We Deliver.!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We Deliver.!

Several years back, I used to work in the ever so famous BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) Industry in one of India’s IT hotbeds, Bangalore. My job involved providing technical assistance to North American customers of our pretty impressive all-in-one printer range.

There was a time I wondered if the monotony could leave me permanently depressed. Or worse, brain-damaged. But right then, I received an email from my boss. He was forwarding an email from a customer I had assisted a few days before. The customer had needed print cartridges urgently. For some reason unknown to most of us, it took about 3-4 days after placing an order, for the cartridges to actually reach the customer. (And in case you wondered, ‘no, the cartridges weren’t shipped from India).

While this was a free delivery, there was a 1-day shipping for some charge. I was aware that in some special cases, I could request a senior colleague to waive off the charges on the 1-day fee, but it was not a luxury I’d like to take for granted. So I promised the customer a 3-4 day delivery period and that I would try to have the cartridges delivered earlier if possible.

Coming back to the email the customer had sent, it read something on the lines of  – I would like to thank XYZ for the quick shipping of my print cartridges. He said it would take 3-4 days, but when it arrived the next day, I was thrilled. He has done what we in the customer service industry call ‘under-promising and over-delivering’, the surest way to win a customer and a little more to that effect.

That was my first lesson in customer service; ok maybe not the first, but certainly the one with the most impact. It has been a while since that corporate ‘high’, and since those technical support days, but that feedback has stayed on with me. While I’m no ‘pro’ at customer service, I do understand its ever-increasing importance in any business, and I constantly try to figure ways of improving the customer’s experience.

And I have found many an Indian BPO employee, or for that matter, even your average sales or service staff at any retail outlet or business centre, bubbling with enthusiasm to cater to the customer’s every demand. And while this is a great thing for customers, there are 2 key ingredients missing in many cases. Those being  Planning and Communicating. A simple equation of their effect on customer experience would look something like:

Customer Experience = Communicating (Planning+Commitment+Delivering on Commitment)

Most of us are great at committing, but tend to fall a little short when it is time to deliver on the commitment. And this causes unnecessary customer dissatisfaction.

In our endeavor to give the customer that little bit ‘extra’, we often miscalculate delivery or commitment deadlines. And this ends up causing the exact opposite of the effect we had planned for.

If we were to take into account all possible influencing factors (Planning) and build it into a commitment or delivery deadline, and perhaps even throw in a little buffer if we have a gut feel about possible delay, we would be giving the customer a more realistic picture. And of course, nothing beats plain old ‘Communication’. It is extremely important that we communicate with the customer. Even a call or message updating them the moment you see a deadline getting stretched, does wonders. You cannot imagine how much customers appreciate that phone call informing them of a delay. It beats them arriving at your doorstep on D-day only to be asked to come the following week.

To my customer.
I may not have the answer, but I’ll find it.
I may not have the time, but I’ll make it.
-Unknown

Then of course, nothing beats delivering on a commitment or deadline.!

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Compromise? Don’t!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Compromise? Don’t!

Several foreign countries have been following the professional hire-n-fire policy for several years if not decades, now. We Indians on the other hand, still go strong on references and the ‘chalta hain’ (a Hindi phrase meaning ‘it’s alright, no big deal’), ‘adjust maadi’ (maadi is a Kannada word meaning ‘to do’, in this case, asking someone to adjust) and ‘ki farak paenda’ (a popular Hindi phrase meaning ‘what difference will it make’) attitude.

Do you think Infosys would have been what it is if they fed their ever-increasing hunger for talented workforce with just about any relative, friend or a friend of a friend? Sure they would’ve filled seats in a jiffy, but I strongly doubt Infy would’ve made it even half as far.

I remember some elders telling me years ago, that it’s all about networking, all about the contacts you have, etc. And sure it worked brilliantly when I was watching the Godfather movie. All the ‘offer you can’t refuse’ and ‘I will call upon you to do me a service in return’; but it doesn’t seem to have a very good effect in the corporate world. If favours are done or asked for in any manner that’s less than at what they call ‘arms’ length’, it is, without doubt, going to compromise on something.

Close friends don’t feel uncomfortable in declining requests if they have reasons to. And they feel comfortable in expressing the inability to do so, and it doesn’t in any way, affect the friendship either.

But in our rat race, we have really gotten programmed with the whole ‘doing a favor, asking a favor’ routine. So much so, it is second nature. Often at the cost of compromising on something else. Ki farak paenda after all, aye..?

And don’t you feel its way beyond time that we Indians graduated from call centre jobs? Even if we were considered good at being the ‘back end’ to the world (no pun intended). I ask you now – can you think of any one company, where you’d feel genuinely satisfied with the level of service, were you to call their helpline? Hell, even I’ve worked with a call centre, years ago, so I know what I’m talking about. And believe me, in the past few years, interacting with call centres of the likes of biggies like Vodafone, I can genuinely relate to the frustration and helplessness that foreigners may have felt over the years, when we’ve struggled to ‘resolve an issue’ for them.

And while I still have some hilarious memories from work at the time. For instance, the general process was flawed then, and it is flawed now. So after almost a decade of BPOs, the least we could have done is worked on and simplified the process? Made more sensible options on the IVR? Or made agents more efficient at what they do? Perhaps taught them to ’empathize’ with customers rather than doing a mindless line-by-line delivery of a script? And finally, if it isn’t too much trouble, ensure that the ‘issue’ was resolved? But I guess ‘woh bhi chalta hain yaar’.

So put a bunch of ‘chalta hain’ attitude people in a company, and what do you get? Then put a bunch of companies with a large number of ‘chalta hain’ attitude employees in them together, and what do you get? And while we’re at that, what if we have a nation with several such companies, then what do we get?

What I’m guessing is, a strong probable cause for the next slowdown, where there is a strong possibility that India would play host, because employees and organizations compromised on several little things, and just drifted along, till a point where, just like the gig at the CWG, products, services and efforts start collapsing in front of bigger audiences.

Compromise then, just became a real dangerous word for me right now, something representing slow degradation. How about for you?

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