Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Are you a good Customer?

Customer Support is the key point of focus in all successful business ventures. Almost all top organizations and business groups give a thought to customer satisfaction.

I could see this point was well taken in one of the best jewelry Shops in Chennai.I had stepped into this shop to get a farewell gift for a friend. I wanted to get a nice gift, a gift that she could make good use of.

To me, the ground floor of the shop was more of a well-lit airport, the central bus stand, or railway station to say the least. I was hoping that the second floor which housed the gifts would have some space for me to stand, leave alone select the gift.

The Supervisor was very friendly.( I am not sure of his designation actually... He wore a grey suit and looked different from the rest of the staff) . I thought that it was one of those 'Customer Satisfaction' moves that the Manager had chalked out.

I elbowed my way to the second floor which had a lot of silver articles and gifts.
After visiting every counter and doing the Silver Math in my mind, I confirmed that Silver and Gold are costly. If I liked the Gift, the Bill was high.. If the bill was just about right, the gift was not very pleasing.

I glanced at the watch. I had already spent about 1 hour and 15 minutes and could not manage to find anything worth the amount I had in mind. :) Not my fault... Silver was costly...

Deciding on a gift voucher which my friend could always redeem at a later date,I asked for directions to the counter which issued gift vouchers. The Sales Clerk directed me to the ground floor.

With a number of 'Excuse Me's and sorries and stares from people who were visibly hurt because I stepped on to their feet, I managed to reach the ground floor. I was already exhausted and was mentally complaining why I chose this place for the gift.

The same supervisor directed me to the counter that sold the gift vouchers. He said something to the uniformed guy next to the counter and walked away. I thought this uniformed guy would get me the voucher, but he asked me to be seated for a while.. I didn't want a seat then, but a voucher. I told him just that. I don't think I was impolite, but was not exactly pleasingly polite. After about one a half hours, here I was, waiting at a counter for a gift voucher and these people were taking their own sweet time...

The counter clerk was a very busy lady who didn't even look up till then, in response to the disturbance that my conversation was creating...

I looked at her desk top with a computer perched among the paper hill. She was noting some number in a book from one of the papers while another pile was brought in by another senior clerk( seemigly from a different department). She said, that is all she can handle at the moment as there were some customers waiting for the gift vouchers and that this new pile of papers had to wait.... I was silently praising her for the presence of mind to have understood that my time was important to me.

As it happened, the senior explained that the customer was waiting for the papers and that the information had to be fed into the machine before they sent the papers off with the guy.. Now, I am sure you can visualize my temper.. I was careful not to lose it.. Still, the face, I tell u......... is the index of mind... I think it showed pretty clearly that I was beginning to get irritated...

The clerk looked up at me, and the senior clerk and took the money from me.. She wanted me off the place. The uniformed guy managed to find a seat in the crowded room which happened to be next to another counter which took credit cards and checked the vouchers.

During my fifteen minutes of wait there, I noticed that the uniformed guy had to escort a lot of people to different departments, the supervisor had to explain a lot of things to people, the sales clerks were trying to handle 15 people all at once, the packing section's clerk was also busy trying to work in lightening speed... Every one was serving a customer who is as hurried as I am to finish the purchase and get out.. and who is not bothered about what it takes to be on the other end...

Here in the credit card counter next to me, there were two people who did not even have time to sip their coffee which was waiting for them on the table. There were people with card -related issues, exchange related issues and signature issues.... I was staring straight at the sales clerk and instinct must have told the her I guess.. She looked up to ask what I wanted... I told her about the gift voucher and she called another uniform and asked him to get the voucher..

I followed this guy to the gift voucher counter, only to see that my voucher was not written yet... I was going to ask her what was the problem and why it took her that long to write a voucher... I was close to 'Fuming'. I noticed few lakh rupees of purchase was what she was working on..and she looked puzzled and confused and tensed and still managed a smile when she looked up...

This was what customer support meant I thought... She had her own tension at work which I tried hard to but could not understand.... I had my own priorities which she visibly understood and tried hard to work it out the way I wanted.... It didn't work out, so she managed a smile which seemed to say.. " Do understand my plight and stay calm "... I did and waited for her to finish what she was doing... It took her about five to ten minutes to finish her work but I am sure she was relieved about the fact that I did not make life hell for her.. For , if I had yelled, then she would have had to answer her manager for 'Customer Satisfaction' issues.

I would have contributed to her messing up with the numbers(all virtual cash with lots of value) and for all you know her manager would have fired her that very day.

As I came out of the shop finally, I asked myself, if I was a good customer. I did not know the answer for sure, but then I resolved to be a good customer with control on my temper when things do not go my way in a Sales Counter in future....

Monday, September 11, 2006

High priced........

I have been spending lots of money for the last two months. Not that I wanted to waste money, but situations demand that money be spent. Never really given it a thought until my friend and me stepped inside a restaurant yesterday for her treat.

We chose the place because she was impressed its ambience , the last time she had dined there.

It was 2:00 o' clock in the afternoon. The ambience was impressive and place looked crowded. We managed to find seats and settled down to place orders for lunch. There was an old man in a typical rich South Indian attire( Silk Dhoti, Shirt and Shawl) having his lunch in the same bay as ours. There was a mineral water bottle on his table from which he took occassional sips.We ordered a bottle of mineral water too.. "Thanks to the Old Man" I said to myself... else I would not have cared to ask for Mineral water, given that the restaurant was popular and good and I am all flat for the paintings there.

The food was tasty, but I noticed in the menu card that a lime juice in the restaurant costed 35 rupees... a little too high I felt.. Still, never bothered to tell it out, as I was intent on finishing my meal and getting home for a quick nap before the next programme on the cards for the day.

We were enjoying the food and generally discussing the shopping we did in the morning when we heard the old man picking on an argument with the waiter.

The entire hall stopped eating and talking. The old man was demanding an explanation for the mineral water charges in his bill. He felt that charging 25 rupees for a water bottle is too high when the nominal rate is 12 rupees. Any kind of explanation from the waiter did not seem to satisfy him. He asked to speak to the manager. When the waiter hesitated, he stormed into the Manager's room to fight for the extra 13 rupees.

The waiters smiled... That is all they could do...

That is when it struck me, that we have also been paying exhorbitant rates for a nominal meal in restaurants all these days, but never bothered to question any one on anything, simply because we thought that it was not very 'NICE' to question the prices in some restaurants.

No body told us, but we all seemed to already know the reason for the high prices.... I see that we are paying for the A/C, the lights, the decorum, the wall papers, the drapes, the cushions, and the service along with the food. The cost of everything else is included in the Price of the dishes we eat.

Who is to explain this point to the Old man ?

I knew we had spent more for the food than its worth..

We paid through Debit Card.. May be that is why we never realised the High Prices.. It is the card that takes care of the Bill, not the rupee notes that we used to count out to pay bills usually.

The beautiful Tanjore painting which costed over a lakh rupees smiled cheerfully when we walked out... It seemed to say, 'That is Life, Deeps'..


With new opportunities also comes to fear and self-doubt. How can we navigate these very strong forces in order to reach our fulfillment...