Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Closing the Loop" by Ashish Kulkarni

It’s almost too easy to communicate these days, isn’t it?

I could email you, if I had your email address. Or perhaps I could SMS you, if I had
your phone number. Send out a tweet that I knew would come on your Twitter stream,
perhaps, or send you a message on Facebook. A fax machine is quickly becoming
redundant, although we have that option still, if we so desire. All this, and of
course, I could still call you on your phone. Your landline, even – assuming you
still have one!

And yet, even with all this paraphernalia available, why is it that companies are so
unwilling to talk to their customers? Why is that practically everybody we speak to
seems dissatisfied with the level of customer service that they get? Just the other
day my neighbour was complaining about a rather reputed consumer electronics
company. It turns out his TV had gone on the blink less within a week of having
bought it.

All calls to the complaint department either went unanswered, or he had to go
through the (literally) life draining process of “press 1 for English, Press 2 for
Hindi”. And at the end of it all, he still hadn’t got a human response, let alone a
solution to his problem?

How difficult would it be for these guys to set up a Twitter account, or even a
Facebook page that could actually talk to their customers? Even if was just to say
something along the lines of “hey, we hear your problem, but we’re sorry – we can’t
solve it right away. But trust us – we’re on it, and somebody will get back to you
ASAP!”

Of course, you don’t want to do that all the time, but it would be an improvement
over banging your head on a brick wall – because at the moment, that’s what it feels
like!

Of course, there are many firms out there that are doing a more than respectable job
of talking to their customers. Quite a few have twitter handles (Cleartrip, for
example), while the head honchos fo some firms are active on Twitter (Anand
Mahindra, for example). But these are the early pioneers, unfortunately – we need
these examples to be the rule rather than the exception.

- Ashish Kulkarni

(Ashish is currently working on his PhD from the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics. He teaches Economics and Statistics at various colleges in Pune. He runs a boutique consulting firm, BPD Consultants, specializing in data analytics and training.)
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