These smart sales people do not carry the above competencies, hence many of their customers receive the kind of experience we did
When you hire from premier institutes, please ensure that they are given the right jobs that they are educated and trained for
A few months ago, the wife and I bought a fridge from a reputed multinational white goods company. The brand was trusted, the organization is one I have respected deeply and needless to say, they have been in India now for more than a decade. So when we saw the model, the choice was unanimous!
We bought the fridge at an Indian retailing house and their service has always been impeccable. This begins right from the welcome smile that we get when we enter their store at Greater Noida to their ensuring that the kids get a seat in front of their TV sets so that they can watch their cartoons in peace while the wife does her browsing and I shuffle my feet impatiently.
The fridge was delivered duly the next day and a representative came in, took our old fridge away and gave us a demo. I immediately got a call from the company asking us about the experience and how I would rate the same. Needless to say, the wife and I were thrilled (as were the kids); I mean after all, it was pretty large sized (and a good looking) fridge.
Until the next day that is, when the wife noticed that the handle was loose. I called the retail company, which swung into action. They noted the complaint and the white goods company called us, got the nature of the complaint, I gave them my wife’s number and went my merry way to Chennai. Little did we know that the fun and games had just begun.
The company representatives would call me probably once in every three days, where the exact nature of the complaint (though I had given it several times) was asked for. Several people from different departments; customer service, engineering, marketing etc would call me up at different times asking me different things. Finally I asked them to stop calling and get the darned thing fixed as per the warranty clause.
Around a few days later, I got a call from a highly nonchalant gentleman who asked me in Hindi about the nature of complaint. This is after I had informed the same to the company, several times. He made an appointment and did not turn up. My wife called the customer service number again, to no satisfactory response. In the meantime, the company called again, asking me if we were satisfied with their response. I reminded them that no one had come.
Many days passed and we were at the end of our patience. Finally, Mr. Nonchalance called. Fixing a time, he came (late) with another handle. We breathed a sigh of relief. However, this one turned out to be the wrong color. My wife gave up after that. A week after I got a call from the company asking me if I would like to extend my warranty! My response to that call, understandably, was not very nice.
Then I began to wonder about this. Here is a multinational company, well respected, been in India for a while, has a strong after sales and distribution network, several systems that measure customer service and satisfaction data, and they can’t get a small after sales service thing right? Why does that happen?
As an HR person, I have had the opportunity to meet some of this company’s management folks at various forums and I can vouch that they are nothing but the crème de la crème of management society! The very best and the brightest and yes from the very finest premier business schools!
Their systems are well known and they have been path breakers in their journey of excellence! So why does this happen that they can’t get these simple things right?
I thought about it and I could not help but compare the personnel of the Indian retailer to this company’s.
The personnel of the Indian retailer from where I bought the fridge weren’t what we HR folks would describe as the best and the brightest!
But they had something very, very real and undeniable:
And a genuine desire for prompt and satisfactory customer service!
Their concern that the handle gets repaired was actually more than mine. Knowing well that I commute between Chennai and Delhi, they would assure my wife of all help.
Mind you, these were guys you would get from the Baburao Gangurde Institute of Management types (Ok, I made that name up). But their devotion to their job and passion for customer service was exemplary. One of them even offered to visit the customer service centre of the multinational on our behalf.
My wife wrote on facebook about her plight and all her friends have made up their minds as to which company’s goods to avoid during their festival shopping.
So why does this happen? The answer I feel, is fairly simple. The moment we as HR people hire the best and the brightest from the premier schools, we forget that many of these folks are very good at and love (and very rightfully so) to analyze and strategize.
That is very fair. But to keep customers hooked and make them come back to you, you don’t need analysts and strategists. You need customer focused executives who bring warmth and empathy with them. Now these guys may not possess those high intellectual levels that would bell the CAT or trample the GMAT, would they?
They won’t. So they will be welcomed at the Bhalerao Chandekar institute of Management or the Chaganlal Borade College of Management Studies…. (OK, OK, I made those names up again). So while we shall go back to the Indian retailer, where we shall be welcomed back with a smile, a glass of cold water, a little banter here and there; we definitely would give the goods of the multinational a wide berth as would now, many of the ladies of Greater Noida who are my wife’s friends.
See the equation?
With all the data crunching and information that the multinational has gathered about me and their product, I doubt if anyone in the company even knows that the handle is not replaced. I doubt if anyone knows that they have one very dissatisfied customer and that hell hath no fury like a wife who has been at the receiving end of bad service.
You get the gist? Do you think my wife’s friends are going to consider this company when they look out for white goods?
That’s one heck of a business opportunity in the town of Greater Noida, which is now lost this festive season for the multinational. Not for the retailer though. The stories of their support to my wife has become legend in our little town by now!
I have developed great respect for the Indian company’s HR folks. They are smart and have operated from a platform of insights. They have realized that customers who make purchases at their store want to feel a sense of confidence that their needs will be taken care of. That main need is, if something goes wrong with the product, will you come to my rescue?
How do you take care of that? Well, normally I call it the local kirana wallah approach. He addresses women as Bhabhi, always has a nice word for the kids and ensures that your favorite stuff is always available in his store. He ensures home delivery in time and always has a smile for you. You feel at home when you walk into his humble store. Think of it, you don’t want to trade that for anything else.
This Indian retailer, in a high end consumer white goods store has re created just that. They have recruited young guys from humble backgrounds. They have probably undergone intense training, but more important, coaching into being nice. They have been coached and have got that the most important thing to be on the shop floor is to be on the customer’s side! And that means going that extra mile to ensure that the customer’s anxieties are theirs! That, I think is the difference! My kudos to the HR team of that company; they’ve got it very right! Also, their HR costs have been kept low while having ensured that that the customer keeps coming back, every time.
The HR folks of the multinational probably have a large budget which they find difficulty managing and are wondering what to do with all their smart sales folks who despite all the brand building are unable to bring the customer back. What they probably haven’t got is that these smart sales people do not carry the above competencies, hence many of their customers receive the kind of experience we did.
I would say the answer is simple; look for folks who have worked in companies like the Indian retailer and are from the Dhondoba Namdeo Choladkar Institute of Management Research and their ilk (drat! I made that up again). They will ensure that the customer feels touched, inspired and delighted! That will make them comeback again. And yes, they’ll bring their friends along!
And when you do hire from the premier institutes, please ensure that they are given the right jobs where they bring in their brilliance to a role that they are educated and trained for: analysis and strategy. And let’s not switch the two. Or else you’ll end up with a lousy strategy and of course, no customers!
Shantanu Dhar leads the HR of the cement business of Dalmia Bharat Enterprise and regularly visits customers to get a feel of what they think about the service of his sales folks!