Friday, January 29, 2010

Customer dissatisfaction..

Customer has been the king for a long time now. There are a plethora of options in any product category. Technically better, extended warranty schemes and growing competition have made it very tempting for the customer to switch brands. In such a scenario, only a committed customer service can ensure a fair amount of customer loyalty. 24/7 customer care centres, technical helpdesk, telesales - companies can go to any extent to retain current customers and also win over new ones.

But some incidents in the recent past have left me wondering if the zeal of customer service is losing its sheen after being at its best for more than a decade. Here i mean the failing customer service and incompetent executives of even known brands like Reliance and Airtel. i am personally quite finicky as a customer and hate to hear a telebanking guy advice me “please drop in at your nearest branch to get a detailed statement”. Why do customer care numbers exist if i have to make that trip to the bank. Even a month after my request to change my tariff plan, Airtel has not done the needful. The new customer care center of Reliance has rude executives who don’t seem to have heard words like polite and courteous basic to customer care. A smart customer executive swerved my decision to subscribe to Tatasky as opposed to a lousy executive with awful English on the competitors front. i don’t want to get try sign language on phone to get my problems sorted out later!

On further analysis, i figure out that big brands with big ad campaigns are fine but customer care is where the truth of the company lies. The interface between the customer and the representatives of the company is at this point. Though the executive sitting at the other end of the customer service numbers is at the lowest rung of the corporate ladder, he or she is a crucial link in the whole game. But not a lot of people would dream of a job that involves saying, “Hello, thank you for calling %%&*, I am &^%*&^$, how may I help you” for 9 hours a day (or night). Most of them are college freshers or people who don’t seem to fit in anywhere else. And from experience i can say that their skill levels are not too high. The biggest challenge being language skills. There was a time when training for domestic and international call centres was at a peak, but not anymore. Since these guys are no MBA or Masters, their emolument is not too great and hence they have no motivation to upgrade their skills. Most mouth standard lines and have mechanical answers to all your problems. Deviate from their list of questions and they flounder like a toy whose battery is almost finished!

Customer Delight is lost in the melee of executives trying to woo customers and lives only in the manuals of company procedures. Though, there are companies that have competent people who are efficient and quick and have all the right answers to keep customers happy. I do remember stray incidents of customer delight like prompt customer care from Deutsche Bank.

A lot remains to be done to get customer service back on track and make it the way it should be. Training to treat people right and listen to their issues and resolve them should be a good start for people straight out of college. The selection criteria should have some level to it and training should be top priority if companies hope to win the battle through outstanding service standards.

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