Saturday, April 10, 2010

Polarized Service Experiences

With everything going around, one should not be surprised if decision makers in companies take services for granted. There are waves after waves of various management topics that hit different countries and after sometime, corporate public (meaning working people!) tend to think it is well understood. It seems, on most instances the understanding is confined to the surface!

Service aspect of the business is one such thing that seems to be talked less these days. Two recent experiences clearly depicts how true this phenomena is and why one cannot take this element for granted! Essentially it differentiates between owning and loosing a customer. Lessons to be learned for every business.

Let's start with the bad example.....

There is this new Chinese restaurant by the beach which is considered to be a major hit among Colombo (Sri Lanka) crowds. Everything you hear about the place is fabulous. We too decided to check this place out. True to its reputation we found easy, protected parking at an area which is notoriously known for difficult parking. Security guys were very helpful.

We went there for dinner and to enter the premises you need to walk on the beach(sand) but first sight from a distance was absolutely superb. We were welcomed by a gentlemen(seemed to be the owner) who was very professional and courteous. Once the table was offered one of the waiters assisted us to choose food from the menu. It was the owner looking gentlemen who came again to take the order. He was almost down on his knees when he was taking the order. Needless to say the experience was extraordinary, right royal.

Food was really good. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Once everything was done it was bit late and we wanted to sign our cheque and leave early. I told one of the service boys to get me the bill. Five minutes on, nothing happened and I again inquired from another boy regarding the bill. He too rushed backed and did not turn up. By this time we could see the owner and the manager servicing so many other guests and we were trying to get their attention using every decent way possible. After 25 minutes since I first inquired about the bill, I stood up and walked towards where most people were with the hope of getting the attention of the owner or the manager. To my utter surprise none of them took notice of me. Finally I had to "excuse" myself a bit louder to get the attention of the manager. When I told him that I've been waiting for over 25 minutes he just rushed back and send another boy with the bill! When I completed the procedure and got up to go he just came towards us and said "sorry, the computers were not functioning".

Not too sure whether the hardworking owner even knew what had happened. Never the less the last billing incident screwed up what could have been a very good customer experience.

Now to the good example...... They call themselves the world's local bank, yes I'm talking about HSBC. I've been banking with them for well over nine years now. Problem with them is that everything is system driven and there are occasions where you feel you talk to officers who go by systems to provide service which you sometimes feel is below par. With all that, I continue to bank with them because my experience with other banks have been even worse.

For the last couple of credit card billing cycles I have only been able to settle the due amount in full only on the due date itself. But the problem is, for the bank to recognise the payment on that day you need to make the payment either physically or on-line before 3 PM on the due day. On both occasions I have been only making the payment after this cut off time. However as a long standing customer of theirs I demanded that I be not charged the interest which they levy against the total amount(which comes up to a sizable amount).

The officer who handled the issue previously suggested that he would reverse the interest charged against my card but to make the payment before the due date and time to avoid being charged again. He also said that I could call and inform the call centre in case there is a several hour delay with the payment receipt number to avoid being charged. However this time around due to unavoidable circumstances I could only pay 90% of the due money before and could only pay the balance on the due date after 3PM. Thus I have been charged total interest again.

When I brought the matter up with the call centre staff they were of the view that it is beyond their powers and that I talk to their supervisor. A detailed chat with the supervisor resulted in him reducing the amount to 75% of the original amount. After further deliberations he completely reversed the interest charged and also addressed the root cause to the problem. He changed my billing cycle to fall to 2nd of next month which suits me well which also gave me sufficient time to make the payments.

Trained people still make a world of difference!

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