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Beware – Don’t Let Branding Make you Blind

customer service

This blog stems from my recent experience and insight of how two of the best reputed companies in the globe delivered an unbelievable customer service experience.

As you might be well aware, Emirate airlines was named as the World`s Best airline in 2013 and the recent narration makes me wonder, if we are being misled by branding and awards

Five of the passengers had lost their baggage and did not receive it even after 40 hours, first update of missing baggage came after 36 hours, paid phones for customer service had a wait time of 25 minutes with no response, none of the emails sent to the service desk or twitter postings were even acknowledged. On top of all these, the staff were rude to passengers. More detailed insights from Vinod`s blog

While I can understand that there are technical and logistical glitches likely to happen, the aspects detailed above clearly indicate a fundamental failure to provide a supporting and courteous customer experience.

This cannot be termed as a one-off incident because there are clear disconnects at various touch points making it a pathetic and frustrating end-user experience.  From a Service Management perspective, I would focus on 4 main issues.

a)     Lack of ownership of the Service Desk to acknowledge, update progress and communicate to the user

b)     Staffing & Role fitment issues for various modes of email, phone, social media in addressing queries

c)     Behavior and attitude of customer service staff demonstrates lack of training, enablement and more importantly basic customer service etiquette

d)     Lack of Customer Liaison Champion or leader to be in charge, manage customer expectation and bring situation under control

The 2nd case is that of Fiat India where there was no customer redressal policy when one of its dealers, was at fault.

My friend had taken his Fiat Linea for service to get a break-fix done for an issue that occurred during his long distance travel. The dealer’s service engineers diagnosed it wrongly, suggested the owner should pay the charges without approaching insurance agency in order to save the no-claim bonus. After a few days, the issue reoccurred and highlighting that the dealer had done a shoddy job in fixing the root cause. During the time the car was with the dealer the front panel of dashboard buttons had been mishandled by technicians. So now the dealer does not own the charges even when they admit their carelessness and negligence in fixing it right first time. So when we escalated it to the customer service manager of Fiat India, there was a shocking excuse that they don’t have a customer redressal system if the dealer is at fault.

These reveal some startling aspects of Service (mis)management that can be summarized as follows

a)     Setting up of prerequisite criteria of requirements & compliance aspects before qualifying authorized dealers was not done in the first place.

b)     Absence of governance and control of dealer performance to the Fiat end users (Actions on feedback from customer, Customer redressal system, penalties)

c)     Lack of a clearly defined escalation path to get control of the situation and  address customer pain swiftly

Would not the lack of ownership by Fiat for the dealer`s mistake cost them dearly in terms of reputation and good faith?

Let’s not get carried  away by terms like value, customer delight when we are struggling to get the basics right and in spite of following the modus  operandi and standard escalation protocols, no result has happened for a month.

What can we do about it? As consumers, you have every right to voice your pain and publicize when the branded companies are refuse to admit and remediate for inconvenience.

So provide checks and balance to highlight the pathetic service and pass on the note to your friends and peers to be extra vigilant without blindly falling into a trap.

With the social media advantage, exercise your weapons to force companies to be accountable for their shortcoming and deliver corrective action and prevent such things happen in future.

Finally don’t get carried away by branding and certified standards.  Let’s ensure companies do not stay complacent on and rely on past laurels and history.   Will this be a wakeup call?

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