Processes matter, people don't

Oct 27, 2018, 08:00 IST | Lindsay Pereira

Corporate India has a long way to go before it even begins to understand what customer service genuinely means

Processes matter, people don't
Banks, telecom firms, e-commerce sites and other organisations continue to treat customers with the kind of attention most human beings reserve for bugs. Representation Pic/Getty Images

Lindsay PereiraWhen was the last time you were happy with how a company treated you for patronising its product or service? Sure, a lot of these experiences may have been perfectly pleasant, because things sometimes work the way they are supposed to, but think about what happened the last time a promise made to you was broken.

What happened when something stopped working a week after you purchased it? What happened when you bought a television set that was supposed to be installed within a day and was still in its box a week later? What happened when you paid your internet bills on time, but still couldn't log on for four days without being told why? What happened when a company said it had delivered a product you ordered, with the product in question nowhere in sight?

I thought about customer service a lot this week, after a friend of mine was compelled to run from pillar to post for no fault of hers. Apparently, her credit card was hacked into. This happens to a surprisingly large number of us, possibly because banks are always more concerned about protecting their pens from being stolen at local branches than they are about protecting their customers from online fraud. So, the card was hacked, and purchases were made, without a single alert sent by the bank.

Her account was promptly frozen, without a representative of the bank calling to find out why these purchases were being made and whether the customer had anything to say in her defence. It took long visits to her branch and a number of forms to be filled and posted, before the account was unlocked a few days later.

This is anything but an isolated incident. Think about your family and friends who have been locked out of bank accounts, stuck with disabled credit cards, or isolated with cancelled roaming facilities while travelling abroad, all because companies back home haven't bothered to keep them in the loop.

The law says we are entitled to certain rights as customers. The law protects these rights on paper and promises to punish companies that violate them. Unfortunately, getting the law to take action involves putting aside everything else we have to do, which is why millions of us allow companies to take us for granted. The companies know this too, and laugh as we threaten them with legal action, safe in the knowledge that anything we do will be ineffectual and ultimately harmless.

It's why banks, telecom firms, e-commerce sites and a whole bunch of other organisations in between continue to treat customer service with the kind of attention most human beings reserve for bugs.

Technology ought to have made a lot of these problems go away. It has, unfortunately, only served to make companies less accountable. If you book a cab, for instance, and your driver decides not to show up, there's nothing you can do about it. Women have been attacked, molested in cabs, and abandoned on empty streets. They have had no way of contacting the companies responsible for assistance, let alone redressal. All we get are stock responses, automated replies to emails, and bots on Twitter that request us to email our complaints so we can get more automated responses.

If you have nothing important to do this weekend, try filing a complaint. Check out websites that detail the processes involved, look at what timelines you can expect, and think about what it's going to cost you before you come before a panel that may then decide to penalise a company and get you a refund.

If this sounds difficult, try something simpler, like getting a customer service representative of any company to chat with you. Tell them what your problem is, related to their product or service, and see if your concern is addressed with that phone call.

My friend has her account back. The bank says it will refund the money she lost on account of their compromised security systems within 15 business days. It hasn't issued an apology for freezing her out, doesn't take responsibility for the trauma caused by denying her access to her own money, and doesn't care about the stress or time off from work this has caused her. She won't file a complaint against the bank, because she can't afford to lose more time than she already has. The bank knows this, which is probably why you or I will suffer at its hands sooner than we think.

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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