Is customer the king?

Oct 14 2013, 09:39 IST
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Customer-centricity is clearly a corporate buzzword. Customer-centricity is clearly a corporate buzzword.
SummaryManagement students need to understand why customer-centricity is becoming a corporate buzzword

not have quite the same feel. I contacted the store bracing myself for an extended and possibly unsavoury engagement. But I was pleasantly shocked when the store-owner personally came over, along with his technician, not once but twice, and provided me with the perfect solution. This experience was the epitome of exemplary customer service, embodying its multifarious dimensions, viz. listen and understand the customer’s needs, empathise, and go the extra mile to provide a quick and convenient solution. Research shows there’s an 82% chance of a disgruntled customer returning if the complaint is handled quickly and pleasantly.

Conversely, most of us have abundant anecdotes of encounters at banks, airlines and restaurants pointing to inordinate delays, sloppy service and incorrect or lack of information borne out of either indifference or incompetence of the service provider. PH Ravikumar, managing director, Money Matters, relates several experiences where the accomplishment of routine tasks like transitioning from one telecom service provider to another or timely delivery of a subscribed magazine entailed an escalation to a higher authority. Pratap G, senior director, Human Resources at Maersk Global Service Centres India, cites situations like HR adopting a rulebook approach instead of responding to the pain points of stakeholders, and training vendors selling standard solutions through a prescriptive rather than a diagnostic approach, being indicative of the lack of customer-centricity.

So, what is the reason for this indifference?

Lack of training: Conducting a training programme at one of the finest clubs in Pune, I was bowled over by its impressive infrastructure and ambience. However, the lacklustre and unimaginative service at a sit-down lunch during the break led to an inordinate time overrun, upsetting our entire schedule for the day. The root cause evidently lay not in a shortage of staff but in a flawed process and ineffective training. Ravikumar attributes the deficit in service standards to a shortfall in training investment, inadequate customer segmentation and the absence of an indepth analysis of the pattern of customer grievances.

Staff turnover: The big churn of staff negates the investment in training. Ravikumar ascribes the ability of public sector banks to provide better service in non-routine areas to the greater depth of knowledge of the staff. This, he feels, is more as a fallout of lower staff turnover than better training.

Lack of empowerment: Isadore Sharp, the chairman of Four Seasons Hotels, made an interesting point in his keynote address at the 2010 annual Stanford Graduate

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