Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Service Evasion

There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news, which is for consumers, is that there is now an online, private customer redressal system that takes complaints of customers and solves them by escalating it to higher echelons of customer service in a company. All the grieving customer needs to do is to type in their complaint in a text box on the online consumer forum and the complaint is formalized and sent to people who can make a decision in the company (not to the poor customer-service representative whose minimal powers range from “I will try to help you” to “Sorry, I cannot help you in this matter”). The matter is then solved doubly quick, resulting in a happy customer who still curses the poor service from the company but posts an effusive testimonial on the forum website stating the turnaround time of complaint resolution and money saved. If you want to follow the complaint closely or step-by-step, you would have to pay for it, but paltry in comparison with the amounts you would incur if you did it on your own.
Sounds great and it is in fact a boon for consumers. But what does this mean to the organizations who are the actual custodians of the experiences of their customers? Isn’t the care of their customers solely their responsibility?  The success of such a forum goes to show that companies are seemingly indifferent about customer service. At least when it comes to making sure that a service issue is resolved. They seem to have the first level of redressal in place but are not able to go the extra mile in making sure that the customer gets the required resolution. Frustrated by this lack of commitment to a tangible end, the customer turns to the online redressal forum. It surely doesn’t look good for an organization when its poor service is blatantly highlighted online and someone else credited for resolving a customer problem that they obviously haven’t been able to.
An organization’s responsibility towards their customers doesn’t end at just creating an ecosystem to sell the product; it also extends to creating a post sales relationship. Today’s service providers are pushing the envelope in terms of reach and network of customers, therefore creating an environment to service those same customers must fall under the same ambit. So can we assume our service providers are giving up? Or are we just looking at a shifting focus from treating customer service as an extension of the product, to just plain and simple resolution?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The expectation dry-up?

We have been mentioning that the moment of truth is the point where a brand is made or broken. This is where either a satisfied customer glorifies the product/service or an unhappy customer dismisses it. We know for a fact that most of the time the customer is left dissatisfied. We lay the onus on the service provider and complain that service levels have to improve – and then there’s lethargy. But then there is the Indian consumer who is so used to poor service that she is almost immune to it! In the comparison between expectation and delivery, we can see that since the expectations are so low, it’s no surprise that delivery levels are so poor.

This could probably be attributed to years and years of poor service, long queues and red tape that has adversely conditioned the Indian consumer psyche. It is sometimes due to this mindset, that when something out of the ordinary is provided, the Indian customer is overawed. For example, an Indian consumer is easily thrilled when a DTH service provider promises service in 24 hours and it actually happens! But isn't this what the company has always promised?

So let’s sum it up. It would seem that as an ecosystem we are already meeting expectations and with the considerably low levels these expectations are surviving at, we are headed towards an era of customer indifference. Or we quite possibly are already there. Practitioners have been talking about great customer service for years now but service providers continue to ignore the calls, yet they preach about the Zappos of the world without ever intending to change a single process internally. Customer indifference could soon lead to a drying up of differentiators or marketing ‘hooks’. We would then go back to a market that differentiates on factors like price and product design that we know are unsustainable.

Looks like soon, that DTH customer we spoke about is going to become an exception to a rule no one cares for.