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HR is NOT a support function

Fielding, like HR, has been seen as a Support Function in cricket for too long;

till Jonty Rhodes changed the game and said a Fielder can win matches.


Ask anyone and the most probable answer is “Yes, HR is a support function”. Whenever I interview for HR positions, I hear candidates reinforcing this with a great sense of pride and confidence.images

I feel that the search for a good HR person is the most critical and also the toughest. For every function, as would be practice with most of us, functional experts validate technical understanding of candidates. In the final round we check more for cultural and values fit. For HR, however, ‘functional’,  ‘values’ and ‘culture’ domains tend to merge at some level.  Smart candidates manage ‘correct’ answers with great elan !!

As one of the differentiators, I started asking an open ended question “HR is a support function; what are your views ?” Answers reveal a lot about core beliefs and thoughts related to this point.

In one such round, after a particularly good interaction, we were very sure of a candidate’s  selection. And then he went on to rave about how HR is a ‘support’ function. Even to indicative hints of possibilities of direct impact, he strictly reinforced his belief in the concept of providing ‘support’ only.

In the same round, another candidate spoke strongly about the direct impact HR could make as an inherent part of the business. This person, who was selected, later went on to become group HR head of a large business group and then CEO of one of the group companies.

This is not to say that every HR person would or should want to be or aspire to be a CEO. Nor to say that every HR person would or should have core business or other skills needed to be a CEO. It is upto each individual and his/her priorities.

However, a belief that HR is mainstream in the value chain, as integral or with as much impact as sales or marketing or production (content in knowledge organisations), can help businesses and HR people both in achieving more harmonious and successful trajectories.

By the way, the logic holds true for other functions, which believe themselves to be ‘support’ functions, as well. No surprise that this further leads to these functions being classified as ‘overheads’ waiting to be slashed anytime or rather all the time. A self reinforcing self amplifying runaway loop.

Living systems are integrated wholes whose properties cannot be reduced to those of smaller parts. Throughout the living world, we find systems nesting within other systems. At each level the observed phenomena exhibit properties that do not exist at lower levels. The systemic properties of a particular level are called ‘emergent’ properties, since they emerge at that particular level.

So also, in organisational terms, collaboration is not about gluing together existing egos. It is about the ideas that never existed until everyone entered the room.

In systems view, we realise that the objects themselves are networks of relationships, embedded in larger networks. Symbiosis, the tendency of different organisms to live in close association with one another (like the bacteria inside our intestines), is a widespread and well known phenomenon. Symbiogenesis : creation of new forms of life through permanent symbiotic arrangements is now seen as the principal avenue of evolution for all higher organisms.

There is a lot to learn from ‘Living Systems’.

HR can achieve so much more in a Justplainandsimple™ Strategic Way, by establishing organisational core competencies in line with business foresight and sense of direction,  reinforcing the strategic architecture, building on strategic intent, leveraging to achieve a stretch through the resources it can impact and batting with brand style and tonality ….. on the front foot,  to hit the ball over the stands for a six !!

All this rather than ‘supporting’ businesses by maintaining and ticking ‘checklists’ and ‘dashboards’ of low impact, low sustenance activities.download (1)

Through mechanisms and processes at its command and ability to leverage and impact the quantity and quality of one of the top two line items in the P&L (cost of goods and people depending on the industry), HR can create a competitive advantage for the organisation. A causal advantage effecting more customers or beneficiaries (for not for profit organisations) to choose to buy more or more often or be willing to pay more for the organisation’s products and services.

Or help cause to create a cost advantage that can be passed on to customers or captured as ‘surplus/profit’ in the P&L …..  a diving run out to win you the match when 2 runs are required by the opponents to win off 1 ball !!

www.justplainandsimple.com

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My Experiments with Customer Service ….. Part IV

From the Crucibles of JPS Customer Value Academy           

                                             Just Plain & Simple                                                                

                                            ….. Helping Create Customer Value

The Indian Optician, May-June, 2010 Issue

Management journals and literature are full of writings on customer service. There are numerous ‘Tips’, ’10 ways to improve’, ‘How to’ types of articles floating all over. One wonders what it is that really lies at the core of ‘ Good Customer Service ’. The ‘made easy’ types of write ups probably do help in some ways, but they handle the topic in a very simplistic and superficial manner, without touching the essence of ‘why’ there are differences in so called ‘customer experiences’ at different places, by different people, at different times ….. What are the motivations and drivers behind such ‘experiences’ ?  The question keeps coming to my mind again and again. I tried thinking of various customer service experiences that I have had in the space time continuum ….. at different times, different locations and through different people. Is the issue really so complex or is it possible to resolve the equation and lead to simplicity lying on the other side of this complexity !?

