India Today: A Lesson in “how NOT to do customer service”!!

Posted: June 5, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Fans feel sad when their loved brand is going down the drain.

You flinch when you see Saurav-da struggling against young fast bowlers. You feel bad if Amitabh plays some silly role – after all, you have seen him in all fanfare.

Such is the case with India’s premier magazine, India Today. We have grown up reading that magazine, and seen its transformation into a lively mouthpiece on affairs of India.

And now, as I experience one of the most pathetic forms of customer service from this magazine, I feel frustrated as well as sad. How the mighty brand has sunk to a low-low!! In continuation with my earlier post on the subject, I would like to reproduce the chronological details of the sorry saga. The conversation over email, with my communications (ME) and those of India Today (IT) with dates and details is as under:

ME on Jan 11, 2009: conveyed that I had sent my subscription amount and had not received magazines so far, nor the gift that was part of the promotion. Asked them about both.

IT on Jan 13, 2009: Apologized. Confirmed the subscription period from 19th Jan onwards. Confirmed that the first copy will reach my in 24-48 hours. And conveyed (for the first time) that the gift will be despatched in 8-10 weeks after processing of the subscription!! Requested me to ‘bear with them’ till then!!

ME on Apr 3, 2009: conveyed to them that long time had passed and I had yet to receive the gift. Enquired.

IT on Apr 3, 2009:

Dear Mr. Metha,

This is with reference to your e-mail.

We regret to inform you that the dispatches for the subscription gift of “Mystery gift with Bag” are held due to certain logistical reasons. These gifts are currently in the process of being shipped in and the replenishments are expected to be with us within 3-4 weeks. Hope you shall bear with us in the interim.

Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.

Assuring you of the best possible services, always.

ME on Apr 3, 2009: conveyed that this was unbelievable. What kind of logistics challenges are those that in today’s age, first need 8-10 weeks to process a gift, and then need another 3-4 weeks to get it ready. That it was not acceptable to me, etc.

ME on Apr 6, 2009: enquiring for a further reply to the email.

IT on Apr 7, 2009:

Dear Mr. Mehta,

This is with reference to your e-mail.

We are sorry that you have had to write to us repeatedly due to non receipt of gift. We do understand you have every reason to be vexed with us. However, we would like to inform you that we are in process of sending gift which shall be delivered to you within 2-3 weeks time. Kindly confirm the receipt of the same. Hope you shall bear with us in the interim.

Please feel free to contact us for any further assistance/clarification.

Assuring you of our best possible services, always.

ME on Apr 7, 2009: conveyed that this was not acceptable. However conveyed that this is the LAST chance that I will give to India Today. If the gift is not received by Apr 30, 2009, then I would not like the gift. That I would like full refund for the entire subscription amount, and still have the subscription continue till end of the period. Or in short, if I did not receive the gift by April end, then the subscription had to become a free subscription.

IT on Apr 9, 2009:

Dear Mr. Mehta,

This is with reference to your e-mail.

We sincerely regret all the inconvenience caused due to non receipt of gift.

We assure you that all possible care shall be taken from our end, so as to ensure safer delivery of gift within 2-3 weeks time. Kindly confirm the receipt of the same. Hope you shall bear with us in the interim.

Please feel free to contact us for any further assistance/clarification.

Assuring you of our best possible services, always.

ME on Apr 9, 2009: Conveyed that the above mail from IT was to be construed as a confirmation that if the gift does not arrive by Apr 30, then the subscription will be considered free.

ME on May 1, 2009:

You surely MUST change your email id, from “WeCare” to “WeDontCare”!!

April has ended. I have not received my gift.

As committed and confirmed in the email interaction herebelow:
1. I expect immediate 100% refund of the subscription money paid for India Today, for the year,
2. I expect the subscription to continue till end of the year, free of cost.

There is no other choice, and I am afraid, there is NO MORE TIME LEFT for getting the gift!!

If you do not comply with the above, I am afraid that I will have to complain for fraud, malintention, swindling customers, false promises etc. against India Today and its senior management.

…<snip>…

ME on May 8, 2009: conveyed that there was no response, nor refund cheque. Waiting for the same.

IT on May 11, 2009:

Dear Mr. Mehta,

This is with reference to your e-mail.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused to you due to the non receipt of the magazines in spite of our assurance. We do understand you have every reason to be vexed with us. We request you to kindly reconsider your decision to cancel your subscription and allow us another chance to continue servicing you.

