Customer Service – Attitude, Authority, Access to Information and Communication.

What really happened is that two persons from the sales department of a publishing house decided to be proactive with a customer.

Let us look at this a lit more in depth. The publisher’s Pune and Mumbai office is primarily set up to move their published books onto the shelves of booksellers in Maharashtra. Since they are very big in the field of educational books, they are very active in Pune where the Universities and other educational institutions have made it a very big market for their products.

In the normal course, these two gentlemen never come in contact with an actual end user. Their contacts are with libraries, educational institutions, and booksellers.

The normal reaction for someone in a similar position is to say “Sorry, this is not my job.” Now, why did these two gentlemen not take recourse to this route and went out of their way to help an ultimate customer for a book that would have cost about 165 rupees in retail?

Sitting far away from the scene of action and not ever having met either of the gentlemen, I can only guess the thought process of the first person – the Pune Representative. He must have thought to himself, “here is an opportunity to get to do something for an ultimate customer. We never get an opportunity to do so. Let me try and help him in some way.” Unusual, and exactly the kind of thinking, that any organization would expect from its employees. Mind you, this gentleman is an employee, not an owner. If I were the owner, I would expect to instill this kind of an ATTITUDE in all my employees. Quite whether this was done in this case, I do not know.

The next stage. The Pune Representative telephones his office in Mumbai after having found out that with his resources, he is unable to find out any bookseller with available stock in Pune. The Mumbai office has access to stock records and finds out that one shop, Landmark in Pune has stock. The Mumbai representative ensures that a copy is reserved, makes sure that the shop’s management will arrange for home delivery, and then calls me up.

What has happened? Here too it is a matter of ATTITUDE, tying up lose ends before making any kind of promise and then acting on solving the customer’s problem.

The third stage of the bookseller coming into the picture. Here again, it is a chain of bookshops and manned by employees. All the people involved here too, have taken steps to ensure that the publisher’s commitment and the customer’s requirement are met, without trying to pass the buck anywhere else. They could have easily said, that home delivery is not possible and that the buyer could come over and purchase from the stock. But, having agreed to oblige the publisher, they did not. Here, there is an ATTITUDE as well as, another very important ingredient, AUTHORITY. The management has given enough authority to the local staff to take unusual decisions in the interest of Customer Service. Such delegation of authority is rare and it has come as a surprise to me that this chain of bookstores has done so. My compliments to them.

There is yet another element, the third element of Customer Service in this case, and that is ACCESS TO INFORMATION. The smooth way in which the Pune office could access Mumbai Regional Office and they could locate stock, communicate with the stock point and persuade them to act in an unusual manner brings us to the last element of excellent COMMUNICATION. Me to Pune Office to Mumbai RO to Landmark Pune to Mumabi RO to me and finally Landmark Pune to me.

I doubt very much that all this could have happened if the communications between all the players had not been of excellent quality and purposeful.

We shall look at this aspect of Communication tomorrow.

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!

Is it your dream life?

There is a wonderful blog called A Deaf Mom Shares Her World which I strongly recommend to all.

This blog is full of such amazing stories about a family of deaf people and what they do.

In the latest blog, the blogger asks the question “Are you living your dream life?
In my comment on her blog I said “I am a Vedantin from India. What you probably know as a Hindu. For Vedantins, life itself is a dream. It is unreal. What you probably know as Maya or inaccurately translated as illusion. In Eastern religions, there is no substance to this life and it is but a dream. This has now been kind of supported by modern physicists like Fritjof Capra. So, to your specific query, Yes, my life is a dream!”
A Zen Master tells his students that he had a dream in which he was flitting around like a butterfly. Since he woke up he has been unable to decide whether he is the master who dreamed about the butterfly or if he was the butterfly dreaming that he was the master with the students.
Eastern traditions, religions and philosophy are full of such amazing insights that one can get completely lost in a life long study. That is what happens to Sanyasis and Monks in the Eastern traditions.

In the Indian tradition, the training in such matters start from the time of the individual’s student days called the Brahmacharya Ashrama, continues during his householder days called the Grahasthashrama Ashrama, takes serious contours during his retirement days called the Vanaprastha Ashrama and culminates in his total withdrawl from society days called the Sanyasa Ashrama. While, from every stage one could jump into the last stage under the express approval of Rishis who satisfy themselves that the individual has no other responsibilities, normally, the individual experienced a full and rich life before the full time pursuit of matters spiritual.

Perhaps my answer to the blogger should have then been “As a Vedantin, my dream is to become a Sanyasi and I am on the path. I am now in the Grahastha Ashrama stage due to circumstances beyond my control, but I have every hope of moving to the other two Ashramas.” In all honesty, I cannot tell her that I am not living the life of a Grahastha as a Brahmachary dreams of.

Would she have understood it? Do you, dear reader?