Service level apathy: Is it because we’re just too many??

Posted: October 31, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Bhavin, who writes as the Man from Matunga, in Mumbai Mirror, has in the last few weeks, covered more than one service level issues, with brands. That in his once-a-week column, he finds it worthwhile to cover these so frequently can only indicate a high frequency of such events!

And don’t we all know?

Let me recount an episode that I am still in the middle of.

My Linksys Wi-Fi router at home, finally called it a day, after a good 4-5 years. I went shopping for a replacement, and found at Staples, besides Linksys, the Belkin brand. Being cheaper for nearly the same specs, I took a view on the brand from my brother, and after getting a strong validation, I purchased the Belkin N Series Wi-Fi router.

Tried to self install as per their paper guide. Could not quite get it done. Luckily they had a toll free number to call from India. I was very impressed that at 10 pm on a holiday, the call connected. And oh, the call went to a foreign country, not sure where. The accent was very un-Indian. Perhaps Philipines. Neat, I thought. For once, calls from India are being outsourced to another country!! Anyway, the person on the phone spent a good 15 min with me, guiding me on a step by step process, and got the router up and running.

I was happy.

About 5-6 days later, the router again gave issues. After trying hard myself, I called the toll free number again. The guy on the line tried his best, but could not sort the issue. He then put me across to their senior technician, who also tried hard. No go.

At this point, the senior technician, in what can only be termed as very western style, was able to authorize for me, a free replacement. He looked up and gave me detailed addresses, phone numbers and concerned persons’ names, at two independent locations in Mumbai, where I could go and get the router replaced. He even gave the call id reference number, his own name and suggested that this should be enough to get the replacement to happen.

Wow, I continued to be impressed. Even while I was continuing to be disappointed by what looked like a bad purchase! I was willing to assume that I had a bad piece, unfortunately, and this could happen as a bad coincidence. But that, since their service was so impressive, I might still be with the right brand and the right company.

Alas. This is where the international service ended and the India part kicked in. And trouble began.

Considering the conversation with the senior technician, I went ahead and sent the router with those details, to the service place. Which happened to be, by the way, an independent company, viz. Accel Frontline Ltd. I thought the call id and other details would be sufficient, as conveyed by the senior technician, and I was quite looking forward to an across-the-counter exchange.

Well, first of all, they asked for the purchase invoice. Which I had not sent. My bad.

As luck would have it, my invoice and credit card slip had got washed with the laundry. Did not remove it from trousers! But this part still worked out fine. I happened to visit Staples again, gave them the date and the reference (credit card, product name etc.) and they were able to pull out the invoice, and gave me a duplicate one. Service with a smile too. That I had gone on a weekday afternoon, when the store was pretty empty, might have been one of the reasons of the prompt service. That apart, the attitude was good.

So back to Accel. Sent the router and the invoice now. No across-the-counter replacement. They took the router, gave me an acknowledgement, some call id number of their own, and suggested to contact them after 7-8 days! Uh-oh.

Count to 10. Be patient. Hang on. I did. Decided to wait.

The service paper they made out and gave, had some impressive suggestions. That I could send the call id over SMS and get an automated updated status and everything. Wow. Service station automation. Cool.

7-8 days later, I first tried the phone only. They had a few numbers, including a cell number of one of their key persons. NONE of them responded! Tried the next day. SAME story. Could not connect on phone.

Then I remembered tha SMS option. Perhaps they don’t take calls to encourage everyone to use SMS. Did that. Waited for the response. Waited. Waited. None came.

Finally exasperated, and figuring that 9 days have gone by, and router should anyway be ready, I sent my person to go and fetch it.

Worst fears confirmed. It was not ready. Another 4-5 days was the time taken. Unfortunately my person did not connect me to them on phone, while he was there. I tried to call them to understand what the matter was. I could not connect to them on phone.

With no option, waited for another 4-5 days.

THEN, when my person called, lo and behold, the phone connected. And he was told that yes, it will take ANOTHER 4-5 days. But since now the phone connected, I decided to call them myself. The poor operator at the other end, did not have a clue why there is a delay. She promptly gave me the Mumbai head’s cell number. Which was “switched off”. So I called the babe again. So she cried, “we have not got the piece from head office, so how can we give you?”. I said that I need to speak to head office then. She promptly gave me the Chennai number of the concerned person at the head office. That was on Friday first half.

Over the day, I called this lady in Chennai 3-4 times, since she promised to help. Of couse, I had to use words like “consumer complaint” etc. but I am not sure if those were the catalysts, or whether it was always possible for them to do things, but needed someone calling in from Mumbai few times in a day, to make it happen.

Well, now I have been told that the replacement has been shipped to Mumbai office, and Monday might be my lucky day.

And then I have to hope that it was not a product problem, but just a piece problem, and the replacement works fine.

Oh, still a long way to go, before I reach true Wi-Fi happiness. Why did I not go for a Linksys only??

So the moot point here is, whether we are apathetic to service? We are too many. There will always be another sucker queieing up. So do we need to worry if this one’s disturbed. Is that the reason? Is it cultural – a ‘chalta hai’ high tolerance syndrome? The way Bhavin ultimately “settled” to accept a less than desired service level in Goa, do we all, just accept and resign ourselves? And continue to get shit??

I wonder about it. Even as I wait for my Wi-Fi to be restored at home..

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