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Archive for the ‘Quality’ Category

An interesting example of how a ticklish situation was turned into an opportunity to impress and gain business advantage.

Udaivilas Oberoi

From HBR March/April 2017:

M.S. Oberoi and the front-line obsession

Successful founders understand the economics of customer loyalty. In their early days they know every customer by name. Keeping that up becomes impossible as they grow, but nevertheless they remain obsessed with making sure that someone is looking out for every customer at all times.

Few business leaders have developed this attention to the front line as effectively as M.S. Oberoi, the founder of the Oberoi Group, a chain of luxury hotels in India. Oberoi obsessed about every detail in his hotels that might affect the customer experience. Even in his eighties he kept visiting his hotels to make sure employees were getting everything right, and in doing so he established a culture by which all employees shared in his obsession.

Poornima Bhambal, the assistant manager of the front office at the Oberoi Udaivilas, in Udaipur, described for us the company’s empowerment program, which encourages all employees to do what it takes to delight customers and even gives them access to small amounts of money in order to do so. “We love to surprise and delight guests with little gifts and niceties,” Bhambal said, “and the empowerment program allows this to happen.”

One example, related to us by Vikram Oberoi, a grandson of M.S. Oberoi who now serves as the group’s CEO, was what happened when the staff at one hotel discovered that an American family occupying two rooms was taking all the toiletries — twice a day. This seemed a bit much to the housekeeping staff, and the manager’s first instinct was to go to the family and politely point out that they probably had enough toiletries.

But instead, says Oberoi, after some coaching, “He created a basket of soaps and shampoos and oils used at the hotel’s spa, and wrote a note that was signed by the housekeeping staff. The note said, ‘We notice you like our toiletries and wanted to give you a supply you can take home and share with friends.’ The family loved this. They wrote us after, saying that we were the most fantastic hotel and that they would tell all their friends to visit. That’s a wonderful business result from the investment of a box of lotions!”

Image of Oberoi Udaivilas from theholidayindia.com

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An interesting story from James Lawther:

…During the second world war over 60 million people were killed.  That was roughly 3% of the world-wide population.  It was a hazardous time.

Among the hardest hit were the bomber crews.  The Eighth Air Force suffered half of all the U.S. Air Force’s casualties.  The British fared as badly.  The chances of surviving the war as a member of the RAF’s bomber command were only marginally better than even.

If flying bombing raids wasn’t dangerous enough, landing when you returned home was also fraught with danger.  Pilots of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress had a series of runway crashes, accidentally retracting the landing gear when they touched down.

…Accident investigators blamed these incidents on pilot (or human) error.  There was no obvious mechanical failure.

It wasn’t only Flying Fortresses that had the problem.  There were stories of pilots of P-17 Thunderbolts and B-25 Mitchells making the same mistake.

Nobody would deliberately retract the landing gear when they were still hurtling across the tarmac.  Why the pilots did so was anybody’s guess.  Perhaps the pilot’s attention wandered when they realized they were almost home.

…The authorities asked Alphonse Chapanis,  a military psychologist to explain the behavior.  He noticed that the accidents only happened to certain planes and not others.  There were thousands of C-47 transport planes buzzing about.  Their pilots never suffered from such fatal inattention.

After inspecting the cockpits of the different planes the cause became clear.  On B-17s the controls for the flaps and undercarriage were next to one another.  They also had the same style of handle.   Pilots who retracted the undercarriage when the wheels were on the ground were actually trying to retract the flaps. They just pulled the wrong lever.

In the C-47 the two controls were very different and positioned apart from each other.

The solution: Once he identified the cause Chapanis developed an equally simple solution.  Circular rubber disks were stuck to the levers for the undercarriage and triangles were stuck to the levers for the flaps.  When a pilot touched the rubber, he felt the difference and the crashes stopped…The pilots were well aware of which lever to pull.  It was “human error” that caused the mistake.  But laying the blame on the pilots wasn’t ever going to solve that.

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We all make mistakes.  It is in our nature.  Don’t fight it, fix it.

 

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The original post – unfortunately no way to reblog – may be read here.

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I was camping in a fairly large house, well maintained, surrounded by a number of flowering trees and plants, home to countless birds that treated us to a melodious cacophony announcing their morning foray and home coming in the evening. It was time for the trees to renew themselves – service staff came in the morning and again in the afternoon to sweep off the leaves copiously shed by the tress on the front-yard.  The flowering plants however were still abloom. At times on my touch, a bee would startle me flying out from deep inside the flower.

For one who has lived all his life in Mumbai flats (apartments) where one cannot take ten steps without hitting a wall, one’s auditory nerves constantly assaulted by caw’s of those sullen crows and bark of stray (and house) dogs, this was an overwhelming experience. The spacious front-yard was where I took my mandatory morning and evening walks, my senses enjoying the sights and sounds around.

Get the picture?

The only blot on the scene was the rubble piled up near the neem tree at one corner of the house in the front.  The house owner had not cleared it intending to reuse it in future possibly for patching up parts of the yard.

Yesterday morning, walking near the neem tree I saw a splash of red dried up on the debris. I had not seen it before. Clearly, someone, possibly one of those tradesmen called in for some repair work, had used it as a spittoon after chewing a paan (betel leaf + lime + arca nut shavings + whatever). Unfortunate, but true, in this country one may freely spit in public or even common spaces, but never so within a house. But the perpetrator saw it differently – if the corner was good (?) to pile up the rubble, no one minding, it was ok for him to spit over there.

