Trust Your Customer

I shop occasionally with Amazon and iTunes online but I am a Über-customer of Airtel, India’s communication behemoth. I have been with them over a decade and use pretty much every damn service they provide : Mobile Service. Broadband Service. BlackBerry Service. iPTV service. GPRS service. Landline service and two mobile numbers. They sell it and I’ll most likely buy it. Their service uptime is phenomenal.

Two days ago I made a purchase in error on Amazon. I bought a book I didn’t intend to for my Kindle. Realized it after an hour or so that I had done this. I emailed Amazon explaining how I goofed up and if they would kindly refund me. An amazon rep emailed in about 17 minutes telling me my refund has been processed and wishing me a good day. Something similar happened with iTunes a few weeks ago. Response time measured in the minutes in that case too.

About 3 weeks ago I tried to pay an Airtel bill through ‘MCHEK’, an Airtel bill payment system that debits your card. I always pay my Airtel bills through mChek. Very slick service and darn convenient. But this time I got an error message saying their payment platform was down. So I had to wait a day or so before it was up and running and unfortunately I was late paying my bill. They promptly added a ‘late payment fee’ when I paid the bill.

I emailed Airtel to reverse this fine they charged me as : 1# it was because of THEIR platform I was late 2# As a faithful decade long customer I deserved some better treatment and trust from them. (“Sir, you say it was down, good enough for us, here is the refund, have a good day!”)

Airtel has wonderful TECHNOLOGY but like most Indian firms, they think the race ends there, when the hardware is in place (or the building, or that gleaming foyer). But investment in customer service probably ranks in the P&L column ‘Pipe dreams of 2056 A.D’; A moron from their customer service called me, who displayed little IQ and understood even less. He said something along the lines of “PROVE TO ME SIR YOU ARE NOT LYING and we MAY consider reversing that charges. MAYBE!!”.

I think most customer service calls should just go straight to an IVR that truthfully intones “We’re sorry. The person you are trying to reach is unable to give a fu*k right now. Please find someone who cares and try again.” Like Marvin the robot would say in Hitchhikers Guide.

I like Airtel. I do. But they can so up their game and decimate the competition if they understood that trust is a two-way street. If you want the customer to trust YOU, then you damn well start trusting the customer. Treating folks who keep you in business like they are trying to bankrupt you out of it is a great way to ensure they defect to the firm that doesn’t.

Box 11 below nails it.

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