Saturday, September 13, 2008

Small service from big companies

Service has a relation to big + organized in Indian retail and phone/internet service providers . Service seems to be inversely proportional to the scale of the company .

In an earlier post I had written about big service from small retail . For the past several weeks I'm experiencing small (read : no ) service from 'big' service provider Airtel . About 2 months ago we shifted to the Airtel internet connection . For the first 2-3 weeks it worked well . Post that there are problems everyday with the connection . Either it won't work or it will work for 30-40 mins and stop thereafter . In 4 weeks I've called Airtel more frequently than I called the cable internet guy in the 4 years we had the connection . One of the factors seems to be the poor quality of the modem . It heats up to an extent where one can toast bread on it while on the near daily call to the Airtel call centre to lodge a complaint . The problem re the modem has been advised to Airtel . One of the service persons turned up , checked it and declared it fit . Hence , no need to replace ( He analyzed the problem as being one of connectivity alone . Whereas the problem is the duration and consistency of the connection ) .The problem persists to a point where if it is not not resolved we will disconnect the service . And certainly share the problem with folks we know so that other can make informed choices on whether to take an airtel internet connection .

The people at the call centre seem to be well meaning folks . They in fact bear the brunt of a customer's dissatisfaction . The problem is at the levels and with the people at Airtel who make crucial decisions like quality of equipment to be purchased , the design of the service process . 

Airtel spends crores on advertising to build the brand . Some of it put into buying better equipment , ensuring problem resolution and follow up calls to check if the problem has been satisfactorily resolved will do much more to build the brand than the advertisements.

It seems to be the malaise of many mammoth organizations to focus on growth , market share , market cap , profits at the cost of service and value to the very entity on whom all business is based - the customer . Airtel is not alone in this delusion . The list of companies who join them in this category makes for who's who of Indian business . It's an diverse group where multi-nationals and Indian brands have equal representation .

To paraphrase the (now) popular idea that there is money to be made at the bottom of the pyramid - there's money to be made and an enduring brand to be built by being customer focused .


Anonymous said...

Bread toast and an egg sunny side up!

A top line approach has always been myopic, producing though quick results. We could also learn from large businesses that have a brilliant customer service track record by inverting the pyramid. The famous being the Nordstrom Inverted Pyramid experiment. Popularly known as the NOrdstrom Way-see


Pling Tong

Savitha Rao said...

I agree . Nordstrom is a terrific example for companies to emulate. In India Kingfisher Airlines is a good reference for service .

Post the last communication with Airtel they have replaced the modem (i will therefore need other devices for the toast and egg ! ). If they had done it pro-actively it would have been a sign of service. Doing it after the consumer outlines specific consequences sets an unfortunate precedent of a certain kind of communication to be necessary to rouse them into meaningful action.