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Posts Tagged ‘User 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

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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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As English is not our mother tongue, we do not always worry too much about what we say or write. That’s how we promise our prospects/customers solutions that are the cheapest, fastest, most easy-to-use…If for a moment we translate all that we say into our native tongue I’m sure we would never be so generous with the superlatives, hurting our credibility in the eyes of our audience.

Along these lines is also the abuse of clichés. In recent times I came across two such instances bordering on the ridiculous.

value-added1 pmtips.net

In Udaipur, a restaurant chain claiming to hold Guinness record for making largest dosa’s, proudly talked about value-addition in its mission statement prominently printed on the menu cards. I thought they’re in the business of delivering value to their customers in the first place which is far from being convincingly established. As for the ‘additions’ to the arguable value, of course there is no hint to where these may be found.

Value-addition rears its head once again at a least likely place – a IES school on the Jogeshwari link road near Seepz. A large billboard outside the school main-gate claims value-addition through education. Here again, I thought, schools are meant to create values in the first place in their students that become deep rooted over repeated reinforcement.

Of course, I may have completely missed the points they were making. If so, my apologies are due to them.

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Source: Image from pmtips.net

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About eight weeks ago I subscribed to Direct-To-Home services from a leading provider solely for reliable service free of annoying breakdowns that were plaguing my cable service provider.

It was sold to me by a couple of trainees out campaigning door-to-door offering special deals. The facile answers from these guys to my queries about Tamil channels for my Mom’s viewing didn’t alert me on a day I was not at my best. Not knowing Tamil from Telugu or from Kannada or Malayalam, they were no way going to be right in their clarifications just as I found out later. I’m also going to forget the contradictory information given out by two Help-Line operators when I tried to add an option that was said to be included in the ordered package.

Fast forward to the present.

Over the last 2 to 3 weeks, we saw this problem recurring often – the picture would suddenly freeze on the TV and at other times we would lose the sound completely. When this happened the recovery was painful – we had to switch off and on and set the channel again. The ‘Remote’ was ineffective. Sometimes the MTBI (Mean time Between Incidents) was as low as 15 minutes. When this happened often on a rain-free day like today – we were cautioned right at the outset to expect short-lived disturbances during rains – I decided to ask for service.

Promptly I went to the site, did a month’s recharge that was becoming due and now looked for telephone numbers. There was no tab/link for Customer Service- obviously the thinking was their services would be flawless. After much panning and scrolling I clicked only tab that hinted to be of some use – the ‘Help-Desk’. I was offered a simple generic form that carried ‘Unable to View Services’ as the last option of a long alphabetically ordered drop-down list of subject types. And, closest to describe what I had on my hands. Didn’t look very encouraging. There were some documents available on the site for download – perhaps they contained DIY tips on how to fix? But I was not inclined to read docs. It was then I chanced on a Help-Line number helpfully included somewhere there.

Now to the next stage of the saga.

Help_Desk gsagri04

After encountering several ‘All Lines Are Busy On This Route, Please Try Later’ on the MTNL network, finally I managed to reach the service provider. Their IVR (Interactive Voice Response) kicked in. Subject to intense questioning by the IVR and wearing out the keys on the phone, I was thrilled to be informed of the option ‘Unable to View Services’. I seized it with great alacrity of a treasure-hunter finding gold and was told my call would be transferred to an associate. Only seconds away from success I gloated like a climber within a step of cresting a peak. My keen ears waited for the promotional message to end and a human voice to be heard. Well, I continued to wait and wait. The message just repeated endlessly. One more attempt starting from the beginning. Same results. Didn’t feel like trying any more.

The associate obviously had not recovered yet from the strain of his duties during the Ganesh Festival. He had not bothered to leave an appropriate response to the caller.

Went back to the web-site to see if the Help-Line had any time/day qualifiers – there were none. Sundays were not excluded.

So I wait for Monday to dawn hoping the associate had a restful weekend.

This is one service provider who never minded their customers saying ‘tata’ to them! If you get what I mean!

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Credits: openclipart (Help_Desk gsagri04)

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medical kit maxim2

A question I always wanted to ask:

Why have they not used non-stick coating on bed-pans? Or they have?

K Raghunathan

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Rfc1394_Wheelchair

Last week, we had been away to a resort off Lonavala for a short break of four days, taking along a reluctant 85+ year old lady – my mom – kicking and screaming. Every morning and evening, I took her out in a wheel-chair thankfully made available by the resort to give her a much needed outing. The wheel-chair ride was the first for both of us.

I am not aware if there are norms for the ramps meant for steering wheel-chairs up or down. In this instance, the wheel-chair often dashed down the ramp almost uncontrollably pulled by her weight and the steepness of the slope. At least on a couple of occasions she came close to being thrown out of her seat. Clearly the need was for seat belts to secure the occupant safely. Also brakes would have helped start/stop the wheel-chair when needed, just like the brakes on the baggage trolleys at the airport.

The wheel-chair had a pair of foot-rests that swung into place from the sides for use. These all-metal foot-rests had sharp edges that caused abrasions on the feet when the old lady struggled to get her feet into position.

A convenience feature I would have liked to see is a pair of height-adjustable handles to push the chair instead of me half-bending down.

It is quite possible the wheel-chair I used was old and primitive and the newer models provide these safety and engineering features.

Incidentally I’m not ashamed to confess: Only after messing it up a couple of times, I found out it was much easier to seat her in by positioning the wheel-chair to where she was standing rather than other way around. Did you say common-sense? Well…

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Credits: openclipart (Rfc1394_Wheelchair)

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