Be More: Focus on Customer Experience!

I’ve not written about a movie or a television commercial in a while, though they are one of my favorite topics of discussion. A recent advertisement i saw prompted this post. 

The latest (not sure if its latest, but the one that’s on air these days) Titan, Be More TVC with Aamir Khan has a simple context of a broken computer at a senior citizens house. Aamir is fixing it while the senior customer is complaining of time taken to respond by the company, responsibility, etc. Aamir fixes it and while he’s leaving the customer asks for a contact number in the future. That’s when the customer and we audience realize that Aamir is not a service guy, but the MD of the company. The spirit of customer service is summarized by Aamir in one sentence “No task is big or small”

See the TVC here: 

One main take away from that TVC is also the fact that for a company, customer service must be top priority. No customer is superior or inferior and anyone capable in the company should tend to serve the customer in need. All that i write here may seem idealistic to many of you who read it. I am sure people in the customer service departments of mobile operators and insurance companies will scorn at me! But, then again. Pause for a bit and think about it!

Definition of customer in this context is that person (individual or another business) who will buy something (product or service) from you.

A start-up must have customer service / customer experience as one of the top 3 things they will address as a company. The thought behind it is pretty simple and i practiced it as part of my first start-up Madhouse. 

You build your product or run a service for the end customer to use it. More number of customers who associate themselves with you translates into more revenues. If each customer who has ever interacted with you, refers at least one more customer to your company will only mean double the sales. In all, one happy customer is bound to refer more customers. Consistent customer service with focus on experience and delight will only lead to constant customer referrals – the most cost efficient marketing methods for any startup to practice!

In your initial days, as a start-up, its too soon to classify customers as – ideal customer, loss making customer, high-maintenance customer, etc. All customers when you start off are good customers. Treat them in the same manner, give each one of them the real experience of your product/service/brand. Create a sense of “wow” in them. Instill confidence in your company by being consistent in each interaction, by making the customer realize that they are special, by showing the customer that the company cares. 

A few ways you can deliver good customer service and impart a good experience are:

  • Have an internally agreed upon Service Level Agreement (SLA) that the company will respond to any existing customer complaint within X hours, it can be 12 or 24. Live upto it. You can also make this public to set customer expectation and to ensure you deliver what you commit to. 
  • Have an SLA for potential customer inquiry or prospective lead. Timely response helps in winning customers many-a-times. 
  • Its not a crime to slip-up on a commitment to your customer, but do not make it a habit. For any slip-ups ensure you say sorry and compensate with something little that leads to customer delight. At Madhouse, if we missed delivering a movie to a customer or we committed on a movie and it was not there, we’d send the next best option with a personalized sorry note and a plum cake. This experience stayed with our customers and led to lunch time pantry talks, strong customer references. As a matter of fact, this also won us loyalty points and was one of the influencing factors – for our third co-founder to approach us and discuss possibilities of him joining the team.
  • Be prepared to go all out to fulfilling a commitment to your customer, even if it means incurring some losses. That loss will be short-term for a long-term gain. 
  • As a company, everyone in the team must treat customer service / experience as super important and must be convinced about it. It must be imbibed in the culture of the company. That’s when naturally, customer related tasks will take precedence over other things that start-up teams will need to work on. 

The above list is not exhaustive, but only indicative of the importance customer service / experience should get in a start-up. 

One of the largest Retail Companies in India, a favorite of mine, Shoppers Stop from time immemorial have a simple designation attached that has made a difference in the way people have perceived that brand. Their MD is a Customer Care Associate first in designation and then MD. This small, but vital note – was a great move that has built trust among end customers towards the brand, specially in its initial days.

For a start-up if you are convinced that one of your prime tasks is to be there for the customer anytime, anywhere, anyhow – many things that you need to achieve as a start-up, your vision and the reason to exist – will all fall into perspective: the one that has a customer perspective! 

 

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Customers, they say the dandiest things!

As entrepreneurs, businesses  –  we constantly stive to achieving user acceptance, customer acknowledgement. But, the reality is many happy customers spread the word of mouth, and many unhappy customers are vocal about their unhappiness.

But there are rare moments of reassurance & pride when customers, happy customers write back to you with good words or acknowledge your efforts to making thier lives better.

Here are two such instances (a proud moment for me) where customers of Deskaway & Commonfloor – MVPs portfolio companies have shared their experiences and candid feelings about their services.

World Diabetes Day – Did you check your blood sugar today?

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The “age factor” compels you to do a few things, one such in my case is the urge to shed that extra fat and stay fit. So, i’ve been at it for a couple of months, but have always had a problem measuring my efforts towards that end.

