Providing Service: Fundamental attitude challenge in India??

Posted: March 10, 2011 in Uncategorized
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How rare is it in India, to hear of some really good service received? I have to really scan my memory hard to remember any kind of service that really impressed me. And yes, then, I CAN mention 1 or 2 striking examples.

I was particularly impressed by the service at Olde Bangalore, in Bangalore.

At the Orange County Resort at Coorg.

If I rack my brain some more, I should come up with few other names.

But it’s hard.

Many other service providers where I don’t have a problem, are at best adequate. I would put my Citibank credit card (nowadays), HDFC Bank, Vodafone, Indigo Air, etc. all in that league. Adequate. Nothing outstanding about it. Adequately efficient. Nothing more. Sometimes a little less.

And then there are MANY that actually cause grief. Service providers that “just don’t get it”. Besides the usual suspects of government services, there are just far too many restaurants, stores and showrooms, health clubs, hotels, etc. that all fall into this league.

Let me give a specific example.

I was in the market sometime late last year, for a new vehicle. I was impressed by the VW Vento. Went to the showroom. Was given the initial information with a lot of enthusiasm.

Till the point at which I actually booked the vehicle, and made the initial payment (there was a 4-month wait for the vehicle, so balance was payable when the vehicle got ready). things were fine.

From the point of time that I actually made that booking amount to the VW Mumbai East dealer (at Bezzola Complex in Chembur), from a service point of view, it was all downhill.

Every single interaction has been painful, simply because they are not equipped to provide better service. And their attitude is one that “couldn’t care less”. This extended to their service station also. Within a week of purchase, there was a minor hiccup. The car was sent to the service garage. They took a whole day to attend to the small thing. And after paying upwards of Rs. 8 lakhs, a week back, for the car, they demanded Rs. 300 odd for some parts. When I protested that it did not make sense, they brought it down, but insisted on getting paid Rs. 48/- or so. That’s a dollar! After having paid upwards of USD 20,000 a week back.

No one at that garage had the authority to take a call, to let that dollar go. When I have paid so much, it is certainly not about that dollar. It is just that they made an issue about it.

For an otherwise great product, VW has obviously not been able to get service standards and policies in place, that can address such issues.

So is India a society that can possibly produce good products, but just does not have an approach to good service?

Since we have a lot of people, we have lot of service providers! On a typical small hop flight also, we may have 5-6 air hostesses or stewards on board. At a wedding party, we may have a whole host of waiters hovering around us. There will be enough help at a hotel. BUT there will not be a true service attitude. We try to compensate for quality, by quantity.

That does not work.

However what that has done is to bring down our fundamental expectations of service. When we get adequate service, we are happy. Because “at least it was not bad”. Both the recipient and the provider of the services, are settling down to “adequacy” and not more!

People will be willing to pay a price and get excellent service. A great product can get supremely enhanced, at nominal additional cost, by great service. If a VW showroom and garage can also exemplify the same attitude that the vehicle is trying to showcase (via its advertising), would it not be wonderful?

When at the Apple store in California, you don’t see a cash counter, but the store help pulls out the machine from his pocket and swipes your card, and you don’t need to wait in a queue, it is telling something more about the cool brand that Apple is. It’s that extra bit.

When you drive into a Hertz store at the airport to give the car back, before catching your flight, and all paperwork, payments etc. can be done in 3 mins, so you can comfortably catch your flight, even if you got late, that’s more loyalty for the brand.

When the Southwest Airlines human operator picks my call within 2-3 rings at most, and the one person can help me confidently with any and all kinds of queries that I may have, then I ask for Southwest by name, and don’t look for just ‘any airline’.

There are amazing examples of this kind, in the west (well, there are duds too – don’t get me started on American Airlines!!). We’d so love to have some emerge in India too. At this time, they’ll stand out as unique.

Like Orange County Resorts does. And where at time of checkout, I put a rating on their response card, of a 11/10. Yes, those are the rare gems in India.

Can others stand up to get counted now??

  1. vivek Mendonsa says:

    Orange County is owned by a fellow Christian and L . K . Advani too stayed there and loved it . I was a co-dignitary at a function with him and the Bishop of Bengaluru .

  2. Nominating Flipkart for the Great Service League 🙂

  3. Sanjay Mehta says:

    Ok, great.. glad to see an online merchant make the cut here.

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