Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Customer Experience’

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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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.

panasaonic

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.

VOIP-Desk-Phone

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.

 

End  

.

.

Credits: image from openclipart.com ()

Read Full Post »

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.

Help_Desk gsagri04

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.

Argument

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.

End .
.
PS: Rajanga may be contacted at: rajangasivakumar@gmail.com. The image is from openclipart (gsagri04).

Read Full Post »

I am on a constant prowl to collect stories on what companies do to enhance their customer’s experiences employing a variety of different strategies.

While on this subject, not entirely unrelated, I’m reminded of the question of ‘Employee Satisfaction’ in a software services company I was associated with. The attrition of professionals in the company was higher than the industry average. As customary the managers including the HR confidently diagnosed the problem as one of substantial wage disparity – salaries outside were easily 30% or more than what the company was paying. Unfortunately this coincided with downward business cycle leaving not much room for any significant revision. 

While the issue of compensation cannot be easily brushed aside with the younger lot in software industry, I’m dismayed to find it occupying all of the center-stage to the entire exclusion of what other things could be done for the employees.  Mumbai as a city and software services as a job leave very little time for anything else. A good number of professionals spend 2 to 3 hours daily just commuting to and fro in crowded trains/buses.  Many of them hail from other cities living in spacious accommodation before moving to closet-sized apartments in Mumbai. Given this background, reducing the hassle of living in Mumbai is a strategy worthy of serious consideration. But that doesn’t happen. A few token steps are kicked off without a cohesive strategy on this theme, more as an apology – such as providing assistance in paying utility bills, credit card bills, etc.

‘Managers’ don’t much buy into all those industry reports that cite a number of factors up there besides doling out hefty increases in compensation for employee retention/satisfaction. 

 Coming back to customer experiences, here is a simple story on the same theme of making life a wee bit easier.

This is from ‘Through the Eyes of the Customer.’  James Watson makes the point in his post so well I did not try paraphrasing it.  

“…

I love it when someone makes my life easy.

CVS Pharmacy did that this morning.  

I’ve been taking an daily allergy prescription for the past three years.  Once a year, my doctor has to re-approve the prescription so  that CVS can refill it.  And that once-a-year event happened to coincide with this month’s refill.

 Pharmacy

So, I expected that  I’d have to call my doctor, and request to have  the prescription renewed.  Or worse, schedule an appointment to get into my car, drive to the office, and endure a check-up. Either way, I’d be forced to break out of my normal routine of simply picking up the prescription at the CVS Drive-Thru and do some extra work…. 

… so I thought….on

But when I dialed the local CVS pharmacy, and punched the Prescription number into the keypad on my phone, that friendly recorded voice told me that my auto-refill had ended, and that my physician must approve the refill.  

“Damn,” I thought… Here goes”….

But the next automated message made my day:

“Press “1′ if you would like CVS to contact your physician on your behalf.”

Yes!!!  One less thing for me to do, because CVS would do it for me; they’ve designed their customer-facing process in a way to reduce work for the customer; they’ve made my life easier!!! I was delighted.

Now, it might only take me five minutes to call to my doctor’s office and make the arrangements myself.  And a five-minute task done once a year may not seem like much of a hassle. Over the course of that year, it’s really not – except when it is.  Like this morning.

The point is not the CVS saved me five minutes; the point is that CVS eliminated a Task from my To-Do-List.

Most people don’t keep track of time as clearly as they keep track of tasks that need to be completed.  Saving a customer “a few minutes” may not be clearly visible to that person, but if you save the customer from having to perform a task, they’ll notice it every time, and they’ll precieve it as a BIG convenience.  And it’s the customer’s perception that drives their behavior and loyalty.

…”

I recall a similar experience I had with a mobile service provider a couple of years ago. I went in to purchase a replacement SIM for my cell-phone. When I took the form with me duly filled in, at the store they pointed out I had overlooked pasting a mug-shot on the form. It meant going back home to fetch a photo. While I was ‘Oh sh##t’ing, they made me stand against a wall, got a camera out and took a shot right there in the store!   

Whether the business is of providing services or supplying products there are opportunities galore to mitigate the hassle factor for the customer in his interaction, surely  a worthwhile goal for businesses to go after.   

End

                              .

                                   .

Credits:  jlwatsonconsulting.typepad.com/my-blog/

Read Full Post »