about 4 years ago
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By Ruma Dubey

Today and yesterday, Future Retail has been ruling the roost, hitting a life time high. It is all thanks to Kishore Biyani announcing Retail 3.0; the company has teamed up with Google India to open a chain of member-only, tech-driven stores under the Easyday name. It is aims to be a 10,000 member-only stores by 2022. Membership will be limited to 2,000 per store and each member will pay an annual fee of Rs.999 for benefits that include a 10% discount on all purchases.  

Does this mean that Biyani is finally acknowledging the need for building customer loyalty? We all come out with such fancy names and tags but anywhere in this entire business strategy, do we see or hear about customer service?

Customer service? What’s that? This term is so alien to most of us that we balk at the mere mention. What, someone actually treats customers well? Or are companies even supposed to do that?

Yes, many in today’s time would find it hard to believe that customers were indeed treated like Kings and Queens. Loyalty was the most important business strategy and to create loyalty, treating a customer well was a priority. Employees were actually trained well to look after customers. And one did feel good when the company gave you and your time importance; truly showed that they cared.

Today, all this sounds mythical; how could companies behave like that? The recent spat at Indigo is just one well publicized occurrence of how airlines actually treat customers. But this happens to all of us on a day-to-day basis; not getting physically manhandled but mentally frustrated. Walk into any bank, more so private banks based on personal experience – the “May I Help You?” employs some of the rudest and most brusque employees – be it bank or a mobile operators desk or even a retail mall. Walk into malls, you will have many sales personnel milling around you; you touch one garment and they will start egging you towards other choices. No attention is paid to the fact that your body language conveys, “keep away!” Some shops in the malls, they look you up and down and if you measure up to their standards, only then will they even smile at you. Try getting a customer service guy to repair an electronic device you have just purchased. And if you have to lodge a complaint, you have to spend hours talking to machines on the phone, pressing “1” and “2” for ages. And after spending an hour, it is quite a common occurrence for the call to drop and you have to begin all over again. Or you cable TV operator or your experience when the internet is down? Yes, customer service; rather poor service drives us all mad!

Think about it. We all are just a number, a statistics for most companies. The aim of the company is to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase sales. Creating customer loyalty through services is just not in the mission, vision or philosophy of any company. It is all about getting the maximum customers – all first timers, weaned away from competitors with ‘sales and deals’; it is never about retaining existing ones.

Why has this attitude changed? Quite a few reasons. First and foremost, which many might not agree but is the truth – people are not as well-mannered as before. Road rage, public personalities behaving badly, swearing in public, rage on TV, increased violence – all point out to the simple fact that we all are poorer mannered than what people were 20-30 years ago. People are rude and difficult to please as tolerance levels are much lower. And that is what percolates down to poor customer service.

Another important factor – every employee is fighting to keep his job, designation and salary intact and this means most do not have any loyalty to the company; if they do not have this sense of ownership how will they ever work on nurturing loyal customers?

This is probably why chat away with your local kirana shopkeeper than the sales lady at the mall. And that is why kirana shops have existed despite malls cropping up; in fact it is malls that have been closing down!

Customer discontent is a sleeping giant; if woken, hell hath no fury!

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