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Constant is the Only Change

March 21, 2019 - Dennis-varghese

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.”

Scene 1:

Year 2002: India is a BPO Hub, the business terms for outsourcing mundane – repetitive, time consuming tasks to low cost resources. All peppy and youthful offices that operate in night shifts mostly, 5 days’ job and more than decent packages. You have catholic aliases, Lakshmi is Cathy and Deepak is Jack. These were of course true, but, to me, they were the only ones offering a job
Location, Mumbai, Call Center for an International Internet Service Provider (henceforth referred to as ISP)

Characters: Me as Call Center Agent, Unknown Customer

One Day, just another call:

ME: Thank You for calling ******* ISP. My Name is Dennis; you have reached the sign-up by phone service of ****** ISP. How may I help you?
Unknown Caller: My internet is not working; I need to get it to work.

ME: Of course Sir. You have reached the sign-up by phone service, I will need to transfer your call to the technical services.
Unknown Caller: I chose this option on the phone because this is the only option where you get to speak to someone human, even though your accent is GRRRROOOSSSS

Scene 2: Fast forward in time

Year 2018: Lots of things have changed in life
World GDP grew from 33 trillion to 135 trillion USD
Indian GDP grew from 0.4 billion to 2.9 trillion USD
2008 Lehmann happened
Technology disruption and magnitude of it was exponential.
Net browsing changed to googling
People moved on from cable TV to Netflix, from Walmart to Amazon
From downloading pics taking minutes to online streaming high definition movies

And me? Well, I grew a few pounds (may be feeeeewww), moved jobs, got married, had kids and …..

Character: Me again, but I am the customer this time. Got notification for the insurance premium renewal of my car (yeah, I have a car now). Saw the premium amount was a tad more than last year’s and was aghast as to how a depreciating asset (realize the irony when you try to impulsively resell your car), can be charged more premium than the year before. I desperately wanted to talk to someone and know the details. Tried calling the call center (the call center experience deep down) but got lost in a maze of IVR options. Then realized that there are new ways of interventions and tried the trending chat bot feature on the service providers web site.

Me (chatting): Hi, I want to know the details of my car insurance premium
Chat: Hi. Sure. I will need some details from you to help you out, are you looking for a new policy or existing renewals?

Me: Renewals
Chat: May I have your policy number please?

Me: XX/XXXX/XXXXXXX
Chat: Your renewal premium amount is Rs.XXXXXX.

Me: I want to know why this is more than last year’s premium.
Chat: I am sorry, I did not understand.

Ok, this is indeed technology and I tried what my customer did to me years back
Me (chatting): Hi, I want to know the details of my car insurance premium.
Chat: Hi. Sure. I will need some details from you to help you out, are you looking for a new policy or existing renewals?
Me: New
Chat: Hi I am Chandrakanth, your insurance advisor, how may I help you with your new premium?

In both the scenarios above, the business intends to deliver service to the customer on alternate channels of service delivery. The motive in both the scenarios is cost reduction and the business is investing in the latest available technologies and service options. There are 3 points that I would like to discuss about the two interactions described above, taking place more than 15 years apart from each other temporally.

  • Has the customer experience changed?

The technologies in use for the service alternatives were pretty in vogue for the reference time period. But in both the cases the customer is left with a foul taste due to the following few points:

  • The customer had to make multiple attempts to get through to make any sensible (to the customer) interaction.
  • The technology options or the channels available to the customer for reaching out to service providers are more than one but the interaction options did not serve or answer what the customer was demanding.
  • The customer had to find a “cheat code” to get through to the service provider representative (human or chat) for the intended interactions.
  • Even after all the effort of trying to make the representative understand what is required, there is no guarantee that the service is delivered (pardon me for not completing the narratives for the sake of brevity).

 

  • Who / what is the prominent driver for the solution?

In either of the scenarios, if you take a closer look at the process definition, it has been tuned for immediate action for new business opportunities (Me, in sign-up by phone, focused on new sign-up, and Chandrakanth, who magically took over from the bot, spotted a new policy-related opportunity). It is obvious that the priority of the business is new acquisition which in itself is not wrong but it leaves the existing customers lurking between the IVRs and Chat responses for options.

  • Who is smarter?

The service providers have of course deployed smart solutions of smart business acumen, but the customer did outsmart (that includes me), the system in both of these scenarios. But the critical question that business needs to ponder over is that in today’s digital age, where customer is spoilt for choice and nothing is a monopoly, will there be enough persistence to bother about an insensitive service delivery system no matter how much technical alternatives you provide?

I started the blog with a quote widely attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, which I saw while waiting for my turn in the reception of a hospital. I was intrigued and wondered why Mahatma Gandhi (at his time and struggle) would quote on customers and business. So I “googled” and of course there is a contention on this quote being attributed to Gandhi. We can dwell on that debate in some other conversation but it is accepted largely that this is a pre-independence quote. So the fundamentals of “the customer being at the center of a business” are by no means a new-generation business geek’s discovery. It does not matter what technology we use to action our business models or the technology we build them around, it is very important that the solution is focused on the customer and the experience delivered each time, every time.

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2 thoughts on “Constant is the Only Change

  • a well balanced article with thoughtful examples

  • Very innovative way of highlighting the need of easy User Experience

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