Customer Satisfaction - It is easy sometimes...

Being in the services industry for over a decade and then into consumer focused business for last few years, I have learnt how difficult it is to satisfy the customers on many occasions.

Services Industry

Software services, as it emerged as a major growth sector, the competition also grew exponentially. The software companies started mushrooming everywhere and each one trying to get a piece of same pie - i.e. US market. It also changed over a period of time and people started focusing on EU and Asian markets as well. But the bottom line remained the same - competition. The Outsourcing companies initially had tough time in outsourcing for several reasons (unproven capabilities, lack of confidence as well as lesser number of options to outsource). As the services companies grew and as it became evident that outsourcing is the way to move forward, all these companies also started hunting for better deals - essentially it started with fishing for lower prices instead of demanding quality. Later it evolved in demanding quality as well as cheaper prices. 

Since there would always be 10 other vendors eager to get the chunk of work marked for outsourcing, the services companies had to be always on their toe, in fact more than that. They were expected to be able to bend backwards just to retain the business. This translates in the functioning of entire organization and the individuals working on the projects where there is little choice but to say "yes" to almost everything that customers asked for. It wasn't easy to have a satisfied customer.

Consumer Industry

While services Industry was focused on non-Indian markets, I also worked in consumer focused business (India based) when I co-started a venture in e-commerce space. Here we were primarily into the market of giving maximum benefits to the customer through innovative ways (group bookings, additional discounts on certain payment methods etc) We dealt with brands to get maximum possible discount and offered the products to the consumers with very thin margins for ourselves. However, the e-commerce space was heating up and all the net savvy folks who were comfortable shopping online knew how to "hunt" for the better discounts. So we used to get calls for additional discount even when our prices were lowest! However, at least here we had a choice to say "No" if whatever customer was asking wasn't feasible. On the whole we could serve several customers and were happy with the discounts. As we were serving our customers, we were also being customers to others such as payment gateway and it was a very bad experience. And the payment gateway company wasn't even caring for "customer satisfaction"!!

And a Consumer's experience

A few days back as I was preparing for my Kerala Trip, I decided to order a power bank. After searching online for several brands and good reviews, shortlisted Ambrane Powerbank on Flipkart. Meghana also needed couple of SD Cards. 

May 5:

Order for all this was placed on 5th May and also opted for next day delivery (to be delivered on 6th May). Given the name, I was confident that I'll get the delivery by 6th itself. And in worst case, by 7th. This was well within limits of my travel plans and hence was okay. 

May 6:

On 6th, I got the delivery from Flipkart, which included only the SD cards. I thought I'll get another parcel as it happens sometimes. Decided to wait until next day. 

May 7:

Nothing arrived on 7th may as well. Got a little impatient. Dropped a mail to their customer care for checking the status on 7th late evening.

May 8:

No response from their customer care. So called up their customer care department at around 10 in the morning. Something had gone wrong. The CC rep told that the parcel somehow didn't make it to Pune warehouse and has now gone to Bhiwandi. I said okay. Send it to Pune again. From Bhiwandi to Pune, it should take less than a day. But she was non-committal and said she can't guarantee when would it come. In the mean time Flipkart had promptly reverted the next-day delivery charges as they failed to deliver the parcel next day. But this wasn't sufficient for me. I needed the powerbank. I pushed again and asked for delivery at least by Saturday 10th if not by Fri 9th. But still got the same answer - can't commit. This was getting frustrating. I decided to cancel this prepaid order. I thought I'll pickup something from local stores in Pune, now that I knew the brand and capacity. So cancelled the order. 

Spent good amount of time in searching for local stores who might have Ambrane power bank or at least something similar. But realized that searching for local stores online has become pain. All the search results lead only to online sites!! I gave up.. well almost.. but no... not really.

On way back from office, it suddenly dawned on me!!

If Flipkart has ability to deliver it to my location in one day, why not try again placing a new order? I thought. As soon as I reached home, I placed an order for COD with delivery to my home address and phew! 

May 10:

The powerbank was delivered in the afternoon and I could leave peacefully for my vacation!!

Learning:

Was this something out of the world? No. It just needed a presence of mind. If the customer representative of Flipkart had shown it, I would have gone ga ga over Flipkart's service and customer care. That's a missed opportunity I'd say. If their customer care department is reviewing the cancelled orders and the reasons and those users' behavior, they might have noticed it. If not, that's a missed chance once again!!

So it was easy for the customer care representative, had she been empowered to make such decisions, to tell customer not to worry and ship another piece silently. Original piece could have been recalled in the background! 

In the end I was happy with my presence of mind ;)

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