The ‘Broken Window’ syndrome playing out!

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From wiki: ‘Under the broken windows theory, an ordered and clean environment, one that is maintained, sends the signal that the area is monitored and that criminal behavior is not tolerated. Conversely, a disordered environment, one that is not maintained (broken windows, graffiti, excessive litter), sends the signal that the area is not monitored and that criminal behavior has little risk of detection.’

A few broken windows, at times even one, left unfixed for some time is a trigger or invitation for many more, if not all, to be broken.

Much is written on this syndrome as a subject of study under criminology and urban sociology.

Outside of crime, the phenomenon may be observed in many other contexts: projects, product development, organizations, communities and even in personal life.

When a project manager leaves unfixed the first infractions on time deadline, quality issues or team indiscipline…, the first window is broken. His team reads it differently. It’s very likely he would, to his grief, witness many more ‘broken windows’ before long on his way down and out.

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Source: wikipedia

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Finally a product no one would sniff at:

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Here’s the latest addition to the lore of what wonders could be wrought through end-point empowerment. Obviously no procedure manual would be able to cover even a small fraction of the large number of field scenarios that occur in real world of customer service. Remains largely unpredictable.

Here we go:

(Lightly edited for readability and conciseness from here – there was no way to reblog the article entirely from its source)

The IndiGo Way of Delighting Customers – A Case Study

indigo-1

“Excuse me, khane mein kya hai?” (“Excuse me, what are the meal options?”), asked the elderly gentleman seated with his wife just one row behind me. The question was directed to an airhostess of an Indigo flight to Pune from Kolkata (India) on a July 2016 evening. All the passengers who had a pre-booked meal, or wanted to purchase on-board, had already been served with their choice of food and beverage, and the cabin crew were busy with cash consolidation and preparing to clean up the deck.

Unlike the passengers around, I was not really taken aback by the loud and out-of-protocol address, as I was already afflicted with the couple’s high pitched conversations in Marathi and Hindi throughout the first hour of the flight. It seemed they were not used to flights. They had even interacted so audibly with their immediate neighbor, an old formally dressed man seating by the aisle seat that I knew they hailed from Satara, returning after spending some time with their newly born grandson at their son’s place at Gangtok (Sikkim). Their son had booked the journey tickets for them, the first leg of which was from Bagdogra to Kolkata, and here they were on their last part of the trip.

“Can I see your boarding pass, Sir?” asked the air hostess politely.

“Here it is”, said the elderly gentleman in a Marathi accented Hindi and extended a card to her.

“Sir, this is the one for the Bagdogra-Kolkata sector, can I please have the pass for this sector?”

To this the man seemed visibly unsettled, searching for the right card with continuous ramblings in Marathi. His wife joined the commotion with “Just see how heartless they are, we haven’t eaten anything since lunch.” The gentleman found the right card and handed it over to the lady in uniform.

As I was finishing my drink over a gripping novel, I paused for a moment to watch the drama happening live beside me.

“Sorry sir, you do not have a meal booked for this sector. You had one in the flight from Bagdogra. However, if you wish, you can now purchase any food or drinks”. The standard pitch.

“Yeh kaise ho sakta hai? Plane mein khana milna hai to? Pehla flight mein bhi diya tha?!” (“How come that’s possible? Planes serve meals, isn’t it? We were served food in the first flight!”), stated the gentleman with a demeanor that said won’t-pay-whatever-hell-comes-up-you-better

The lady excused herself for a quick whisper with her senior, handing over the boarding pass to her.

indigo-2

The lead lady, trained to expect the unexpected, came to the spot in quick time and was straight to the point, “Sir, what would you like to have?”

Seriously, none of the nearby passengers including me was expecting this.

“Dekha? Maine bola tha na?” (“See? I had told you!”), the man said with a smile, oblivious that he was going to receive a free meal. “What do you have in the meals?”

The no-fuss actions that followed next were heart-warming. The lead lady served them 2 sets of sandwiches and mixed fruit beverages with a smile and a wish, “Enjoy your meals, Sir!”.

The couple happily gorged themselves on the food over a high-pitched conversation in Marathi.

I returned to my novel.

Even though the sentences in the book were running in front of my eyes, my mind was absorbed in something else. I was reminded of a talk by Subroto Bagchi, co-founder of Mindtree Ltd…his point was on the right mix of process along with empathy in building and running an organization. All problems of the world can’t be solved by following the right process, unless you have an empathy element to back it up. It becomes particularly important when one deals with the most important aspect of one’s job, people.

If our lead lady had adhered to the laid down process, she would have rightfully refused to oblige the old couple with food packets. That was we had expected out of her. But when she decided to exercise her acumen of empathy, it suddenly made more business sense to all of us…Probably Indigo lost INR 500 (peanuts compared to their daily transactions) as a result, but what they gained was vastly in excess. It satisfied two old people without hassles, averted a possibly ugly scene, created many appreciating passengers, and made me write this blog lauding them.

“Process is not a substitute for building an emotionally rich organization. Process without emotion can quickly bring you down to the lowest common denominator.”

Subroto Bagchi, Co-founder, MindTree Ltd

Let’s not lose sight of the key enabler here: Indigo’s empowerment of its field staff – the end-point delivering the service – that encouraged the lady to make the gesture she did.

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Source: Amit Dey, Deputy Manager, Learning & Development | HR at EXL at linkedin.com. And thanks to Anshuman Deshmukh, HR Manager at Genesys International for bringing the article to my notice.

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