When I wrote the blog, WoWing the pestilential consumer, I had no idea that I will be writing Part II. But two recent experiences and some of the comments from my readers brings me back to the topic of consumer experience and customer loyalty. My first experience is with Vodafone. I have been a loyal consumer since 1999 when I bought my first mobile connection. Now in my house we have three post-paid Vodafone connections. Recently (around end-Jan/ Feb) I transferred my connections to my personal account from a corporate account. On my son’s connection I started getting bills that were fairly high given his limited usage and the plan we had opted for. When I checked the bill, I realised he was being charged for voice mail, international roaming and some other VAS (value added services), which he has no use for. So I called up the call centre and after following their instructions, I received confirmatory SMSs that the services have been cancelled.
So far so good. But when the bill came for the next month, we were still being charged for all the VAS that we had cancelled. I called up the call centre again and also sent an email to Customer Care, where an automated reply assured me of action within 48 hours. In 48 hours I did not get any reply and meanwhile I got a call to pay the latest bill at the earliest. I paid and waited for a resolution of the issues and sent a reminder or two to Customer Care.
Then I received the following email much to my delight -
“Dear Mr. Dutta, Thank you for your email dated 21/06/13, regarding International Roaming, Itemized bill and Voice mail charges for your Vodafone number XXXXX.
We regret for the inconvenience caused to you.
Further to our conversation dated 22/06/13 on the above mentioned Vodafone number, we confirm that the amount of Rs. 502.24 charged towards the rental for International Roaming and Rs. 168.54 charged towards the rental of Itemized billing in your bills dated 25/04/13, 25/03/13 and 25/02/13 including service tax has been adjusted towards the outstanding amount. This adjustment will feature on the 1st page of your bill dated 25/06/13 under the Adjustment column.
Additionally, we confirm that amount of Rs. 222.47 charged towards rental for voice mail in your bills dated 25/05/13 and 25/04/13 including service tax has been adjusted towards the outstanding amount. This adjustment will feature on the 1st page of your bill dated 25/06/13.
Alternately, we wish to inform you that we have updated your request for the deactivation of Voice mail and the same will be processed within 02 hours. You will also receive SMS notification once, the service gets deactivated.
Also, International Roaming and Itemized bill has been deactivated on your account effective, 05/04/13.
The rental for the Voice mail pack is charged on non-prorate basis and since, the service will be deactivated mid bill cycle we are further passing flat reversal of Rs. 99 for the bill dated 25/06/13 and the same will reflect in your bill dated 25/06/13 under page 3 or 4 Misc. Credits/ charges.
Please be assured that you would not be charged rental for International Roaming, Itemized bill and Voice mail services in future.
Mr. Dutta, given below are the Service Request reference numbers for your complaint and request and enquiries; in case you need to check for more details on the same, you can share these numbers along with your cell number with us.
Service Request Numbers: 647690744, 647690595, 647690391 and 1360091482…”
Imagine therefore my disappointment when I received the bill of 25/06/2013 with none (yes, none) of the above changes reflected in it. I have once again emailed to Customer Care two day back and still awaiting a reply. This brings me to the comment a reader (AJ) posted that we keep going back to a shoddy service provider. True, because we often have limited choices. The pain of switching service provider in this case is much larger than trying to resolve the issue. But just see how swiftly most of us have moved our banking relationships over the last decade or two. Just see how quite a few of us no longer care whether our MTNL or BSNL land line is working or not. Mine has not been for the last one week and nobody really cares!
Let me briefly relate the second anecdote. In Bangalore, my sister went to a Raymond showroom on Commercial street to get a business suit altered. She was informed that they do not do alterations. But then an old hand at the shop recognised my sister and spoke to her. Then he said that as an exception they will alter her business suit since she was an old customer. According to her, she was visiting the shop after many years since she no longer lives in Bangalore. Thrilled with the experience she ordered two more business suits from the same store. Now she will talk about her experience to ten other people who will remember the story.
This is how WoWing the consumer can get customer loyalty and additional business. The challenge for companies like Raymond is to universalise the experience. If they can, imagine what it can do to customer loyalty. This is something that a standalone kirana store often does very well. A marketing consultant once recounted this story – while ordering her weekly groceries, the kirana store boy asked her why had she stopped ordering a particular variety of cheese and some biscuits in recent months. Pleasantly surprised at the knowledge that the store owner keeps of his customers, she informed the kirana that those were items that her daughter consumed and she (her daughter) had gone abroad for her studies. Can organized retail with all the information and database try to replicate this? When will Godrej Nature’s Basket tell me that the kaffir lime leaves or Thai brinjals are there in the store on a particular day or that McVites Ginger biscuits are once again available? A ha, the pestilential consumer.