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.

What is in a name?

A rose by any other name "What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." – William Shakespeare.

Conversations to do with someone’s names can have some very peculiar outcomes. My name often results in some unexpected developments, new friendships are made and new insights into the whole process of naming are developed.

I was introduced to a new resident to our colony today and we went through the visiting card exchanging routine. He was promptly intrigued with the spelling of my surname, which has got an unusual “U” inserted in it. Rajgopaul instead of Rajgopal. I had to explain that this was done by my father under advise from a numerologist and all his children and grandchildren have got stuck with it.

This is not the first time that this discussion has taken place. I have had the same conversation with countless individuals. Quite a few of them have been quite disappointed that I am not a Christian! Quite a few, very happy that I am not.

For curious Europeans and Americans, I have even translated it to mean King of Cowboys, which actually it is. Rajgopal is a name given to Lord Krishna who was the King of cowherds. Naturally, I had to also explain that it was only a family name and I was not a Prince, or a Rajah!

I have also had to explain to many South Indians that my name is not Rajgopaul and that it is my surname. Tamilians have the custom of using only their given name and using their father’s name as the initials. Famous names such as Krishnamachari Srikant, Ramanathan Krishnan etc follow this system. My father however was exposed to the North Indian method and decided that he should start a clan called the Rajgopauls, and he has had his way. There are quite a few, and at the latest count the fourth generation has come into existence to keep the lineage going.

I was talking about this topic with some friends when one of them, a Sindhi who has spent a lifetime in Hong Kong suggested that I acquire myself a Chinese name and gave me a site to visit for the purpose. I did, and got myself a Chinese name, which is Ran Rui Ming. Ran, as per the Chinese system being the surname Rui and Ming being the letters of the given name meaning Sharp, Bright, Light, Brilliant and Clear. My friend from Hong Kong is very amused with the name and insists on calling me by that. For those of you who are interested, please visit http://www.mandarintools.com/ You can get yourself a Chinese name too.

This subject is a fascinating one with a lot of twists and turns. More on this subject in some future posts.

Dogs as pets

This morning’s Times of India, under its regular column, “Last Word” quoted “ I dislike referring to them as dogs or my pets. This is because they are a part of me, my family and they share my every joy and sorrow. They understand me completely and there is such a big bond, such a rapport that I share with them that it moves me beyond words. Salman Khan on his two pet dogs, Myson and Myjaan, on his blog.”

Just two days ago a friend of mine came over to have lunch with us and to spend some time with us. We had not met for some time and I enquired about his son and daughter in law who were in Mumbai. He brought me up to date and told me that they have moved back to Pune with both of them getting good jobs here. He further told me that he was rather stumped with their life style as they have taken a very big loan and bought a three-bed room flat. On my expressing amazement, he continued that they now had two dogs and a dog handler who was needed to look after the dogs and so the two extra rooms were for the dogs and the handler. His daughter in law has grown up with dogs as pets in her maternal home, and she simply cannot be without dogs in her home!

We have four mongrels living in our housing society. They have adopted us and nothing that we do gets rid of them. Quite how they survive is anyone’s guess. They do not harm any body and bark at everything and any body strange coming into the society’s compound. Some Good Samaritan had taken them to the blue cross and got them neutered and I am told that this is a humane way of treating stray dogs. My query as to how they could be humanely made to shut up in the nights when they seem to take delight in non-stop barking for hours together, in concert with other stray dogs, is yet to be answered by the do gooding animal lovers.

I wonder if either Salman Khan or my friend’s daughter in law, can come up with some solution. I certainly intend asking the latter when I next meet her.

Can Road Accidents Supplement Family Planning?

Not a day goes by in any part of India, without the local press reporting some deaths due to accidents on local roads. Roughly 300 deaths per day are reported everyday from all over the country and it is expected to increase steadily with more vehicles coming on India’s roads. This has led some thinkers to give serious consideration to this method as a viable one to control India’s population and to suggest that such accidents must be encouraged by a series of measures by all government bodies and politicians.

As India begins to shine, it is blessed with the unchecked growth of vehicular population, two wheelers to massive big multi-wheeled semis, constantly jostling for space on limited road surfaces. Enterprising unemployed farmers have even come with a very functional vehicle called the Juggad, which need not be registered with the local RTO, as it is claimed to be for agricultural purposes. The same surface is used by vast hordes of pedestrians and animals too.

The use of roads by non-motorists is not restricted to just walking or cycling, but also to build shantytowns and places of worship. Sometimes, when a worthy personality is killed on one of these roads, a monument is also very likely to come up on the spot where the unfortunate incident took place. If the local heavy weight wants to make some money for his good friend the sculptor, he is likely to erect a statue of a national or regional leader in the middle of a convenient road, and to safeguard its future, get it inaugurated by a political heavyweight too. Seeing how desperate a problem India’s population is, the Central, State and Local governments, all cooperate with each other, in a rare instance of unity, in creating more pot holes than drivable roads, so that accidents can take place.

These developments effectively reduce the area available for vehicular traffic and cause accidents resulting in death or injury. If an accident does take place, and someone falls down injured on the road, no passerby is likely to take him to the nearest hospital as, he dreads the prospect of bureaucratic hassles and police harassment, when all that he wants to do is to be a good Samaritan. The victim is likely to die unattended.

Indians are notorious individualists. They brook no interference in their movements and resist all attempts to guide them to their own safety. It would appear that they have all been trained to be the Indian equivalent of suicide bombers. Instead of bombs, an Indian simply gets on to any handy vehicle and declares war on all that comes in his way. If the vehicle turns out to be a two-wheeler, he will shun the use of a helmet as being unsuited for the Indian climate with predictable results to himself and other similar helmet less riders.

As per statistics put out by the National Crime Records Bureau, India has just been declared runner up in the race to control population, through deaths arising out of road accidents. The winner as expected has been China. While China has actually reported a decrease in deaths due to road accidents from 98,738 in 2005 to 89,455 in 2006, India registered 98,254 and 105,725 respectively. If this trend continues, as it indeed is likely to, India should easily become the number one performer. India will not only become number one, it will also make substantial reduction to the national population. To speed up the process, it is suggested that India holds annual national championships between the states, to generate the maximum road accidents.

Apart from the largest state in size and population, Uttar Pradesh, which has to be number one in something, the three great states that lead in the prosperity ratings of the country, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, are the frontline players in this great game of population control through road deaths. Between the four of them, they account for almost 60% of all road deaths of India. The rest of the country, are not likely to take this affront lying down and will do everything possible to catch up with these upstarts.

It is rumored that, other countries battling with population control and not succeeding with their current strategies have sought specialized training by Indian experts on this technology.

What can officially be done to increase the death rate due to road accidents? Can a formal Manual of Operations be issued to all local authorities? Can special training programs be conducted to facilitators after identifying those who will be enthused in this laudable endeavor?