If you stay with me for a minute or two, you’ll know this is not the usual rant of an irate customer. Rather it’s an outside-in perspective of an interaction with your organization from some one who has been in the service industry for 30+ years. I’ve also taken the liberty of including some possible actionables (in italics).
Residing in Mumbai, I am an owner of Panasonic split A/C unit for a little less than a year now, recommended by the dealer. Happy to say it has been a trouble-free experience.
During this time I’ve had three interactions with the your company personnel (or those from your authorized service-center): during a no-fuss installation, the first service call within a month of installation (My friend, this call could have been avoided if they had shown me during installation when and how to clean the filters) and the third – the subject of this post – was a no-charge in-warranty preventive maintenance call offered by you.
As instructed, I called up the 800 help-line and registered a ticket. This was again hassle-free: a) every time, I was able to reach with the first try itself – may be you had equipped it with enough lines or there weren’t too many complaints flowing in:-) and b) unlike most interactive voice response systems that drive one crazy with a zillion buttons to be punched I was able to reach the person immediately after language selection. A great start to a user experience – all credit to you for a smooth process.
The youngster at the other end right away recognized the caller and was courteous in registering my request. I was told a technician would get in touch with me in 24 hours.
2-3 days passed, there was no call. I called up the help-line again to inquire. He – this was another guy, but mercifully there was no loss of continuity – assured me he was sending reminders to the service-center.
A few more days passed before I made another call. I was informed a fresh ticket was being generated now. The earlier one showed its status as closed for lack of complete information! I did not pursue with my line of sure-to-be-infructuous inquiry on what information was lacking and if so why did they not call me up to find out,
The next few days saw one more iteration of my calling up and being assured of reminders being sent. This time I expressed my wish to escalate the matter to someone senior in your organization – these friendly reminders were obviously not jogging memories in the field. The youngster was obviously not equipped to handle a request for escalation – my friend, please note. He repeated himself on those reminders and the 24-hour-call-back. When I pushed him, the poor fellow tried to be helpful by giving me the contact numbers of the local service-center for me to check directly.
So over the next few days my calls went to the local service-center. In the first call a senior lady at the other end sounded like being upset over my intrusion into the comfort of her daily routine. I dreaded at the prospect of running into her in every one of my subsequent calls. My friend, could you please ensure these customer-facing people are basically service minded (We all know not every one is) and trained for the job? Luckily for me it was not to be.
And every time I was assured by the call-dispatcher I spoke to: the technician in the field has been informed and he would contact me. Apparently checking at the end of the day whether the technician had attended to the request or it was still pending for the following day was not part of the dispatcher’s job. She would know the job wasn’t done yet only when I followed up with her next day. My friend, do they have systems in place to assist them in dispatching calls and track pending ones?
Coming back to my story, by now, I was in a fit enough to climb a tree. Before going to town with my story, I decided to give it one last resort try. I went to the dealer who sold me your product. To him, I painted your service-center in the blackest of inks suspecting sinister designs in those missed deadlines. He called them up and gave them a piece of his mind. A comic relief: in the same call the lady at the other end wanted to know my address from me. Why would she need it? She already had it as part of the registered ticket. Some address verification process in play? Well, it turned out quite unexpectedly: she did not have it with her presently to give the technician as her system was down!
The dealer’s call did what I couldn’t over the last week or two. Two lads turned up within a couple of hours taking address and directions from me after finding the dispatcher’s information to be incorrect.
I asked them if the management has changed hands at the service-center – why was my third interaction so difficult for me when it was not so on earlier occasions? I was told there was a severe shortage of field staff, this being summer vacation, hence the delays in attending to customers. In fact this duo was pulled from a different geography to attend my request. I promptly thanked them and the dispatcher in my mind for the initiative and explained: My request was for preventive maintenance – it was not a breakdown call requiring urgent attention. I was willing to wait for their service. If I were given a date and time even five days later, it would have been okay. My nervousness and the overreaction perhaps emanated from the steady stream of promises made and not kept. Was I being forgotten or worse, ignored for a reason unknown to me? My friend, please train the staff to ascertain the urgency for service and negotiate acceptable response times thereby relieving the pressure on the field resources. And most importantly to make good promises made and follow up until the request is closed. You’ll find many customers quite reasonable with their demands if the cards are put on the table.
Once they finished their job, I waited for them to write out a service/call report for me to sign off. Their response made me realize how much out-of-step I was with the times: ‘Service Report? What Service Report? We go back and close the ticket, that’s it.’ Brilliant!. An utterly wasteful step cut out! We all know no one at the service-centers or even with the manufacturers ever reads these reports.
Well, I’m sure many similar stories go around all the time especially concerning white-goods. What I hear is: Most equipment manufacturers outsource field support to third-party service-centers. And there is not enough money on the table for these guys to be motivated to operate efficiently and render good quality services. The manufacturers know it and are hesitant to push these guys hard lest they lose them altogether (significant turnover of these third-parties is very common). Rarely their systems, processes and people are tested, for example, with dummy customers. My friend, I don’t know how it is with you. It may be worth your while to take a hard look and make the business viable for these service -centers.
To draw the curtains down on this story, all concerned know the A/C unit is close to end of warranty. No one is lining up at my door for the annual service contract. Not much in it for any of them, my friend?
Thank you for hearing me out patiently Panasonic. And pardon me if you consider it impudent of me to make those suggestions.
Yes, I forgot to mention: I sent a ‘Thank You’ message to the dispatcher after the technicians’ visit.
Credits: image from openclipart.com (mark.starikov)