Customer Service – Internal and its benefits -1

Having taken a detour into some case studies let us get back to some theory on internal customer service.

As we had seen earlier, Internal Customer Service is a concept that brings about a change in the attitude of all employees in an organization. The change that takes place is one of treating each other as a customer for all transactions and extending the service that a customer would expect. This attitudinal change is relatively simple to achieve with proper explanation of the concept and the reason why this needs to be achieved. People understand and appreciate the need for proper customer service, which can only be of benefit for everyone in the organization and so readily accept the need for it.

I have known the change to be so dramatic that strangers visiting the organization have been left puzzled by employees claiming service from colleagues claiming to be customers. Teamwork, cooperation and being proactive are all automatic by products of the change in attitudes.

In an organization where this has been achieved, what happens is that an external customer gets to interact with one person in the organization and goes away completely satisfied and as an ambassador to the company, its product/s and its people. Each employee takes ownership of the need to extend service as a matter of course.

An interesting side effect has been observed. Employees exposed to such a change and working in an environment that fosters this attitude, begin to notice that their relationships in personal lives also undergo change for the better.

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.

Birthday gifts cartooned!

Today was my birthday. I stopped celebrating my birthday many years ago. My family and friends however insist on my contacting me one way or the other to greet me and to wish me for many happy returns. One day in a year, I enjoy that attention but still will not consent to a celebration of any kind.

The day started off with a phone call all the way from the USA from a delightful friend of 18 years who has not forgotten my birthday even once in all these years that I have known him. He chatted with me for a long time on a number of things including this blog.

My son Ranjan wanted to find out what I would like for a gift and since I did not have anything that I wanted, simply stuck a wad of currency notes into my hand and insisted that I should indulge myself!

After that, it was a series of calls and email messages. I had to go to my weekly Vedanta class and on my return, found a surprise birthday gift from a relatively new and young friend. This is again something that has not happened to me in a long time as everyone in my circle of family and friends knows that I do not celebrate and so do not send or give any gifts. This too was a welcome development for its sheer unexpectedness. When I thanked her for the gift, my friend further made my day for me by conveying to me that she found her association with me to be very fruitful and that she has benefited from it. What better morale booster can one ask for?

In the evening during our usual visit to the joggers’ park, all my friends greeted me, and people who did not know about it earlier also chipped in to the extent that it became almost embarrassing.

After such an interesting day, in retrospect, I still believe that the best thing that happened to me during the day was, this morning’s Times of India, which had a very topical cartoon by Jug Suraiya & Ajit Nainan. I am unable to download it for showing it to all of you, as I suspect that TOI does not publish cartoons in their web edition!

It shows a lady celebrating her birthday and her husband handing over a couple of bags with a satisfied smirk on his face. The lady’s expression is simply joyful with her eyes popping out and the text reads – “A litre of petrol and a kilo of atta? Wow – they are the best birthday presents I’ve got!”

Time the great leveler.

Time is change, transformation, evolution…—Isaac L. Peretz

At 7.15 this morning, I received a phone call from a friend from my past. Someone that I had not seen for over ten years, but with whom I am in frequent telephone touch.

This friend PS, and his wife were the local guardians to our son Ranjan, when he was in boarding school for three years. Our son was practically like a son in their home as, every holiday and special occasion, he could be found in their home along with their own two sons and a daughter, all elder to our son.

PS wanted to know if I was awake and naturally I was curious! So, I asked him as to where he was calling from. He sheepishly said that he had just got off a plane at the Pune airport and was on his way to our home along with his son Satya. They just wanted to spend some time with us before they went off to Shirdi, a place of pilgrimage, and four hours’ drive from our place.

The three of us quickly got ready to receive them. When they finally arrived, it was to surprise us further as; their respective wives, one small child and two other elders, all members of the family accompanied them!

It was a great reunion for all of us, and particularly for Ranjan and Satya, as they had a lot to catch up with, Satya having gone off to the USA many years ago.