Many years ago, infact, it was almost about 30 years back, we were on a trip to Himachal Pradesh, the hill state in Northern India. Tired through the long and winding road journey from Shimla to Chail and extremely hungry, we stopped at a local ‘dhaba’ (roadside eatery) just outside Chail. It was mid-day and quite a few people – locals and tourists – had stopped at the dhaba for lunch. A matronly middle aged lady sat behind the tandoor (clay oven), baking fresh ‘rotis’ and overseeing the activities of the dhaba. There were two kids in their early teens, one boy and one girl, most probably her children, serving customers who were seated on wooden benches and ‘charpais’. The pace of activity was quite hectic, with the two kids busy serving food and the lady multitasking by giving instructions from her strategic location, welcoming customers, taking orders, baking rotis and supervising. As we walked in, she welcomed us and asked us to take a seat. The boy came to take our order. We asked what all was available and he rattled off the menu items rapidly. Being students then and with limited budgets, we did our calculations and placed the order. In a short while, we were served hot, freshly cooked, deliciously smelling food in absolutely clean dishes ….. and it looked appetisingly attractive !! However, there was one bowl of ‘kadhi’ ( a North Indian delicacy), also served. We pointed out that we hadn’t ordered the same and they should take it back. The lady, from her perch, said “I have just made it fresh. Why don’t you taste and tell me how it is ? This will not be charged for”.

Thirty years and much customer service literature and related experiences later, I have not been able to forget this incident. The picture is still so clear and vivid in my mind ….. The serene surroundings of Chail, taste of the food, humility and warmth, aroma of freshly cooked ‘tandoori rotis’, cleanliness of the place, radio playing in the background, noise of customers chatting, orders being taken, instructions being passed, the smiling lady with her two children ….. all the elements combined together made for a great experience and above all, the ‘genuineness of the intentions with which the lady asked us to taste her simple, but freshly prepared kadhi’ !!

It was obviously not a ‘sampling’ exercise, with ‘calculations’ of trials generated, conversions expected and future revenues therefrom, that she was doing, hoping to entice us back again and again. She would have known very well that we would probably not go back to Chail again for a long time and even if we did, maybe would not have remembered or gone back to the same place. But the ‘authenticity’ of intentions was amazing.

Zooming forward to the first decade of the 21st century ….. with tension due to the financial crisis brought down on mankind through American Greed.

A few years back, I had to take a home loan. In my effort to understand the process and various offerings better, I called 3-4 banks. All it needed was a call and they would have their agents (sorry, or was it relationship managers !?) swarming all over, calling you incessantly, willing to promise anything and to meet you anytime, anywhere. I even asked one such agent to meet me outside an auditorium at an odd hour after a show and sure enough he was there, with all the brochures and details and promises, ready to get me to sign immediately. “Sir, we will get the loan sanctioned tomorrow”, he said !!

After the initial market study, I zeroed in on one bank. Let’s call it ‘I-Bank’ (Apart from their attractive schemes and promises, they have a great advertising campaign on ‘friendliness and transparency’ ….. “I See, You See, We See” things clearly !?) I signed up for a floating rate of interest. A day after I signed the papers, I wanted to clarify about something and called the ‘relationship’ manager who had been handling my case ….. all I got to hear was the caller tune on his phone and over the next few days, I got used to the tune. He had got his ‘kill’ and was probably on the hunt for the next !!

Over the next couple of years, recession hit and interest rates went up. So did my floating rate. Then one heard about low interest rate options on home loans and I asked about my ‘floating rate’, only to be told that it was for new customers only. Sure enough, I-Bank had its old customers trapped in well, so why bother about them, when they could attract more customers with attractive discounts. Don’t we know from various marketing lessons that ‘getting new customers is more expensive than retaining old ones’ ? And I-Bank was very sure that with old customers shackled in well, it could spend more on new customers by way of throwing extra discounts, not to mention the costs of unleashing their so called relationship managers on them as well. It was as if I-Bank was desperately trying to prove right the above point of ‘acquisitions of new customers’ being more expensive. The intentions with which they went ahead and the approach they adopted, I am sure they ended up alienating a lot of their customers, which, ultimately would prove to be definitely detrimental going forward.

