Customer Service... It's a long lost tradition in India. Ironically, India is the most preferred location for Outsourcing Industry, they say we provide best service, but our very own Indian companies are not able to see this. At times I feel that we have been taken for granted. Corruption, no proper laws for consumers, endless cases in consumer courts, could be some reasons for that. But today I am not writing to express my anguish about such Indian corporates.
Today the reason why I have started this blog and why I feel I should share my feelings with you is because, I think we still have those long lost values of customer service. At times you will find best of customer service examples in least expected places.
The first experience that I am going to share with you, happened a few days back. I had to go to Palwal City, It is a small town in Haryana, about 40 Kms from Faridabad. It was a Sunday morning, I reached there early at about 8:00 AM but found the city was bustling with people, early risers I thought. I finished off my work in about 30 mins, I was with a freind of mine who was well acquainted with the place. He asked if I wanted to have breakfast. I was not sure, if we will get something good to eat here ( it's a very small town remember ! ) but I was also feeling a little hungry, so I asked him if he knows a good place to eat. And he almost immediately said, Yes, he was very confident that I would never forget once I eat here. We reached a small shop, there were a lot of customers standing, infact, it seemed like they were falling off from the shop :)I went a little closer, people were shouting their orders,and there was a group of total 5 people in the shop. Standing in almost a circle and servicing the customers.At first I thought,with so many customers standing, it would be difficult for us to get our order in time and we will have to wait for at least 30 mins in the queue. But to my amazement, the moment we reached inside the shop,my friend shouted our order ( that is how you place your order there btw ), and we got it in say 5 mins sharp. Piping hot puri and sabzi, along with cold lassi.. I was simply amazed to see the order coming so fast. It was like a breeze. I thought, it might be because my friend knew the shopkeeper. But by the time we finished eating, I realize, it was almost the same time they were taking to give the orders to everyone. It was not only the faster service that caught my attention, the taste was also great. And the pricing... absolutely low.
So what lessons did I learn from him ? Here they are !
1) Every Customer is Important : The puri wala was continuously speaking to everyone standing. He knew what everyone wanted and he clearly had made plans in the mind to make sure he is able to take care of everyone in time. No matter if it was a person asking for 1 plate or someone who wanted to get 20 plates packed. No differentiation was done basis the size of the order.
Well, Everyone has been telling this so what's the big deal.... I say Nothing ! The only deal is to know this fact and remember it and make sure we follow it in whatever we do. Everybody says this but there are very few who actually follow this.
That's an important lesson that we need to learn. You never know, 1 small order processed exceptionally well can get you many more orders than a big order processed at average.
2) Processes makes the business : At the Puri wala's shop, everyone was doing the job assigned to them without being told or questioned. In fact, these guys was so engrossed in their respective jobs at hand that they were not even looking at people in the shop. There were 2 people doing Puris continuously, they knew that they have to make a set number of puris every time. There was 1 person filling up lassi in glasses without even bothering to know how many have been picked and how many are required. 1 person was on the counter making sure everybody is getting their orders and they are paying for it. Similarly, there were duties assigned to everyone and things were happening flawlessly.
One should understand that in order to deliver customer service consistently over a period of time, you need to invest in Processes. You just can't be there all the time to look after things. But once processes are made, everyone will know their job and will do it well. If not, you would at least know where is the weak link.
3) Keep it Simple : I really liked the Pricing at the Puri wala. Every Puri was Rs 7, Every glass of lassi was Rs 7 and every Kachori was Rs 7, rest sabzi , acchar , petha and refill of the sabzi was free. With this it was easier for the people as well as the cashier to manage bills ( they did not have billing machines ).
The idea is that more you keep the things simple, better it is. Consumer doesn't want to go through the hassle of calculating and re calculating and then understand what happened.
4) Promises should be clear and should be kept : It's as simple as that, today we are not living in a world where broken promises were a norm. No business can be run today on the basis of incorrect or broken promises.
Puri wala had clearly mentioned the rates on a board. He had also asked the customer to maintain their calm in case the order takes more than 10 mins, but in a diplomatic manner, he had written "Everyone will get their order within 10 mins,if not, please try to maintain silence, we will give your order asap"
You see, you should not have a separate customer service person to answer the questions that should have been answered upfront.Questions that are common and you know will come up, make sure they are answered even before asked.
5) Value for money : You could see customers from all walks of life at the Puri wala.
There were people taking 1 plate and relishing it and there were people buying 20 plates together. I believe Rs 7/- for a puri was a real value for money ( with that kind of taste ).
This question has been there for a while now. So, how do you know if your product is value for money. Simple answer, Will you buy it in the same price ?? I know at times it is not as easy as it looks. But believe me, every time you decide upon a price, just ask a simple question, will 70% of your target audience find it value for money? If the answer is yes, then go for it.
6) Turn around time will change weather the customer is come back again or not: It was amazing to get piping hot puris in your plate within 10 minutes. It was so delicious that we ate more than what we wanted to. Believe me, nothing better than getting your order in front of you in lesser time than you expected. On the contrary, I have experiences where the wait for your food became endless and you felt like not even eating there anymore.
This is a big lesson in Customer Service that we need to learn, your turn around time, be it in a first experience or in an escalation matters. It is the only thing which changes the mindset of the consumer. Your customer will do business with you again or not is completely dependent upon how much time did you take to resolve their first query or inquiry !
7) Quality Check : Have you been checking the quality of the conversations your customer care is doing with your customers? Have you been looking at your processes lately? The Puri wala ( owner ) was in complete tune with the quality of the stuff he was selling. He was checking the Puris that were being made, he was checking the dough,and was giving continuous feedback to his guys.
More than the product it also important to look behind and check if things are in place or not.
8) Feedback is Important : There was always a smile on the Puri wala's face even in the crowd of people shouting their orders, he would ask the ones eating if they need anything else. It was almost like he was making you eat like in your own house. Why was he doing that? He was doing that to know what his customers like and what not. He wanted to ensure that everything he is doing for his customers is it right? He was taking feedback in a subtle way. I realized that people were not only happy for the fact that he was ensuring their whereabouts, they were also happy that at least someone was concerned about them. His team might be busy in their processes, they might be ignoring a few comments from the customers while doing their job well, but the owner there was filling that gap. He was making sure that if anyone has anything to say or comment, there's an ear to listen to it.
At times, more than a resolution you just need an ear to listen to you.
At last, I would say, that if a Puri wala in a remote town knows these basic principals of Customer Service, our top shots companies should definitely know.