One of the first learning of Business is that “Customer is king”. “Delight your customers to attract repeat business”, “In service industry, the only product you offer is Customer delight”, “A satisfied customer brings 5 more new clients” etc. etc. but these days I have begun to doubt that.
1. Kingfisher airline: Anybody who has flown on Kingfisher (before the crisis) would agree that this airline was a class apart when it came to customer service. However the airline was unable to charge a premium to cover the cost of the service and the airline has gone broke.
2. Ever walked into Big Bazaar, well how can one possibly walk in there? The aisles are so cramped and crowded that even a dash from entrance to exit takes 15 minutes. The constant noise of public announcements will make your ears bleed and the queue in front of the billing counter never seems to end. Yet it is the most successful (and talked about) super market chain in the country.
3. Almost any good club in India takes pride in imposing very stringent entry barriers for its customers. The clubs that screens it clientele (based on looks, perception of being loaded, hefty entry charge, cover charges etc.) are always overbooked. While the club next door that even offers “happy hours (50% off on drinks) and other discounts is always half empty.
4. I guess it’s not only the youth in the country, who is masochist. Most pricy fine dining restaurants will have long waiting queues. I swore there was a restaurant in Park Street who made me wait for 15 minutes even when the establishment was half empty.
5. Audit firms that are customer centric are only inviting trouble. Sometimes it’s good to be cold and professional in all your dealings.
6. My undergraduate school and my post-graduate school treated me like shit and spared no occasion to remind the entire batch (not just me) that how they are a disgrace to the prestige of the institute. Yet they continue to receive 1000 applications for every seat they have to offer. Employers flock around these campuses because the bruised (crushed) ego makes them ideal employees.
7. I know so many people who continue to curse the PSU banks for their ancient infrastructure, short operating hours, and the attitude towards customers in general. Yet they continue to bank with them.
8. One of the reasons for the decline to mature companies is that they are so much focused in serving the existing clients that they miss out on the new business opportunities.
9. Almost all the cloth stores in India have a sign that says that the store does not have any return policy, guarantee that the garments will not shrink after wash or that the colors will not bleed. Yet we have not stopped purchasing from them.
10. Walk into any big firm and you would see that PR (Public Relations) department focusing not on improving the public relations but limiting the damage that the company’s policies and statements have on its finances.
“Low cost” businesses ignore the clients because it reinforces their image of being able to provide the best price, no frills service for its customers. ‘Premium/Luxury’ businesses ignore their customers as part of their well thought off strategy to maintain exclusivity. It’s only the mediocre that are stuck with no plan or strategy that end up providing excellent service to their clients because they have nothing better to do.
Good guys always finish last.
So show a little spine and get rid of customers that make no economic sense to serve. Customer service is just one of the components of the Value proposition. Well positioned, quality offering which meets the clients requirements is the key to success. There is no free lunch and no free service.
Further reading: http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2012/03/how-deal-muppets