Monthly Archives: January 2010

My Experiments with Customer Service

The Indian Optician, November-December, 2009 Issue

I think of myself as quite a calm person, who gets along well with most people. My relationships have been generally warm and cordial. I try to stick to my commitments and believe very strongly in truth, ethical behaviour and integrity. Whenever I have sensed people deviating from these values, I have just casually kept distance and walked away from them, rarely losing my cool and creating a raucous.

However, there have been times when my wife and children have had to intervene to get me to keep my temper down and to calm me. These situations, generally, are related to levels of customer service that I find against the values I described above or are straight irritating and unacceptable to me. My sensitivity to such situations, quite possibly, could also be due to heightened awareness due to my involvement in ‘Customer Value Creation’. So maybe I am unreasonable in my assessment to some extent. But I do believe, that to varying degrees, most people would empathise with me.

Also, not to say that there have not been experiences of pure delight in customer service, where I have reciprocated through my continued patronage and loyalty, shifting more and more of my purchases to the shop, preferring to buy from there even if it was not the core offering, but the owner still stocked them as peripheral items.

A case in point is the neighbourhood chemist shop owner in the locality where we used to stay earlier. Every visit to the shop (and remember that a visit to a chemist shop may not always be without a certain level of anxiety) was accompanied by a pleasant greeting. Even if there was stress due to an illness in the family, not that the stress would go, but the smiling acknowledgement of one’s arrival did not definitely aggravate the situation. He would ask about the well being of family members, occasionally check how work was going or discuss current happenings, depending on circumstances. Over a period of time, familiarity and comfort level increased and I found myself shifting our monthly purchases of toiletries also to this shop, since he stocked them too. If anything was out of stock at that time, he would promise to organise delivery and always stuck to his commitments. We rewarded him generously with loyalty and by increasing the basket of what we bought from him, adding toothpastes and soaps and deodorants to our list of medicines to be purchased ….. Prices were never discussed !!

We then shifted to another locality. Due to distance, obviously we could not continue to patronise this chemist shop. But still, whenever in that area, we would stop by to pick up certain things we remembered or just to say hello.

There was another chemist near our new residence. A much better laid out shop ….. much better stocked with a much wider range of products. This seemed like a great alternative !! We also became members of the ‘frequent buyer’ group and got a ‘loyalty’ card that allowed us accumulation of points which could be redeemed on subsequent purchases. They announced ‘24X7 service’ and ‘free home delivery’ on signages in and outside the shop, on the loyalty card, invoice copies, carry bags et al. This was ‘The Promised Land’, I thought to myself, very happy with my decision to have tied up with them !!

I started visiting the shop, shifting our required chemist related purchases there. One day, due to some pressing engagements, I decided to order for home delivery on the phone. After what seemed like eternity, my call was answered by a voice at the other end, telling me to hold on and that they would take my order in a short while. This was even before I could lose my cool and ask the voice at the other end, why it took them so long to pick up the phone. So I held on to my end of the line …..

To share how I felt then and how things shaped up subsequently, let me request you to hold on to your end of the line till the next issue and to try to figure out my feelings at that moment. Needless to say, you may curse me for my arrogant sounding to closure to this article ….. and I must say that that is quite close to how I felt on being told to hold on to my end of the telephone line by ‘The Land of Promises’.

To be continued …..


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