With higher interest rates now (while there were options of moving to lower interest rates with other banks, after paying foreclosure charges etc., I am keeping that out of the scope of the present discussion, purely because it will get into balancing of interest rate savings vs foreclosure charge and I am restricting myself to the customer service domain here), I decided to start part pre-payment and gradually reduce my already high interest and EMI burden. Armed with a cheque book, when I managed to gather enough to make a respectable pre-payment amount, I went to I-Bank. I was pleasantly surprised when the person behind the counter said that they now had a scheme whereby I could get a much lower rate with a small conversion charge. All I had to do, he said, was to take an additional insurance policy from their company in the name of my wife, the co-applicant. But, I told him, I already had an insurance coverage in my name, on the full loan amount. “Sir, this is the bank policy”, he said. In any case, the new interest rate looked quite attractive and I agreed. He said the terms would get approved in a few weeks’ time and I would get then get documents. That was the last I saw and heard from him.

After the ‘few weeks’ passed, I called his phone number to check about the documents and it would be either switched off or I would get to hear the caller tune. I went to the branch office to inquire about the documents. That is when, on asking for details, to my surprise, I was told that the actual interest rate I would get would be higher than what he had told me and that there was no need for the ‘mandatory’ additional insurance policy. This person happened to be from the ‘insurance’ department, manning the counter for a few days and in the process, was ‘motivated’ to sell additional insurance policies. So much for genuineness and authenticity of intentions and that too in a well known, well promoted organisation of the modern financial world.

It took me four months of continuous follow up to get my premium refund, but the ‘promised’ interest was still refused. This was after innumerable calls and Emails (I have more than a hundred and fifty mails in a special folder that I created) and navigating through extremely difficult and unfriendly complaint system on the bank’s website ….. you have to experience it to believe how difficult it can be or was made to be (intentionally ??), inspite of technology used for the purpose.

The ‘kadhi’ offered by the smiling lady in the tandoor in Chail, originated from such genuine and pure ‘intentions’. How does one compare the same with those of the ‘well trained’ relationship managers in highly evolved financial institutions of the 21st century, supported by ‘pleasing’ advertising and high technology ?

JPS Consulting

Just Plain & Simple                               

 ….. Helping Realise Potential  

JPS Customer Value Academy

Just Plain & Simple                               

….. Helping Create Customer Value

Website : www.justplainandsimple.com

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My Experiments with Customer Service ….. Part III

From the Crucibles of JPS Customer Value Academy
 
                                Just Plain & Simple                               
                                ….. Helping Create Customer Value

The Indian Optician, March-April, 2010 Issue

Any mention of interaction with government departments conjures up negative emotions and images. And this is not without any basis. Most of our experiences with them have been bordering on the ‘darkest’ end of the spectrum. We all have our own perceptions, but most of these are associated with bureaucracy, red tapism, rude behaviour, inefficiency etc., etc.. 
  

Infact Customer Service and government departments cannot probably be even used in the same sentence ….. an oxymoron ….. ox·y·mo·ron n. (ŏk’sē-môr’ŏn’, -mōr’-) A rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in a deafening silence and a mournful optimist.

 

Leading this ‘image creation’ effort are departments with a public interface/dealing, like municipal corporations, post offices etc.. Through years of interaction, our minds have been programmed to think of them in the most negative way. Absolute apathy, disinterest and inefficiency are immediate associations.

 

This was the thought with which I went to the Lodhi Road Post Office in New Delhi a year back. I had to withdraw some amount from the PPF account of my wife ….. “50% of the balance at credit at the end of the 4th financial year immediately preceding the year in which the amount is withdrawn or at the end of the preceding year whichever is lower”.  As you can make out, I went through a lot of preparation, studying all the clauses in the passbook, so that I was well prepared with the challenge of entering a post office. Armed with her identity proof, passbook and an authorisation letter, I reached there, ready to spend a good part of my morning waiting (I even carried a book to read while I waited) and also to come back another day to complete the transaction. I had memories of such interactions with public sector banks in the past, where it had taken multiple visits for resolution of similar issues.