As per the status received from the department concerned, we would like to inform you that earlier the dispatches for the subscription gifts were held due to certain unavoidable reasons. The dispatches have now recommenced and are presently underway. We request you to kindly allow us 3-4 weeks so as to enable us to do the needful. Hope you shall bear with us in the interim.

We would also like to inform you that our subscription gifts do not contains any commercial value with it and are only complementary along with the subscription copies. Hence, we regret that we shall not be able to extend your subscription in lieu of the subscription gift.

Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.

Assuring you of the best possible services; always.

Note: ** For the first time, there is an attempt to belittle the gift. That they are of no commercial value and are only given as complimentary. While pushing for subscriptions, these are put up ahead as the big lure, but when it comes to non-delivery of those, they are made to appear to be of no commercial value, with a clear intent to sneak their way out of any commitment on those!! **

ME on May 11, 2009: conveyed that this was not acceptable and that I would not take anything less than a full refund. I did not care about the gift anymore.

ME on May 13, 2009: reminded about the reply that had not come and wanted to see if the cheque had been mailed out or not.

ME on May 18, 2009: again reminded to check about action from their end, as I had not heard anything from them.

IT on May 22, 2009:

Dear Mr. Mehta,

This is with reference to your e-mail.

At the outset, please accept our sincere apologies for all the inconvenience caused to you due to the non receipt of the gift in spite of our assurance. We are sorry for the inordinate delay. We do understand you have every reason to be vexed with us.

We would like inform you that we are taking up the matter with the concerned person to expedite the delivery of the gift. We are arranging to send you the gift and the same shall be delivered to you within 10-15 days time. Hope you shall bear with us in the interim.

We also request you for your kind understanding and co-operation and promise you that the gift will be delivered to you within the given time frame.

Further, we would like to inform you that your subscription is still active in our records. We request you to kindly reconsider your decision to cancel your subscription and allow us another chance to continue servicing you.

Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.

Assuring you of the best possible services; always.

Note: ** Yet another 10-15 days. Although for a gift that I had refused to accept now! They are accepting the ‘inordinate delay’. Not much to offer besides sweet and polite sounding apologies. They are confirming that my subscription is active, which I had never questioned!! I had NEVER asked for the subscription to be CANCELLED. I had asked for the same to be converted to a free subscription!! **

ME on May 22, 2009:

Which part of the following statement is not understood by India Today?? What language should I write in?? Why do you insist of causing exasperation and frustration with your subscribers???

Please read again, and don’t come back with same old story again and again:

I AM NOT INTERESTED IN RECEIVING THE GIFT ANYMORE.
I WANT FULL REFUND OF MY SUBSCRIPTION AMOUNT AS IT WAS A FRAUD THAT YOU HAVE INFLICTED BY TAKING THE SUBSCRIPTION ON PROMISE OF GIFT WHICH NEVER GOT DELIVERED.
I NEED THE CHEQUE FOR FULL SUBSCRIPTION TO COME TO ME IMMEDIATELY. I EXPECT THE ACTUAL DELIVERY OF MAGAZINE TO CONTINUE TILL THE END OF THE YEAR, IN ANY CASE, EVEN WITH THE FULL REFUND.

ME on May 31, 2009: complaining about not having received anything yet. No cheque for refund!

ME on Jun 5, 2009: again reminding them on non-receipt of any response from their end!!

Some interesting thoughts in this regard:

  1. Subscription paid in early January, 2009. Now, in June, 2009, that is about 5 months later, no sign of gift!!
  2. When they have no clue what they are doing, why are they offering gifts?? Why don’t they just stick to the business of making a magazine??
  3. Note the delays: originally, 8-10 weeks asked for delivering a simple gift, then in early April, additional 3-4 weeks asked for, then on May 11, another 3-4 weeks asked for, then on May 22, another 10-15 days asked for. Of course, so far, there is no sign of gift nor of refund. So let’s see, how much more time goes by. Does India Today have ANY VALUE OF TIME?? (Pun unintended)
  4. I am sure that few people pursue a matter the way I did, with them. I did so, to understand a customer service case from an academic point of view, as much also on account of the fact that I was using a calendar program that kept giving me next dates of reminder, and I just had to push off emails each time! If they had any kind of authority delegated to them, someone could have just purchased a gift from somewhere and mailed it to me. It would have ‘shut me up’ at least. But they had no authority apparently, to do so. And here I am, writing the saga of the story and burning their reputation down, some more!
  5. Amongst the funniest parts of the story are the fact that their email id is “wecare@..” (I assure you that they don’t care!!) and that each of their email always ended with “Assuring you of the best possible services always”. Now isn’t that a ROFL statement??

