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Posts Tagged ‘Customer Service’

Suveer Madapravan is feeling happy.

April 25 at 7:35pm ·

Today at Hyderabad airport…..

I was at the internet center using the (free) net service,

Spotted this lady with a kid in panic.

You guessed it right: she had missed a connecting flight, coming from Delhi to Hyderabad, proceeding onwards to Cochin. Wife of a navy officer based in Cochin, she used my phone and spoke to her husband as she didn’t have a mobile phone. I tried booking tickets and the price was Rs. 14,700 per ticket just then I saw Mr. Gavin, customer service officer from indigo and elaborated her story; in fact, he too was searching for her. I asked him if he could accommodate her in the next flight for which he said he would try and took her out of the boarding area to the Indigo ticket counter. I asked her if she required some money – she declined.

Then, I got back to the internet center, her husband calling me almost continuously and asking me to buy a ticket with the assurance he would transfer the amount to me without delay. But, I couldn’t connect with her as she had gone outside the boarding area. Was just upset I couldn’t do much and mentally stressed thinking what would have happened And started using the internet.

Just then I saw this lady coming back and thanking me…she gave me desi ghee laddoo and mixture.

indigo 1

I was so happy to see them settled and asked her how much did she pay for the tickets.

She said, ‘NOTHING.’

I was pleasantly surprised and happy that INDIGO recognized her as a navy officer’s wife and did the realignment free of cost.

I have heard people share a lot of bad experiences with Indigo executives…but, here is a HERO…Mr. Gavin, customer service officer who took all the responsibility and ensured a smooth arrangement.

Kudos to Indigo and Mr. Gavin. As I see it, Suveer too has been no less a hero either.

indigo 2

This incident brings up a key question not confined to Indigo:  Why can’t all – may be not all, but most – customer-facing employees be like Mr. Gavin?

I see a few factors responsible for this magic to (not) happen: a) Firstly s strong conviction from the top to do the right thing by the customer and not hesitate to walk an extra mile if situation demands b) strong communication, stretched to the point of indoctrination, of what the org stands for with frequent reinforcement, preferably practiced very visibly in live action,  and c) empowerment at the service end-points for showing sensitivity backed up by quick action

While on the subject of indoctrination, so well managed by the MNC’s, I’m reminded of a specific instance that serves to exemplify the point being made. Years ago, I think late seventies or early eighties, Hewlett-Packard was lagging behind everyone else in the field in announcing a 32-bit computer, something the Indian market clamored for. We faced stiff resistance wherever we went to talk about HP’s computers, the ones with 16-bit word-length. We had folks coming in from Palo Alto (International Sales), Hong Kong (Fare East HQ) to tell us and our prospects, thumping the table, how word-length did not matter at all in commercial data processing where data is basically 8 bits. In fact, shorter word-lengths yielded better results at times! Neither did we buy the argument, our customers, even less. Since there was no 32-bit product in HP’s stable, we were forced to push ahead in the field whatever we had, on the back of those arguments we didn’t believe in. Needless to add we were completely disheartened with so few wins.

Some months passed. A team, no strangers, came down from Palo Alto grinning ear-to-ear to break it to us.  This time it was a you-asked-for-it-and-here-it-is 32-bit computer, made available for sale in the Indian market! Along with it came a new set of arguments – all of it old hat to us – how a 32-bit machine out-zips machines with shorter word-lengths (never mind there was hardly any of its kind in the market), all from the same executives spoken with the same conviction! I didn’t think for a moment they were being dishonest. It was more like ‘my company says now this is an innovative product that outperforms 16-bits and it must be so.’ Some innovation, indeed!

That’s indoctrination for you. Am sure if one asked any HP employee in any of its factories or from any of its far-flung field-offices across continents, they would speak the same words! Contrast it with an Indian organization, where every employee proudly has his own views on his company, its values and its products and speaks about it freely. And that’s why not all of them can never ever be Mr. Gavin.

Indigo, not all is lost yet…indoctrinate…indoctrinate…indoctrinate thought, speech and action…the way to go.

 

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PS: HP reckoned its new product a success over its lifetime – I’m sure they had the numbers to back up. Though it did not exactly set any river on fire, no books were written about it, as far as I know. An epic  let-down for die-hard’s like me. However, it was a certainly bold step for HP, perhaps the first among its peers,  to embrace Unix over proprietary software for its mid-range and mini-computers. Staying with proprietary software was cited by many industry pundits as a reason for the downfall of the legendary Vax machines and the eventual demise of DEC.

Source: vide Gopalakrishna Sunderrajan in fb.

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bad-customer-service-cartoon epromolux com

 

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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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Every interaction with a customer including complaints is an opportunity to build or strengthen our bridges with our customers.  Very often we find our customer-facing staff blowing away this opportunity that lands on our lap for free. To better understand this gift recall what we go through when we go out to engage a customer unsolicited.  

And how do we blow it away? Usually by keeping our interaction down to a crisp and a minimal response demanded by the context.  Technically flawless, business-wise not so wise.  Of course at the other extreme, we might have a loquacious rep overdoing it pushing the customer to annoyance.

What then do we do with this opportunity? Well, there are several avenues to be explored: we could gain useful insights into his decision making process (why or how did he settle on our product?), his experience with competitors, his post-purchase impressions, what else would he like to see as features, does he see enough of our brand publicity… If it is a complaint, information about events leading to the failure could be collected.  Did he have other issues/signals before the failure occurred?  Does he have thoughts on how this failure could have been possibly averted? Of course what would work depends on the temperature of the call.

All of these cannot happen without orienting our customer-facing staff adequately, constructing different possible scenarios and outlining avenues for enriching the interaction.  

Note outsourced call-centers are optimized to enhance calls handled in a day rather than quality engagement with the caller, at once totally eliminating this opportunity.

Incidentally all of the above apply to our interactions with prospects too.

Here’s a short well-written piece from Art Petty on this same theme exhorting us to have transformational interaction instead of transactional. A personal experience included. So why settle for less when its potential benefits could be dramatic?

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Outside a hospital:

600400_10207514006700929_5639004389195404671_n

This security guard’s duty is to instruct people to remove their shoes.

Why he was arranging shoes in the rack?

“Sir, this seat is my office and I want to sit in neat office.”

He also greets worried visitors with a reassuring ‘Everything will be fine, your patients will soon go home with you.’

In all likelihood he would not have had the benefit of any level of schooling.

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Source: Adopted from facebook.com/groups/101024580247213/ posted by Gautham Iyengar (here)

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A recent segment on the CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood had an amazing customer service story. Krystal Payne, at a Starbucks in Leesburg, VA, noticed that one of her customers, Ibby Piracha, was deaf. One day Ibby came to get his usual coffee and Krystal handed him a handwritten note, which read: “I’ve been …

Source: An Amazing Customer Service and Leadership Story to Learn From

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