 

On entering, I saw a help desk where I asked how I should go about getting my work done. Expecting a rude reply and a ‘you don’t even know that’ kind of look, I was surprised when the person nicely guided me to the correct counter. There were only two people ahead of me in the queue. In less than three minutes I was presenting all the papers I had carried, to the clerk behind the counter and told him what I wanted. No questions asked, he understood everything and asked me to come back after 10 minutes. I went out and waited. After about 15 minutes I went back to the counter, expecting ‘a reason why it can’t be done today’ and ‘you have to come back on so and so date again’ excuse. To my surprise, the clerk handed over the cheque to me alongwith the duly updated passbook !! I thought of pinching myself and checking ….. was I dreaming ? What could be wrong ?? I looked at the amount, signatories, date ….. but everything was perfect. I thanked the person, he nodded in acknowledgement and I walked out, all in about 20 minutes !!

 

This could be a fluke. Too good to be true …..

 

This is what I thought for a full year, till I got a form from the same post office a few weeks back, wanting to reconfirm my contact details. They were computerising. I filled up the form and went there. A similar sequence followed ….. I inquired at the help desk, was guided to the correct counter, only two people ahead of me, my turn came in less than three minutes, I handed over the form, the clerk acknowledged it and also updated the passbook ….. and then it struck me that since I was there, I could also deposit the minimum mandatory annual amount in the account. “Can I pay the minimum Rs.100/- also now ?”, I asked. “Yes. The amount is Rs.500/- and not Rs.100/-. Please fill up this pay in slip”. I filled it up there and then and handed over the cash and slip. The whole process took about five minutes and that too because I decided to deposit the money as an after thought.

 

I came out and thought how the clerk could have reacted in an unfriendly manner as well. My sudden decision to deposit cash, filling the pay in slip while standing in the queue and ignorance about the minimum amount could all have extracted rude comments from him. Infact I was really attracting such a behaviour and reaction !! Nothing of that sort happened though …..

 

The thought stayed in my mind and I kept reflecting on it. What could be happening there ? How is it that such an oasis exists in the desert of a dry emotionless organisation ? I had to understand this. Last week I decided to go back one morning. This time I went straight to the office of ‘The Post Master’. There was a person at the door who politely asked me what I wanted. I said that I wanted to meet The Post Master. “You can tell me what you want Sir”, the person said. I repeated my request, but he insisted that I tell him and that he would help me. “I have not come with any complaint, but I have had a Great Experience here and I want to understand what you people are doing”, I requested. He smiled and took me inside. The Post Master, a smiling lady, sat behind the table.

 

“What is happening here ?”, I asked after I narrated my experiences to her. The lady gave an understanding smile and replied “We have regular training for our staff. They go through a full one week programme and then we repeat it quarterly by rotation for all staff members. We discuss how they should never get angry with customers. You will never find our staff getting angry. We tell them that no matter what the customer says, they have to stay calm. We train them on handling customer queries. There are role plays and discussions”.

 

I kept listening, amazed at the initiative being taken at this post office, that too, when obviously, the compensation levels are so low. “But how come the cheques were made within minutes and that all interactions were so fast and quick ? Even I-Bank and H-Bank, who advertise (if only they could spend that money in genuine improvement) and talk a lot about customer service levels and preferred customer treatment, come nowhere close”, I asked. She went on to explain that they had delegated authority right up to the front end counter level. They also rotated people across multiple counters so that each person had exposure to multitasking, increasing efficiency and empathy. Staff was short and retiring staff was not replaced, but multitasking and continuous training ensured a high level of efficiency and customer service. They have a very cordial working atmosphere and all members were like one big family. It could be seen in the calm that prevailed in the atmosphere as well as physical cleanliness of the place !!

 

WOW !! I was amazed. We hear about all this, we talk about such things. Here was a place, an oasis in the midst of an uncooperative, unfriendly and inefficient ecosystem, in hostile desert like conditions, which was making such a big difference. Who says you cannot change things in an unsupportive environment amidst challenges. It all starts with a desire, genuine effort, a spirit of partnership and an ability to transcend oneself !! I was reminded of Gandhi ….. “Be the change that you want to see in the world” !!

 
 
 
 

 

 

Phone : +919810170678

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Why don’t they teach you this in all schools ??

 Just Plain & Simple 
….. Helping Realise Potential 
 

–>

 “What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School” became a hit and continues to be a hot favourite till date. I guess its success is due to the fact that there are areas where one’s formal education needs supplementing to enable development of a well rounded personality. Sports definitely play such a role. Various other extra curricular activities add to the development process. In the past few months, like every year, one saw inter college fests being celebrated all over. I strongly believe that these have their own place in the educational system.  

