Friday, October 22, 2010

Irate Customers : Caring or Firing ?

Tall and bald man of Chinese descent was furious. He hung behind a soft shoulder bag that is often symbol of young software guys. He pounced on the ground staff of Jet Airways questioning him why there was no display of Belt Number where SQ424 would be arriving. I saw one display at one end but realized that that it was missed baggage reporting station. We reached the counter ' May I help you ' and he yelled at the man on the counter again, muttering and abusing with himself. I wouldn't blame him. It was past midnight and our flight had landed 1045pm. First 20 minutes wait for gate to be allocated and then 30 min wait for bus to arrive and put ladder to connect. Hauled into rickety bus, with three ground staff instructing driver by thumping on the body of the bus with one saying ' Go' the other two saying ' Stop'. Poor driver had no choice but to put a sudden brake after pushing the accelerator paddle. Singapore lady next to me chuckled; she was trying to smother her laugh by looking outside the window. This man had no such intentions and he continued to curse himself while waiting at Belt 5. By now, each belt had minimum two flights mentioned but our bags were not in sight. After another wait of 15 minutes, public announcement happens that SQ424 would be at Belt 6. Normally, a melee is common with trolleys hitting few knuckles and free flow of abuses. Luckily nothing of this sort happened. Customs too let people with small bags go without putting them on the x ray machine. The queue over there is often serpentine. I didn't see this man again but I wish I was as half demanding as him. An Indian bred in India, tolerance level for accepting indiscipline and shoddy management is much higher and I must correct it. At Marriott Courtyard, man who settled my bill appeared to have a hidden agenda of overcharging me. First, he charged me for ' leprosy fund ' and then informing it as an option. Next, he billed me for an Internet when it was free and saying sorry after pointing it his folly.
Similar situation was presented to me within next 48 hours at Leela Kovalam Hotel. I had booked meeting room in advance and had confirmation. When reached the place at the appointed time, the room was locked. After scurry of personnel getting the key, room was littered with packed boxes. None had any idea about the meeting. Guys at the reception huddled together started punching telephone button instructing someone to do something. I remembered bald Chinese at Mumbai airport and tried to emulate his histrionic skills. Things started happening at rapid pace. Within 1o minutes room was and everything was in place. Hotel didn’t charge me for the projector and let me have checkout without any extra charge with liberal spread of apologies.

Managing Irate and angry customers could be one subject that most companies in the service industry must be spending their money. But Sprint way of handing such customers intrigued me. Instead of winning irate customers they fired them. In 2007, Sprint did this to 1,000 customers and in return got a negative publicity. But it seems the decision made economic sense. These 1,000 customers used lot of resources and were liability with their hard to please attitude. The more the company spent resources on them, more they became impatient, and rude. I am not sure if this was the right move by Sprint and if anyone else emulated this. Most companies tend to ignore such customers but I feel if a company could manage and turn around their most demanding and irate customers they develop the fangs and the tenacity to combat the competitive forces when the going gets tough.


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