Exhibiting Customer Care (?)

Communication is a good tool which can be used to display customer responsiveness. I was quite delighted as I got on to the Indigo flight last week. Since I was taking one of their flights after a fairly long time, I was quite surprised at the constant communication over the flight announcement system.

What came as the topping on cake was when the crew member announced our imminent landing requesting us to stop using our electronic gadgets but not before we “Save” our work! Though a very small (maybe minuscule) gesture, it does mean a lot to that one guy in a hurry travelling for an important meeting. With most of the world hurrying most of the time, I felt it was a very useful reminder. And it did have many of us give a warm smile.

Unfortunately in the same travel I encountered a diametrically opposite incident. My co-passenger enquired if there were any hot meal available.  It definitely looked like she was looking for a dinner meal – the hostess said that she could provide for some hot vegetable biryani – which she also said was very good in her opinion.  You can imagine if you were offered this option on a domestic late evening flight – it does sound quite attractive. So the passenger made the order. And to her surprise and consternation she was handed a small plastic box containing some rice combination (ready-to-eat) with hot water poured into it from the flask. The hostess instructed the passenger to wait for 8 minutes by which the vegetable biryani will be cooked! Yes, you got it right! The meal would be cooked in 8 minutes in front of the passenger, making it “Hot Meal”. As the poor passenger ploughed through the meal that refused to cook itself, she trashed the box quite upset. Personally as an observer I found it amusing. What was the need for this to have been sold as “Hot Meal”?

Comparing to the earlier instance where they exhibited extreme care with something as subtle as “saving work before closing the laptop”; I found “serving uncooked / half-cooked food” was definitely not exhibiting care at all. I am not evaluating whether it is right or wrong for the airline to have charged 200 INR for that meal – but I am only pointing out to the contrast. It is important to understand how “customer care” is not aligned across activities.

It takes a lot of overall thinking in putting together a series of “customer service activities” and importantly they need to be aligned amongst themselves and to an overall guideline. This is where many organizations fail when it comes to customer service. In spurts we have examples of exemplary customer service, but the numerous mishaps cover up those rare moments of great care.

Though I do not think it is fair to single out Indigo for service, I am only using this experience as a case-in-point to highlight the lack of overall organizational planning with respect to institutionalizing a sensitive area such as customer service.

Happy Thinking!


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