All of those present however were certain of one thing. If as individuals each had seen any one else in a neutral location, no recognition of each other could have taken place. Yes, time had taken its toll. PS had undergone by-pass surgery and become a grand father five times over. I had undergone revision to my replaced hips, Satya had got married and become a father, Ranjan had gone through a marriage and divorce and all the ladies were so much more elegant and charming in their parent and grand parent status.

Time the great leveler!

Losing a pet.

I have a friend, Prasad, in Australia who, like me is in retirement and quite addicted to the computer and browsing.

It is quite a story as to how we reestablished contact after forty years and though earlier on, we were not very close to each other, have become frequent communicators. We now communicate by email and also by skype phone fairly frequently and exchange ideas and information on a lot of things besides of course jokes!

Between 1965 and 1967, we were class-mates in a post graduate course. During this period, though we both share the same ethnic background, we did not become close friends. Late last year, an effort was made by some of our old class mates to organize a re-union of our class mates. Amazing work was done in locating almost all by the rule of six and the re union was a great success. Though neither Prasad nor I attended the re-union due to our own preoccupations, a number of us were able to get in touch with each other and come to know about us thanks to a yahoo group and exchange of mails as also a directory published and photographs shared after the re union.

It was during this period of getting back in touch with each other that, Prasad and I have reestablished contact and have become quite friendly.

Recently, I was unable to raise him on the skype phone and got quite worried. On querying him about the reason by email, he has responded that he was preoccupied with the final days with his dog who finally had to be put to rest. It has taken him and his family quite some time to come to grip with this loss.

This is not the first time that I have come across such grief over a pet. This is something that people who have never kept pets never seem to be able to understand. In my extended family of siblings and cousins, a lot of us have been brought up with dogs and some with cats also! Every time one of us loses a pet, condolence messages keep flooding the web on our various family groups and web sites.

It is extremely difficult to explain the attachment one develops with a pet at home. I am trying to use this blog to express my own understanding of this phenomenon.

I think that it is due to the inability of the pet to communicate to us like human beings can, that makes the relationships so deep. One makes the extra effort to establish a rapport with the animal which one does not with other human beings. The fact that the animal can not talk back to you or, is so dependant on one, brings out the best in one, I suppose. The sheer helplessness of the pet who has to put up with all the expectations of the master/mistress, does some inexplicable thing in the latter’s psyche that perhaps enables all positive emotions to come out instead of the mixture of negative and positive emotions that come out in interactions with humans.

I hope that Prasad reads this and responds with his own comments.

Self-made man!

I met a very interesting man yesterday. He was introduced to me by a mutual acquaintance at the joggers’ park, where many of my neighbors meet every evening.

This new comer to the park is a new resident to the colony and has just moved to Pune after retiring from his own business in the Middle East. When I asked him as to how one can retire from one’s own business, he explained that he has sold his interest in the business to a relative who is also in the Middle East and who wants to expand.

Introductions over and preliminaries done with, I asked him to tell me something about himself and he started off by telling me “I am a self made man.” He then proceeded to tell me the story of his life, which is not what I wish to write about.

I do however wish to write about this business of being a self made man! Firstly, logically, it is not possible to make one’ self. Despite being a Vedantin of sorts, I cannot imagine some one being the maker, the material and the made, in human terms. Self-made persons do have mothers and fathers responsible for their birth. There must have been a lot of others in that person’s life to mould his character, and perhaps even his physique! There must have been people and events, which would have influenced him one way or the other.

Assuming however that what is meant by this phrase is that the individual concerned, did not get any assistance from his family and friends in his rags to riches story, this again is next to impossible. While he may indeed have not received any support from his family, every single person that he came across in his path to growth would have contributed to his existence, growth, experience etc.

I believe that our own Dhirubhai Ambani was once introduced as a self-made man and he took serious objection to this. He clarified that there were a number of people in his life who helped him along and participated in his life and growth and therefore he could not be called a self-made man. What humility!