I will continue to edit this story with updates. Let us see where this one ends up.. !!

** Edited on June 6, 2009 **

The episode gets funnier by the day. In fact, I am more amused now than I am angry. To see how pathetic a brand like India Today can get!! I conveyed this blog URL to them on email yesterday. Told them how I am making the entire saga public now. And here are the latest episodes in the India Today soap opera now:

IT on Jun 6, 2009:

Dear Mr. Metha,

This is with reference to your e-mail.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused to you. We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to you. Due to some unavoidable circumstances we could not dispatch the gift earlier to you. We assure you that this time the gift shall be delivered to you within 15-20 days time.

We also request you for your kind understanding and co-operation and promise you that the gift will be delivered to you within the given time frame.


Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.

Assuring you of the best possible services; always.

ME on Jun 6, 2009: Conveyed my amusement. Rejected the gift and pointed them to the blog again!

Notice the assurance of the best possible service always.. lol!! They never miss that!!

Watch this space for the developing further episodes… 🙂

*** Further and final update now: ***

IT on June 10, 2009:

Dear Mr. Mehta,

This is with reference to your e-mail.

We would like to inform you that as per our records, your subscription gift has been dispatched through AFL Courier vide docket no 203810806262523 recently and hence the same is in transit right now and we ensure that the same shall be delivered to you within 3-4 working days. May we request you to kindly confirm the receipt of the same.

Further, we would like to let you know that we tried to contact you at 022-xxxxxxxx but unable to get through.

We assure you that we are here to solve your query so that in future you don’t face any kind of problem with our services.

For any complaints/query please contact our Customer care no-0120-2479900, Toll free no -1800-1800-100.

Assuring you of the best possible services, always.

I must add that in between I tried to send my saga details to their top boss, Mr. Aroon Purie. Althouth I did not have his direct email id, I took a chance with some generic email id structures. One of them bounced back, but the others did not. And chances are that one of them must have reached him. Because after the 6th June email asking for 15-20 days more, this email confirming despatch on 10th June was unusual. Also it came from a different email id. From “WECARE”, it became “TODAYCARE”!! Anyway, I got the intimation. Story does not end there.. 🙂

In fact, on 10th itself, I got a phone call, from India Today, asking me if I had received the gift. I conveyed that I had not. She was very surprised. She said, “but it has been despatched by so-and-so courier and it should have reached you”! I conveyed that well, it had not reached me! Disappointed, she put the phone down.

Thereafter, on 11th June, in a proof of their left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, I got ANOTHER email from that old “WECARE” email id, and which was:

Dear Mr. Metha,

This is with reference to your e-mail.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused to you.

We are arranging to send you the gift and the same shall be delivered to you within 10- 15 days time. Hope you shall bear with us in the interim.

We also request you for your kind understanding and co-operation and promise you that the gift will be delivered to you within the given time frame.

Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.

Assuring you of the best possible services; always.

Meanwhile, the gift actually arrived. On June 11, 2009. Yeah!! AND the “TODAYCARE” folks were tracking it over phone all the time. Quite likely, as I suspect, under the direct command of their top boss, Mr. Purie, who might have got a copy of the email! Because inspite of the above mentioned email that claimed that it will take 15-20 days more, and which was received on June 11, 2009, this girl was tracking the shipment delivery and called to confirm the same.

And then from “TODAYCARE”, I received this final email on June 11, 2009:

Dear Mr. Mehta,

This is with reference to your e-mail and our telecon with Mrs. Mehta on 11.06.2009.

We would like to thank you for confirming the receipt of the subscription gift “Mystery gift with Bag”. We appreciate this opportunity to be of service.

For any complaints/query please contact our Customer care no-0120-2479900, Toll free no -1800-1800-100.

We assure you that we are here to solve your query so that in future you don’t face any kind of problem with our services.

Please feel free to get back to us for further assistance/clarifications.

Assuring you of the best possible services, always.

And thus the saga ended, with their assurance to me, of their best possible services, always!!!!

Whew!

