Customer Service takes a back-seat, yet again

You would think that given we have so many service providers competing with each other in almost every sector in India, you, the customer, would finally be the king. Or Queen. Demanding and receiving prompt, hassle-free service.

Poor gullible you. Or poor gullible me, to even expect reasonable service, let alone stellar service.

Case #1: We moved houses, just two floors down, same apartment. I call Airtel Broadband services to come and fix the line at the new flat. They take down the service request, and inform me, to my surprise, that they would disconnect me immediately, and the  service people would come over to my apartment any day over the next 3 days to fix it. I try to explain, calmly even though I knew  it was going to be quite futile, that I work from my home office, and 3 days of not being connected puts me in spot, so please could they disconnect on the day when the shifting service folks would come. “No Madam, our process does not allow it, the request will not go through to the shifting dept unless we disconnect you now”. Process?? What goddamn process? I get all mad and fired up, and ask them why not, to which of course there is no reply, except that the process would not allow it. It felt like I was trying to break through a stone wall. Deep breath.

Case #2: The Airtel guy comes to shift. Disconnects everything from the apartment above, comes to the new apartment and fiddles around for 3 whole hours one evening, and again 3 hours the next morning. No connection, nothing. “Madam, problem with the wiring”, classic if you don’t know whats wrong, pass it along. Turns out he was trying the wrong point altogether.

Case#3: I’ve not watched any TV for the last 2 weeks, thanks to the Tata Sky guys. Same story – guy comes, rips out the Tata Sky disk on the roof-top to make sure the connection is gone, comes down and demands extra money for fixing it in the new apartment. This one is down-right extortion. Unfortunately, he did not realise not everybody is a TV addict. And he did not realise how stubborn Appa can be at times. So off we packed him, and the disk is still lying in the balcony of the old apartment.

Case#4: Tiresome, just writing about it. But for the sake of completeness, I have to tell it all. So today, I go to ICICI bank. I ask for a cheque book, in that it says clearly, “if your address has changed, please update it here”, with a form below for the new address. Lady at the counter tells me sorry, but first you have to update the address, and then ask for a new chequebook. Hello, why do you have it in the same form then, I reason with her. She is blind to reason – the dreaded word comes through again – “Madam, Process”. She may as well have told me sorry, but I am not allowed to think, I’m only supposed to be a machine replacement. I huffed and puffed my way to the managers office, who tried to tell me the same story, but somehow he could not put up the stony resistance of the teller, and promised to Try. Okay. Try. I know very well you are going to call me saying the Process did not allow you.

Case#5: Well, this one is not so bad, but it showed very plainly what is wrong with frontline service staff in almost all companies in India. A lack of a back-bone to make decisions, thats what. I went to pick up tickets for the Qadir Ali Baig foundation’s Theatre Feastival ( my rant about the cultural scene in Hyderabad worked) at HICC, Novotel. The lobby manager tells me tickets are with the sales manager, who is in a meeting for the next one hour. What?? I am coming here to buy your tickets, for God’s sake, and you tell me I’ve got to wait in the lobby for an hour because the sales manager is hoarding the tickets somewhere. What irked me more than anything else was the sheer servile attitude of the lady – she was actually scared of calling up the sales manager, because, you see, he was in an important meeting. After half an hour of waiting, I threatened that I would walk into the sales meeting, and give them a pitch about customer empathy. Magically, the sales manager appeared. Sad to say, sometimes you have to appear more mean than others to get your stuff done.

Happy news, I am going to two plays directed by Naseeruddin Shah tomorrow and day after.

Bad news, customer service is only lip-service. It rarely appears. Anywhere. At least not among the people I seem to be encountering. It would be wrong though to blame the boys and girls, mostly junior folks, who are routinely dealing out such lousy customer service. I would, in fact, blame the company, and specifically, those higher up the chain, who are supposed to, empower their employees to make some rational decisions on behalf of the customer. Somebody needs to tell them, processes are okay, but customers come first.


One thought on “Customer Service takes a back-seat, yet again

  1. ICICI Bank Care October 28, 2009 / 3:43 pm


    We’re from ICICI Bank and are sorry to hear about your experience. Please write to us with your contact details and account number at and we’ll be glad to assist you.

    ICICI Customer Service Team.

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