Customer Service – Price.

Books can be written about pricing as a tool to effect good customer service.  To make it very simple, a customer looks to pay for value received and expects not to be cheated while doing so.  So, to say that a supplier should supply goods or services at the right price, means that the pricing of whatever is offered is value for money and is competitive.

Areas where deficiencies are found are when contracted price is withdrawn without negotiations, differential pricing is resorted to between different customers or geographical areas, and there is perceived lack of transparency in the pricing process itself.

These are matters that need to be attended to at policy making levels and loyal customers stay with those suppliers who meet their expectations.

Here too, the major aspect of putting in place an efficient complaint redressal mechanism needs to be reinforced.

Customer Service – Quantity

Customer Service – Quantity.
We defined it as delivering the right quantity to the customer. This is a very touchy area of customer service. That is because, the manufacturer has his own problems of economic production lot quantities and other constraints whereas the customer has equally important constraints.

The trick is in getting a viable median with clear communications from both sides as to what is possible and what is not and both sides adhering to the compromise. This is the process that takes place before the proper contract to supply is entered into, and after this process is over, the onus of meeting the contracted terms of conditions rest squarely with the supplier.

There is also the possibility of loss in transit due to rough handling, transportation problems etc, and while these may indeed be factors beyond the control of the supplier, it is up to him to ensure that sufficient cushion is builit in at the time of packing to ensure that the customer receives the quantity that he has contracted to purchase.

Here too, despite all possible precautions, things can go wrong and proper complaint redressal mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that the customer gets a proper treatment that will satisfy him and the remedial measures taken will solve his problems.

Here to the summary will read as:

1. Promise a quantiity that meets the customer’s expectation.
2. Deliver the promised quantity.
3. Seek to avoid complaints about quantity by taking all such steps as necessary before the product/service reaches the customer.
4. Anticipate that despite such precautions, the quantity occasionally may not meet the promised parameters. Put in a complaint redressal mechanism that immediately resolves the issue raised by the customer.
5. Ensure that the interface of the seller with the customer takes responsibility for the deviation to the quantity of the product/service and assures the customer that the complaint will receive the attention that it deserves and that the customer can expect a satisfying response within a specified period.

Customer Service – Quality

Quality is a relative term.  It will be impractical to promise the best possible quality, as any product or service can be improved.  What is required is that the product or service on offer meets with the expectations of the user and delivers what is promised.The customer experiences poor service when the quality delivered is not up to the parameters either advertised or assured at the time of entering into the contract.

While it is possible that the poor quality delivered may be due to factors beyong the control of the supplier, such possible developments must be anticipated and redressal mechanisms put in place that will address the issue in such a way that the customer is satisfied with the attention paid to his compaint.

Oftentimes, the problem that the customer faces is that the redressal mecahnism is inadequate, leading to further frustration. So, the original problem of poor     quality delivered gets compounded by an inadequate response to the complaint of the customer.

The most common response one comes across when this happens, is the tendency of the person handling the customer, passing the buck.  How often do we meet someone saying something like – "Oops, another one!  We have had so many this week.  The company/back office/manufacturing etc, are not taking any notice of the complaints flooding us.  I shall pass yours along too."

Such responses, or equivalent words, are so devastating that one wonders if the people running the business know about such responses in the front line.

On the other hand, there are organizations which handle quality complaints in such a wonderful way that the customer is left being an ambassador for the company.

To summarize:

1.  Promise a quality that meets the customer’s expectation – fitness for purpose.

2.  Deliver the promised quality.

3.  Seek to avoid complaints about quality by taking all such steps as necessary before the product/service reaches the customer.

4.  Anticipate that despite such precautions,  the quality occasionally may not meet the promised parameter. Put in a complaint redressal mechanism that immediately resolves the issue raised by the customer.

5.  Ensure that the interface of the seller with the customer takes responsibility for the defective product/service and assures the customer that the complaint will receive the attention that it deserves and that the customer can expect a satisfying response within a specified period.

Service as a way of life in business and personal life.

"Everyone has the power of greatness. Not for fame but greatness. Because greatness is determined by service." – Dr. Martin Luther King

I posted a blog a few days ago on my personal experience with customer service from two different news papers.  This set me thinking about why this matter was so important to me and I realized that it was due to my having come through the experience of managing customer service during my active management days.

All of us have experience of good customer service and bad customer service, as we are all of us, customers for all kinds of goods and services and shop frequently in shops, malls, online, supermarkets etc, as well as visit salons, restaurants hotels etc and use the services of cable tv provider, phone connection provider, electricity connection provider etc.

In quite a few of these situations, we are helpless as we have to deal with monopoly government institutions and the less said the better about those.  Unfortunately however, one keeps coming across poor customer service in private sector situations too, like in some banks, credit card providers shops etc.

Having seen both sides of the fence for a long long time, I believe that this is a topic worth blogging about and invite discussions.

What does a customer want from a vendor of goods or services? He looks for the right quality, the right quantity, at the right price, at the right time and at the right place. To a large extent, these will be the areas that will influence a customer from being loyal to a vendor or otherwise.

We shall look at each of the items separately in a series of future posts.

I have got the worst job in the world!

I saw this cartoon in a blog during my surfing experience yesterday and wish to share it with all of you.
It says it all!

This is the universal human problem!  The grass being greeener on the other side of the fence.

I have felt like this any number of times and inevitably found someone else who had a different perceptive on the situation, or till I got what I thought would be better, only to regret letting go of the earlier job.

This cartoon however says it so elegantly!

Tension Nahin Lenekka!

There are two delightful people in my life who insist on telling me "Tension nahin lenekka!" What this means, for those who are not familiar with Hindustani is – "Do not become tense!" although the exact meaning gets lost in translation.

One, a surrogate son, lives by that credo. In all the forty years that I have known him, I have never known him to lose his cool, even when he was in some major jams. Since he believes that he can solve whatever problems that I may have, he believes that I too should never get tense. He is very reassuring and I sleep soundly every night knowing that I can pass on any problem to him to solve.

The other is a vendor on a bicycle who hawks bakery products like Pav, Brun, Bread, Biscuits etc and announces his arrival by sounding a klaxon horn that works through a rubber bulb attached to one end. I place orders on him whenever I see him on his rounds and he inevitably leaves the merchandise in our verandah and disappears. I have to remind him to collect his money whenever I see him during my walks and he too will tell me not to get tense and he knows that his money is safe and he will collect it at his convenience. I have known him for the past seventeen years and have never seen him ever lose his cool.

The first is a very wealthy businessman of Mumbai and the latter is an entrepreneur who has to work every day to make his daily bread!

I have never known either to ever miss a working day. When asked, both will cheerfully respond that they do not fall sick because they never get tense. "Tension nahin lenekka!"

Is there a moral there somewhere?