July 2, 2006

Back in Mysore, to dead phone, un-ticking clocks

My phone had gone dead; the TV remote wasn’t working. I couldn’t access the Internet. And two of the three wall clocks at my place had stopped ticking. In short, my urban middle-class ‘life-support’ system was down. I realized I was back in Mysore, having been away for three months. Such things could happen anywhere, to anyone who has been gone for that long. My point is about getting things that had gone wrong back in running condition, without hassles. The time and effort it takes to get things done depends on where you live - Milpitas (Calif.), Mysore or outer Mongolia.

My scene is Mysore. Prof. Raghavan, my friend at a local b-school, would like to see Mysore become a dependable place for those who demand a certain quality in life, and promptness in service. As he put it, this town, which was My-sore (point) should be turned into ‘My-sure’(thing). As of now, it is a town where one can’t be sure of getting anything done right away or without hassle. The BSNL phone at my residence was dead. It took three phone calls to officials in strategic positions to get it ringing, this, within the same working day. A creditable performance in customer service for a public sector undertaking.

My problem is with the private sector that tom-toms about its customer-friendliness . I called the show-room that had sold me the TV to send a technician to fix my remote or have it replaced. The person who attended my call gave a patient hearing, assured me he would get the company’s service centre to attend to my TV remote before the end of the day (Saturday). When I didn’t hear from anyone for some hours I called the TV show-room again, only to be connected to someone else, who was polite, but wanted me to tell him about the faulty TV remote, all over again.

Mildly irritated, I mentioned that I had been through it all with so-and-so earlier in the day. “We have no such person here”, he said. This, I thought, was a bit thick. I had called the right show-room number; and spoken to a receptive person who heard me out, took down my phone number, and even wanted to know when it would be a convenient time for me to have the TV technician home. After all this, this show-room person, the second one I spoke to, wanted me to tell him what my complaint was about. He had no word of regret for what I (a ‘valued customer’) had been put through. And then, he said in a matter-of-fact tone, “I’d pass on your complaint to the company service centre, and they would attend to it Monday”.

When I mentioned that I had been given to understand my TV remote would be fixed the same day (I wanted to watch Germany-Argentina World Cup tie) the show-room guy talked me through their standard operating procedure. Which was, the service centre could not (or wouldn't) attend to any customer complaint on the very day it was reported. Besides, my complaint was made on a Saturday. So nothing could be expected to happen till Monday. So much for the customer-friendly (after sales) service centre.


Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Dead clocks is understandable. I knew you were in for a shock, anyone who goes out of the country for a while, even a short trip will get a shock of seeing what we have. This happens to all of us who go abroad for any length of time. This is inspite of the fact that we actually were born and brought up here. The entire thing is a shock to the system, getting off the plane in Bangalore onwards.

As for the phone and how great India is in terms of technology etc etc and all that talk that our Government gives us about being the next superpower, the phone system was dead in large parts of Mysore when you arrived and you get "Sorry for the disruption. Only emergency services are available" message in Kannada, Hindi and English. Our boys here in Singapore could not call home either during this time. We'll be a super power when we have enough drinking water (supplied clean and daily), when we have enough electricity (short trip home last week and power used to go out THREE times a day), get rid of poverty and illiteracy and of course, fix the telecommunications systems. We don't become a superpower just because we have the money, a big bunch of military hardware and wireless internet.

Oh, I forgot, call centers don't make us Silicon valley. Nor by putting in codes in a software written by somebody in the US.

Unless there is a will, there is no way. I see that will is lacking in india. As for Karnataka and Mysore, we are next to Bihar and UP in terms of politics. Our new CM came here to Singapore asking Non resident kannadigas to help with investments. That means Kannadigas there are poor (that they need investment from here) and that Kannadigas there have no brains that they want these guys to go there and do something! What a stupid perception.

The CM saw the system here and just like any politican, we will not see this sort of system over there, not even a tenth of it, because there is no political will and no citizens will either. We are the Mylari Dosa eating and sleeping late on Sundays sort of people in Mysore and get what we deserve!

Vijendra Rao, the critical outsider said...

I had the shock of my life the other day when I called up Mymul to leave a complaint about the milk supplied by them as it turned reddish brown on boiling and malodorous: the lady who came on the line was not rude. She even directed me to the manager, who, anyway, was not available. When I called her back she not at all sounded annoyed or irritated, even remembered my name and took down my message. A bigger shock came a a while later: The Mymul Managing Director called me and straightaway apologised for not supplying quality milk. He said they take utmost precaution to deliver milk in a hygienic manner, but it was surprising yet it had happened. He said he would straightaway send one of his senior officers with replacement for the spoilt milk, which I could send back with them. Even as I was still rubbing my eyes in disbelief, I got a call from the officer, who sought directions to reach me. Within no time came the replacement, with two well-dressed officers delivering it. Despite my reluctance to take an extra litre that they wanted to leave with us, they said we must take it. They heard us patiently, with genuine concern and regret. We told them that we had checked before calling up Mymul that everything was correct at our end. I offered to show him that our kitchen was indeed spic and span, but they said there was no need. We had bought two litres and only half of it, boiled in one of our two kitchesn, which had turned bad. They asked us no questions. They said they had received similar complaints from two other places, in two other localities, the same day. When I said I was mighty surprised that a public service agency had turned so friendly, they informed me that there had been a turnaround in the attitude of the employees. They were candid enough to say that it was increasing competition which had brought about the change in the last ten years. They even invited us to the dairy so we could inspect ourselves how hygienically the entire operation was carried out.
At a time when we face all round harassment, this was not just a whiff, but a hurricane of fresh air.
Thank you Mymul. Thank you Mr. Prem Kumar, the unit head. Keep it up. We will make a difference to our individual and collective living.

G Raghavan said...

As you point out, managers of PSUs are more concerned about the competition and hence they appear to be very prompt in attending to customer calls and complaints within their domain. In stark contrast, the private sector, particularly those very well established in their business and field, treat their customers as just another commodity. They hold the view that their job is only to sell and not service the products. Hence it is not in the structure of the organisation with which we deal with, it is basically to do with the kind of people we deal with. Once the people realise that their very survival is at stake, they may change their approach, attitude. Believe me if it happens it is only for their survival and nothing to do with customer orientation.

With regard to My sore and My sure, I did say that with similar things in mind with reference to another context; but it has come out very well in your posting.

Prof. G Raghavan
SDM Institute for Management Development, Mysore