Last week, Namit, Varun, Himanshu – founders of LifeMojo, one of MVP‘s portfolio sent me a test link to their B2C platform – www.lifemojo.com. Here you can not only assess your current body and lifestyle “health”, but also plan and track your diet and exercise schedule. These guys are in a pre-release mode and will open to users shortly… i’ll update my blog when they release, its a great tool to try out, if you are health conscious, a health freak or just concerned about over-weight. I know that they are also going to add tracking tools for preventive healthcare, such as diabetes and blood pressure.

Anyways, the best thing i liked about these guys is that even if they are in pre-release phase, fixing bugs and all that – When i logged onto www.lifemojo.com this morning – i was totally impressed. I saw a little note on World Diabetes Day on the homepage. When i logged in it also showed me a little reminder about getting my blood sugar tested… So, lo and behold – i promptly got to the hospital near my house in the morning and gave my blood sample to get my sugar levels tested! This, i have been procastinating for a while, though my doctor had suggested i get it tested, considering the family history of blood sugar there exits.

Thankyou LifeMojo!

Reliance Communications, Don’t call me anymore!

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I do not answer the call if its from 30333232 anymore. But its strange to see how these guys have been repeatedly calling me.

I bought a reliance netconnect connection three weeks back and a day later as promised my connection got activated. The same day i got a Welcome call from one of the agents who asked me a bunch of questions for verification. Thanks were said at both ends and i was a happy customer. Until…

The next day i got another call, Welcome Call Sir! (please, i hate it when people don’t bother to figure out if its a man or a woman they are talking to. My voice is not that masculine, nor do i have a Punjabi Sikh name to make things more confusing!) I answered patiently and told the caller that a welcome call has been done, this is a second call. Thanks were said.

From then on, i’ve got 30 calls in all, on a daily basis from Reliance, some i have answered, explained to them that i’ve got a welcome call already, please make note. Some i have simply not answered.

Meanwhile, i’ve already got my usage bill and i still continue to get welcome calls 🙂

Reliance Communications – I would’ve loved to see this dedication and efficiency in your data service and complaint resolution.

PS: I’ve got a welcome call, please make note and don’t call me anymmore!

Valentine’s day FRAUD by Cafe Coffee Day

Today, on Valentine’s day, when tradition talks of spreading love and expressing your love… Cafe Coffee Day has managed to pull off a FRAUD!

My classmate from University came by visiting me, she lives in another country and is visiting India briefly. She dropped by at office and we decided to go to the nearby Cafe Coffee Day or CCD as its commonly known as!

The Valentine flavor was seen all around and at CCD, with red balloons and young couples mostly in Red and Black, the women holding presents or flowers…. the spirit was in the air!

When we sat to order, i was a little disappointed as they were NOT serving the regula

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r menu, so there was no usual Masala Chai Black for me. A little unhappy, i continued to choose what my friend had ordered for – ‘Go Nut Cappuccino’. As the guy was walking away with the order, we noticed that there was “no price attached to the menu”, we joked about CCD’s strategy to make extra bucks on V-Day and asked the guy how much the cappuccino costs, he did a mental calculation and said Rs. 51/-. We were pleased, thats not a rip off after all!

The order came and our expectations got crushed further, the Go Nut was all about one simple cappuccino and CCD’s own Masala Peanut, which they call ‘ Go Nut’. Bummer! Yet we were going with the spirit… catching up on matters of a few years that had grayed on us. After a couple of hits by the floor supervisor at CCD we decided we’ll make way for the young love birds who had flocked around waiting for their chance to taste the sweetness of caffeine…

When it was Bill Time, i was given a bill of Rs. 75 first, which in between conversation i handed a Rs. 500 note… so when change came back, i was charged an amount of Rs. 190/-

It happens such that Go Not, has nuts that’s separate and charged Rs. 36 for 2 (all the time we thought it was complementary and it sucked!) Cappuccino was Rs. 75 for one. (Omygod!) When asked for a clarification, i was told that the person who took my order was not aware of the costs. Even after random excuses and million illogical statements, my question was not answered – “I want a compensation.” Finally, after a serious argument and pointing out that CCD was doing a fraud with its customers, i got charged Rs. 51/-per cup of coffee.

The point is not about money here, it is about setting consumer expectations. It is about ensuring product knowledge and awareness to the last line in your business.

It is also about acknowledging the fact that consumer’s are intelligent, running a business, but in a fair manner. I have no qualms about CCD making a quick buck on V-day, but my problem is in the fact that they opted not to inform the customers about the prices up front, still worse, gave wrong information.

What’s your fraud experience? Let know. Also, i will be interested in knowing, if you guys can come up with intelligent fraud ways of making a quick buck… let the ideas roll!