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Poor Indian customer (service)

Koral Dasgupta @KoralDasgupta

Updated: December 23, 2015, 12:42 PM IST
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Last Sunday and Monday was quite a plight for us.

My husband and I had some submissions to make and the wifi went off around 9.30am. We immediately called up the Airtel customer care and were assured that someone will sort it out by 4pm max. At 4.30pm when we called up the customer care again, they were clueless. Repeated calls did not yield results and finally I took to twitter. Even over Twitter the Airtel customer care handle copy pasted the same message three or four times offering assurance with zero commitments or results. At last, around 7.30pm a guy (let’s call him Guy1) calls up to say that someone would certainly come and fix it by next morning. We asked whether it was possible on that very day but we understood when he explained that he lived in Vasai and was already on his way back from Malad. He smsed me the number of another guy (Guy 2) who would be handling my complaint next morning. I called up Guy 2. He said he’d come by 10 on Monday! I requested him to come by 9am because we were badly stuck. He said he was on leave because that was a Sunday. And he can’t make it before 10 next morning.” He hung up the phone on me. I called him again and he didn’t take the call!

Next morning, Monday, when the time had clocked well past 10, I called up again. Guy1 did not pick my calls. Guy2 picked up and said he’s just starting from Borivali. Left with no other option I chose to wait. After 45 minutes I called again. And I called repeatedly. No one picked up. In fact he kept disconnecting my calls each time I dialled. Half an hour later he took my call and said he was just below my building. Twenty minutes post that when he didn’t reach, I called again. My mobile will show some 29 calls which he kept disconnecting. At times his phone was busy; so I knew he was talking to someone else. Rest of the times he either didn’t pick or disconnected my calls. Finally he knocked my door at around 11.30am.

Absolutely unapologetic and casual about his behaviour, he advised me to keep patience because “delay happens everywhere!”

This entire experience made me feel really humiliated. A customer service person disconnecting my calls, messing up all promises of timely service, making my work suffer, shrugging off my concerns as non-existent and cornering me with that helplessness did not go down my system too well. This experience kept haunting me and I wanted to do something about it with my limited capacity so that other customers are spared. You can’t just let them get along with this!

Being a professor and practitioner of management studies & communications, I do understand a little bit of business. And no organisation would like to stress out their customers at this level. And Airtel, I’m sure did not grow to where it is because of dissatisfied customers. One part of my brain said, let it go because these are the guys who I will need in future to get my internet issues sorted. But a large part of my brain also prompted that senior officials in Airtel must know about this. Often most of such cases go unreported and customers vent their anger on the brand. These randomly hired service people perhaps don’t even know the meaning of Customer Service and they molest the brand name of their organisations with such horrible attitude. I wanted to take it up, certainly not with a vengeance that those guys be terminated from their service, but I did wish to bring this to the notice of top management so that the customer service guys are trained well into the behavioural aspects of their job.

On Tuesday morning, my brain felt calmer and I reached out to some senior officials of Airtel through social media. First I reached out to Ganesh Ananthanarayanan, COO, Bharti Airtel Limited. I asked him to share the details of an HR or Service Head in Mumbai & Maharashtra region, to whom I could write something “urgent”. By the time he responded (which was less than half an hour) suggesting the name of Sameer Batra, Senior Vice President & COO at Bharti Airtel Limited, I had already tracked Batra and written a long mail to him about my grievance. Sameer responded almost immediately, though he was attending a workshop in Delhi at that time. He assured that my complaint won’t be taken lightly and someone from the office would call.

In another 10 minutes I was talking to Anshuman Chowdhury from Airtel Mumbai office and he took down all details from me. He said that Airtel does have stringent policies when it comes to handling customer grievances, and they’ll ensure that such experiences won’t repeat for myself or for other customers.

I wanted to pen down this entire episode because there are many such customers who are harassed like this, and they don’t know how to channelize it. Or we tend to dump it once the issue gets sorted. This man must have picked up this behaviour with the confidence that he would get along with his nuisance and his recklessness won’t ever be reported. But this is just not acceptable and if an organisation or individual is earning money, they have to respect the interests of their customers. For this, it is important that we customers grow demanding, albeit rationally, and don’t close issues till they are actually closed. This benefits ourselves and also others.
First Published: December 23, 2015, 12:42 PM IST