 

Also, the earlier in life that a positive (or negative) trait is built into one’s personality, the longer one gets to ‘benefit’ from it and stronger is the impact and intensity. Family influences and early childhood experiences have remained topics of research for many scholars.

 

The reason I am taking this book as an example is not because it is the only and complete source of non formal education, but because it highlights the strong need for ‘surrounding’ and building on the formal education imparted in our technical and management institutes.

 

A lot of the content and methodology in these educational programmes remains ‘left brain’ oriented. Hence, strategy, logic and analysis dominate the courses. Behavioural and social sciences are looked down upon by many students in technical and management institutes. Even out of those who opt for these, attendance is generally low. How can I be seen attending these classes !? These are for ‘softies’!!

 

The fact is that for almost a decade after I started working, operational and people related activities continued to dominate my work. My discussions with many professionals reveal similar experiences by most. Strategic content actually increases much later. While the operational component may go down, people related skills always stay important. That is where a ‘right brain’ led input becomes extremely important.

 

Many extremists, observed someone, have a technical background. Left brain led, logic and rational driven thinking is more prone to radicalism. ‘Softer’, right brain balancing can definitely help in channelising the thought flow much better. As one notices in some cases today, is cut throat competitive spirit a manifestation of gang wars ? And back stabbing and ruthless politics ? ‘Influence & Inspiration’ become euphemistic expressions for politics, fear and hurting others’ self esteem !! Few are organisations that truly believe in and practice collaboration and a WIN-WIN approach for all stakeholders across the value chain ….. suppliers, employees, customers, shareholders ….. and competition and for society at large, rather than a ‘Zero Sum, Win-Lose’ belief system.

 

This approach to working together also needs to be developed early enough in life and unfortunately, our formal education curriculum does not cover this important aspect. On passing out from the institute, one enters a set up with people from different cultures and institutes. One has to deal with multiple stake holders and face competition in its many forms. Job changes take one through different organisational cultures again. It is in these circumstances that the social/behavioural sciences dimensions of education and exposure to arts and humanities in technical courses can be of great help. Ideally, such courses should be given due importance in our educational institutes and early enough. However, needless to say, at an informal level, sports and other activities as mentioned above, definitely fulfill this important need very well.

 

Inter college meets and festivals play the same role at a bigger and broader level, by exposing students to cultures prevalent in different colleges (each institute develops its own specific culture and expressions over a period of time). These allow students to develop operational/organisation and people interaction/management skills at one level and to experience arts in the form of dance, music, dramatics etc. at another. But more than that, they expose students to different cultures, teaching them tolerance, understanding and collaborative working in the process. After all, over years, the success and popularity of an Inter College Fest, is not based on who wins, but on ‘The Spirit of Participation, Inclusiveness and Collaboration’ that is demonstrated there !!

 

Again, these may not be the only and complete answers to the issue, but definitely incremental steps in the desired direction. All these are also critical to one’s smooth and efficient entry, adjustment and success in future careers, through right brain mediated secondary emotions that control the primary instincts of the mid brain amygdala. Absence of such a balance leads to social maladjustments with disguised politics and goondaism masquerading as Leadership, even in the ‘so polished’  corporate world….. fear, politics, power games, lack of respect for others and hypocrisy are seen so commonly.  A lot of wrong and useless stuff gets passed off as Leadership Development. Truly ‘Inspirational Leadership through Influence’ is the casualty then ….. and India needs a lot of it now ….. and going forward !!

 

J.P.Singh

JPS Consulting                                       

Just Plain & Simple                               
….. Helping Realise Potential
 
JPS Customer Value Academy  
 
Phone : +919810170678
Just Plain & Simple                               
….. Helping Create Customer Value

 

 

 

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My Experiments with Customer Service Part II

The Indian Optician, January-February, 2010 Issue

(contd. from the last issue Part I) ….. 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 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’. 

