Recognizing and Rewarding Honesty

After leaving Intel buying a new mobile subscription or requesting customer support has been very interesting. My two experiences with the customer service departments of Dell and Bharti has been really bad business, pathetic experience, root cause being not trying to understand what I or customers really want, but just blindly following their bad processes to service customers. Good customer service requires real time sound judgement, empowerment to make decisions and getting rewarded for making the good ones. Today businesses just lack the data, tools and quality staff to predict the intent of the customer they are trying to acquire or service.

The one assumption everyone makes in this country is that everyone is dishonest. When I first applied for a Airtel postpaid mobile card, I had to pay a Rs 2000 deposit to enable India roaming, business critical since I spend a lot of time in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. Just before leaving for New Zealand, request for international roaming required me to travel to a local outlet and pay another Rs 6000 in cash to enable international calling and roaming. I decided not to pay and Airtel lost 10 days of business opportunity through my trip. Airtel is clueless for sure, for they could have got a clue from Bank of Baroda, HSBC or Citibank where I have banked for the last 37 yeaars. Airtel for sure is going to make some short term gains as the supply demand gap is bridged but long term their brand for sure will not represent good customer service.

After using Airtel for 2 years my wife received a phone bill for Rs 800, her usage amounted to 120 minutes, average prices are generally Rs 1 per minute. She never questioned the amount and paid the bill assuming Airtel is right. When I got to review the bill, it just did not add up. So I trekked upto the nearest Airtel retail office and asked the service representative to explain the bill. Of course he could not explain and requested to log into the billing system. After trying for 20 minutes to log into the billing system, he reported a call to a 600 number for 1 hour 20 mins that was charged rs 450. Till then me nor my wife had never heard of a 600 number, I was also told that one calls a 600 number for downloads etc. The sub-standard customer service rep could not smell there was something of an exception that had occurred. The call to this number was unique with no historical precedence before or after the call. He did not even try to investigate the situation, when I asked to cancel the connection he immediately handed me the cancellation form. Not for a moment did he realize that this is a INR 2000 revenue business from the same address. He was an inexperienced new graduate who of course thought he was smart with his partial shave and Shoaib Akhtar hairstyle with no appreciation or understanding of who really paid his paycheck. If he had waived the call I would be a sworn Airtel customer for life. Bottomline I have no credit respect or credit history or a starting point to contest the call.

(via Indian Express) This morning KV Kamath, respected banker and chairman of ICICI Bank, in the India Empowered section talks about why this country needs more credit penetration. He does not anywhere in the article describe how it is to be done. Someone honest has no place or standing in Indian society. How does a rickshaw wallah who has been honest for the last 25 yeras get an emergency Rs 10,000 loan. My last domestic helper after borrowing Rs 3000 disappeared to the village. On further investigation we discovered, loans taken from local money sharks at more than 10% interest per month when her husband was hospitalized for 3 months and passed away. When the loan sharks threatened to evict her from the house she stayed in, she appealed for a loan and I obliged. She had worked with us for a year and for the most part happy with her work. A good insurance could have covered the expense or credit rating could have definitely helped her secure a loan at a lower interest rate. When the most respected banker in the country gives his views we need his help to understand how credit reach can indeed be improved.

The issue very fundamental to this country, it does not reward honest people. It continues to suspect everyone with a microscope. If one has been a honest tax payer, not bounced a cheque, paid all phone, electricity and muncipal taxes on time, then the big question mark ? why this citizen is not given more recognition. Even Pakistan had special immigration lines for those Pakistan Non Residents who invested back in their country. Why don’t we raise the customs limits for those that pay taxes and get better service at the local government offices and police stations. The ones that get better service at police stations or government offices are the ones who bribe the local officers and not those that paid his salary with honest and timely income tax filing and settlement.

What should our general behaviour to this issue be ? Be nice to the sincere, tough with the suspicious and smart enough to differentiate between the two.

Dedicated to Sunil Mittal who can build an everlasting brand, P. Chidambaram who has started fringe exploitation of the honest corporate business houses and KV Kamath who needs to get out of his posh office and confront reality.

Please note I have taken Bharti as an example for I have experienced it. My friend Atanu can give you a earful on Tata Indicom. I am trying very hard to avoid the government institutions like BSNL, Indian Airlines, police stations, customs etc.

And lastly Dell I have not forgotten you. Some other time in another blog for sure.

3 thoughts on “Recognizing and Rewarding Honesty”

  1. Well we all pretend that consumer is king in India. We are still are far from consumer satisfaction forget about consumer delight. Great treatment from service industry is the luxury of the top high worth individuals and will be that way till the industry does some price corrections on their products and services. I think most of the providers don’t have buffers to deal with rouge customers and hence the good consumers suffer.

  2. Urgent need. The honest taxpayer. The non-Corrupt official. The honest employee. The Honest Politician. Should get rewarded. There should be a ‘honesty rating’ for an individual. The rating should be given by an agency like Crysil. Norms should be established. Honesty need not be judged only with respect to money transactions. The HQ ( Honesty Quotient) standards and methodology should be established by a good auditing firm and a psychologist. It should be 90% accurate, and it should be reniewed periodically. The person should pay the assessing firm to get the HQ determined for him and he can put it in the resume, advertisement etc. The assesing firm can also get paid by the company which wants to hire people, or the supplier or the angel invester or the bank or the voters. I think if i were to hire a purchase guy or an accounts guy it would be a great help if i had this rating.

  3. Yes I agree that honesty is not widely popular as it should be. But there are honest people in the country which is why we are able to have a peaceful sleep without any worry of an enemy attack across the border, we are able to eat what we want, go to different places(with some delay), speak to our friends in spite of noisy links. Yes, the country is very much inching forward due to some people who are working. it could be that 80% of the job is done by 20% of the people. But we are inching ahead when we could have been sprinting! We have copied quite few of british style but left out on national integrity and character. We as indians do not take pride in being honest. It is considered out of fashion. why? If we have an organisation to identify and reward men of character I am sure the nation would benifit in the long run. It is basic upbringing of character and values that makes man run trains on time, make sure the telephone lines donot break, mobile bills are made correctly, car is serviced properly.

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