Customer! Who Cares

by Amit Tripathi    May 28, 2007

Today, multi-billion dollar IT outsourcing contracts are getting rather banal. Businesses are willing to pay greater attention to their core business strategies, and are asking the experts to manage what they are good at. Deals such as the IBM-Bharti, HP-Bank of India, IBM-Vodafone, and a few others indicate that trend.

After a deal of this nature, the end users of the services expect a natural feeling of better availability of services, pricing, etc. and the service providers expect a surge in their customer base. Whether or not the latters expectation is met is a matter of debate, as the customer base might not always be the direct result of what businesses do to their back end. Moreover, in the current scenario of frequent customer churn, customer loss of one company can be the result of customer gain by the other.

It is the formers expectation on which I would like to spend some minutes here. Let us also leave the pricing aspect aside for some time, as it depends on too many factors to keep under check.

What about the customer expectation of better and prompt services?

Some instances narrated by friends, as recent as last week, demonstrate the plight of customers and the state of customer relationship within enterprises. In the first instance, it was one of the most tech-savvy banks of the country that is on a high post for the surge in home loan interest rates. In a recent request to the bank, one of the friends decided to avail of the sweep-in facility for all his Fixed Deposit (FD) accounts. This essentially means that his savings account would automatically receive desired funds for withdrawal, as and when needed. But that was not to be.

He found later that one of his cheques actually bounced although his FD accounts still showed enough funds. On repeated insistence to know the underlying reason, a lady at the customer care mentioned that as one of his FDs were under the monthly interest scheme, that could not be brought under the sweep-in facility. The question arises as to why the customer was not informed of this, at the time of creation of the FDs? Does this mean that the lady at the customer-care was simply unaware of this little specification related to FD, or was she in too much of a hurry to get the customer to invest in FD? Yes, the customer gets an explanation finally, but that happens not before a fine was deducted from his account, and a loss of reputation was caused. The hapless customer only asks - does anybody care?

In another case of customer-care apathy, one of the most talked about mobile phone service providers of the country, which also plans to make a foray into the latest fad of retail, falls short of its claim of effective customer care. A user elaborated that his handset would be out of network for five hours, daily, on an average. He explained how the customer care department of the same service provider would call up or send messages to get the customer to refill his account, avail of the international roaming facility, etc. But he laments that no one bothers to call up and explain the reason behind the downtime. We get to know of IT user enterprises introducing stricter norms in their Service Level Agreements (SLA) to ensure service availability 24X7. But the ground level reality speaks otherwise.

I am sure these are not sporadic instances of customer detachment. Customers are wrongly informed, ill-informed, and in many instances, not informed. The bitter fact that enterprises, irrespective of their size and standing, have to accept is that their customer service leaves much to be desired. One of the first steps to look into is perhaps training in customer care.