Part II

Sure enough, the feeling was of anger, helplessness, despair. Many of you wrote back to me saying that you have been through similar situations and understand and empathise with me. Some even wrote saying that you were waiting for the continuation and wanted to see what happened next. Not that what I shared was something new or had great insight, but I guess it did strike a chord with some of you. We all are aware of the several ‘Dos and Don’ts’ of Customer Service. The idea here is not to ‘list’ down the same and preach in a didactic manner. No, not at all. Infact that is quite easy and simple. There are several ‘Commandment type texts’ on this topic. But that is not the objective really. That is, I don’t want to be and sound like a preacher. I just thought that through this medium, I could share some of the situations that I went through, some examples of good and bad customer service from our daily lives. Hence, the format is more ‘experience sharing and conversational’. I hope in the subsequent issues I am able to share more such ‘live’ cases with you. So let me continue from where I left in the last issue …..

I kept holding the line, waiting for someone to get back to me. No one did. The line got disconnected on its own after some time. I dialled once more. Again, after many rings, the call was answered. Some improvement this time though. The voice at the other end said politely ‘Good Evening !! XYZ Pharmacy, how can I help you ?’.

‘I want to place an order for home delivery ?’ I said. I was told that the person who takes orders was not at the counter and I should call again after some time !! I put the phone down and counted 10 (I was told by someone, that that is the best way to calm one’s nerves). The sequence of dialling and holding the line and listening to the recorded message (this was something to the effect that my call was very important to them) at the other end continued. Finally someone came on the line and I repeated my request for placing an order. ‘Sir, we do not have delivery boys right now. Your order cannot be delivered today. Can we deliver tomorrow morning by 11.30 AM ?’ the voice suggested. ‘But you promise home delivery and 24X7 service’.

‘Sir the delivery boys leave at 6.00 PM. It is already 5.30 PM. We cannot deliver your order today.’

‘Do you realise it is a medicine order. How can it wait till tomorrow ? The first dose has to be taken now.’

‘Sorry Sir, we cannot deliver it now. There is no one to deliver’.

‘But I am a loyalty card holder, you talk of 24X7 service, you promise home delivery. How can a big name like yours not live up to its commitments ?’

‘Sorry Sir, there is no one to deliver right now.’

‘But …..’ I started and stopped, realising that this was not going to go anywhere.

Why ? Why at all would anyone use Big Slogans and Lofty Promises if they do not wish to live by them, I wondered. The only reason I could think of is to mislead customers to walk in, even if it meant creating a false perception of what they stand for. But this is so short lived. The customer will walk in once, but if the ‘seller’ doesn’t ‘Walk The Talk’, repeat visits will not take place. Not only that, it spreads a negative word of mouth. Positives travel much less than negatives. In so many of my interactions with people, whenever there have been discussions related to customer service levels, always, descriptions of negative experiences have come first and have been more numerous than those of positive experiences. In a highly competitive environment, where positive referrals depend so much on service levels, they are also more difficult to elicit. The task becomes even tougher then !!

My mother had a knee problem last year and had great difficulty walking. The doctor advised knee braces of a certain type. I went to the same pharmacy again, sticking to the same store, thanks to the loyalty card and also because, as I had mentioned earlier, the store was well stocked with a wide range of product offerings. It was the first time that I realised how many variants are there in knee braces as well. One would have thought that it is a simple contraption, something that one pulls up upto the knees. They did not have the recommended ‘size’ in stock though. However, the counter person was kind enough to check with their central warehouse and promised to arrange for it after ‘two’ days. I called after two days to check if it was there. No luck. Another day and then yet another passed and I finally picked it up after 5 days.

To our surprise, the brace would not slide up to her knee level. Fortunately, the pack did not have a sealed wrap and she had tried only one brace, which also did not move beyond the calf area. I promptly packed it again and rushed back requesting for an exchange of size. Maybe I was removed from reality and had misplaced expectations. ‘No Sir, we cannot exchange it please’, was the straight answer from the same counter boy who had so ‘kindly’ arranged for the size in the first place. The pair had cost Rs.4000/- !! No amount of reasoning helped.

Stuck that I was, with no other option and the fact that I had to get the correct size for my mother, I went to another shop. ‘Sir, try this other brand ….. same quality, same design, same purpose and better price too’, the counter person said. I told him that I would buy it, but asked if I could I take it home, get my mother to try it and if at all it was required, exchange for a different size ? ‘No problem Sir, if it does not fit, take another size’, he smiled and said. I took it home and my mother tried the new pair of braces. The size was perfect, the fit was extremely comfortable. I never used the ‘loyalty card’ from the previous shop again ….. I never needed to.

More …..

J.P.Singh

JPS Customer Value Academy
Just Plain & Simple                               
….. Helping Create Customer Value

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