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Comments
  1. Amusing & Vexing at the same time. I have undergone this with India Today, Business Today, Week amongst others. However having been on the other side in some manner, would like to answer your thoughts/points as below:

    Some interesting thoughts in this regard:

    1. Normally their 12-16 weeks is standard, since they operate on the mail order business of receiving money, starting their print run, then final sourcing of the gift.
    2. Right vs Left not knowing what to do? Here it is Marketing vs Subscription vs Logistics. They would ideally love to stick to making a mag but you have to keep up with the Joneses.
    3. Answered in Point 1. Does India Today have ANY VALUE OF TIME?? (Pun unintended) NO
    4. Boss – % game. Out of their 500,000 subscribers you are one & nobody discontinues at the end. Can you get 10,000 subscribers to discontinue? Then they become serious.
    5. Standard Templates:)

    • Sanjay Mehta says:

      Anaggh:
      1. If it has been traditionally 12-16 weeks, it does NOT need to still be that way. Nobody has questioned that assumption in life. Here, the money comes upfront, and only then does the subscription start. There is absolutely no relevance to the 12-16 weeks thing, except that nobody has bothered to question it!
      2. Yeah, right not knowing the left is right. And for all I know, they must have fashionably implemented some expensive ERP solution also 🙂
      3. Oh well.. !
      4. Sir, legends have been uprooted off their pedestals. Sometimes it just requires a trigger. Today they sustain because of the publication and their being not enough competition in the space. But they cannot get Re 1 more out of me, for any of their value added services anymore. Is it good for them? Doubt it! Will there be more like me who will not get any other services from them? I think so.
      5. Yes.. the amusement quota.. !

      – Sanjay

  2. […] Sanjay Mehta subscribed to India Today six months ago and is still waiting for the gift promised, despite several reminders and reassuring responses. The correspondence is very interesting: Some interesting thoughts in this regard: […]

  3. […] Read more from the original source: India Today: A Lesson in “how NOT to do customer service … […]

  4. […] Originally posted here: India Today: A Lesson in “how NOT to do customer service … […]

  5. Kelly Brown says:

    Hi, interest post. I’ll write you later about few questions!

  6. GarykPatton says:

    Hi. I like the way you write. Will you post some more articles?

  7. This is amusing !!! A Brand like India Today going all way to disgust its own image in the growing social Media environment. I think their team need a introductory talk on social media marketing from socialwavelength.com to over come from their traditional PR cocoon ….. and gain Social Media Resonance.

  8. Arnab Das says:

    goodness dude! u have some patience! well even i was a subscriber of scientific american for about 2 years or so. now i am not. even then i keep receiving these mystery gift letters all the time. thank god i didnt fall for it!

    cheers!

  9. Siddhesh says:

    Wow, that was huge! Sad to see such baton passing from an organisation of such fame…

  10. Ravi Karki says:

    Hi,

    I went through the similar experience to receive a prize from MONEY TODAY lucky draw. I can also publish similar set of e-mail transactions with them. Looks like everyone goes through same ordeal. I assume many give up and only some of us fight for it.
    But they should be ashamed.

    Rgds,

    • R M Dandekar says:

      India Today does not believe in Customer Service. I too have faced similar problems. I had to feed them all the details regarding the on-line subscription payment, which took them whole of a life time to connect.

      The problem does not end there, the deliveries are pathetic. I receive the issue through post aftertwo weeks after the issue date and no one cares. The emails are replied in rote with out any intention of even trying to resolve the issue.

      Mr Aroon Poorie, you need to enlighten your subscription Deptt as to what is Customer Service.

      R. M. Dandekar

      • Mahesh Kumar Gupta says:

        Following messgae depicts my anguish on how India Today is callous to my 40 years bond with RD
        I have been a subscriber to RD for many decades, say, 40 years, or so. without a single break.Even after RD changed hands to India Today Group, I have been an avid reader, despite deterioration of the contents and customer relations.
        I did not receive Feb;13 Copy. My Secretary has been following up for exactly one month now, through mails and your so called customer care numbers, but of no avail.If a similar hiccup happened earlier, a call from my personal staff to Mumbai would get the failed delivery by a substitute copy in a day or maximum two. But now it is unfathomable.
        I never wanted to take up the matter in my own hand , but it is exasperatingly too much now and is unfathomable.
        I want to give you feed back as a very Senior Executive from a very eminent Private Sector Company, with massive public interaction, that such callous attitude is going to retard the followings of RD fans and other Publications too, as a back lash. I would be one such individual.
        It is up to you, Mr. Mohan Sivananda and Mr. Aroon Purie,whom I am endorsing a copy of this mail, as to how you assimilate this overture in the form of a covert anguish.

        Mahesh Kumar Gupta,

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