified]
This was year 1998. Prem was delighted when the company informed he had become eligible for a pricier company transport. He could now get for himself the car he fancied – the newly introduced model Z of a well known international manufacturer (Brand A), to be made locally in India. In the pre-liberalization times, cars were available from the three local manufactures, their models at least a decade old. Even better the company was allocating Prem from the first lot of model Z assembled from imported kits (SKD) with no locally sourced parts. Model Z living up to its reputation, Prem and his family were happy with their choice. .
The car came with a prized accessory for Prem and his family – an audio tape player. Though disc players were also available then, the family preferred the audio tape player to avail of the large collection of audio tapes of Carnatic music they had assiduously accumulated over years. They loved to hear the music especially when travelling long distance.
After functioning quite well in the first six months, the audio tape player began acting up. In the space of about year and half it had to be repaired over five times at the retail service centre of the well known auto agency from where the car was bought.
Prem was very much irked with the frequent failures of the device and the inordinately long times taken to set it right. Now he asked the agency to replace the under-warranty unit for its erratic performance. And he wanted it done in time for his upcoming travel.
After many rounds of discussions and referring the matter to the principal’s (Brand A) HQ in Delhi – Prem himself participated in the talks with the principal – the agency came up with a solution: they would replace it with a new unit with the customer bearing 50% of its price. This was not acceptable to Prem and the matter ended there.
In about 3 months Prem retired from his current employment and joined a newly formed software company as a consultant. His new employer offered him the facility of a new car. He promptly replaced his model Z with model U of Brand B.
Also, Prem was consulted by the company on the different brands and models available for many of the executives joining then. Needless to add he struck Brand A off the list, the latter immediately losing out on sale of two large and two small cars conservatively estimated to be about a whopping Rs 19 lacs+.. And of course, it didn’t end there.
Against this loss what did the agency and its principal save to their (dis)credit? Rs 4,250 they had asked their customer to fork out.
A clear case of an easy opportunity squandered away, to forge loyalty in a favorably disposed customer at so little cost, through inept handling that was neither prompt nor gracious. Altogether a forgettable experience he did not forget.
And more importantly not seeing a customer as more than a customer. Someone out there had not been astute enough to assess the potential of Prem – for future purchases for himself and more significantly as an influencer in his circles.
While on the subject, I recall:
“Diamonds are forever
They are all I need to please me
They can stimulate and tease me
They won’t leave in the night, I’ve no fear that they might desert me…”
That was Shirley Bassey in the eponymous James Bond’s movie of 1971.
Well, customers too could be forever – if their experiences are right+ and sustained.
Thanks, Rajanga for the elucidating story.
PS: Rajanga may be contacted at: email@example.com. The image is from openclipart (gsagri04).