Sunday, March 07, 2010

a relationship story

Ah, well. Here is a story about much cliched, ever preached, and never practiced term - customer service.
I relocated to Hyderabad a month ago, from Bangalore. I had an Airtel postpaid mobile in Bangalore, and was quite happy with it. So, when I was preparing to shift, I thought I would continue with Airtel in Hyderabad as well. So, like a loyal customer that I was supposed to be, I called up Airtel customer care (another cliched term, who cares anyway?) and was soon talking to Anjali. I told Anjali the whole story and she listened to me as if she is my best friend. I wanted to know if they have any process where a customer gets transferred from a state to another, with least amount of effort required from the customer. Anjali thought for few seconds and then politely told me that they don't have anything like that, and that I will have to get a new connection in Hyderabad like anyone else. She, in other words, told me that me being loyal to Airtel for 4.5 yrs didn't at all matter and didn't gain me any mileage with them. Fair enough, I said, and dropped the call.
Cut to Hyderabad. Picture a train reaching a station, and the screen filled with 'Hyderabad Railway Station' board. Sorry, I am poor, and I work for a poor company, so you can't afford to picture a flight taking off and landing. Let's call it the austerity drive, sounds much elite that way. Well, let's get back to our story. I held on to my Airtel mobile connection, as if it was my last piece of memento from Bangalore, I loved Bangalore, after all. In the meantime, I also felt quite generous towards this Mittal guy and donated some extra bucks to him. Roaming charges, you might want to call it, if you are tech-savvy.
Finally when I got the address proof letter, that precious piece of paper which stated that I am not homeless in Hyderabad, I went to Airtel *Relationship Center*. Because you know, they don't give mobile connections to the homeless. You rather be a terrorist than being a homeless, because somehow terrorists always get mobile connections. Let's get back to the *Relationship Center*. I was greeted warmly by Imran there, he sure had a nice smile. I repeated the whole story that I had told few days back to Anjali. He too thought for few seconds and gave the same answer that Anjali had given me. He told that I can raise a request for canceling my Airtel Bangalore connection and get a new postpaid connection. I told him about my plans of getting a broadband connection. He took down my phone number and promised to put me across to their executive.
Murali called me the next day, Imran hadn't forgotten to pass on my number to their executive, Murali. He said he was the broadband guy, and was rearing to cater to my broadband needs. I was much happy, things are rolling on, I thought. Murali asked me where I lived, and I told him. He thought for few seconds, and told me in sad tone that they didn't have *feasibility* to provide broadband connection in my area. That made it sound like I am living in the dirtiest slum in Hyderabad, though Murali was kind enough to try and reduce the effect to minimum. I also appreciated the usage of word feasibility; that was corporate stuff, and you got to agree with those who use jargon.
I was back to ground zero, without mobile connection and broadband, left just with an address proof letter. I had to do something about it, now that I had stopped feeling generous towards that Mittal guy. After few clicks on the computer and few steps out in the Hills, I was standing in front of a Tata Indicom store. I held on to my address proof letter, and got in. Soon, I found myself sitting across Fareed. He was more scared than I was, not of me, but of his boss and of his deadly deadlines. He was nice to me, and within minutes I was carrying speed! Photon+ was the solution to my broadband problem. Sensing a bigger prey, Fareed asked me if I needed a mobile connection too. That was the test of my Airtel loyalty. To reel me in, Fareed shoved a piece of paper in my hand, I had one glance on it and I knew it was time to call it quits with my long-time friend, that Mittal guy. This Tata guy was asking less of my money to give me a mobile connection than the Mittal guy ever asked, Tata Indicom tariff plans were awesome! Fareed was kind enough to come to my house the next day and give me the postpaid connection. Not that he was great at serving his customers; he was bothered about his target achievements, and didn't want to let me go at any cost.
I went straight to Airtel *Relationship* Center after Fareed left, and raised a cancellation request. Imran flashed the same warm smile, and saved embarrassment to both of us by not asking why I wasn't taking a new connection with them.
There I was, with a Tata Indicom phone in my hand and speed in my computer. Happy ending? Not yet. Poornima called me the next morning. She introduced herself as Relationship Executive from Airtel. I was about to say that I didn't need any relationship advice, but she didn't give me any chance to speak. She demanded to know why I cancelled my Airtel connection. I told her that I relocated from Bangalore and wasn't rich as Mittal to keep a roaming connection forever. She said she is offering me a 'relocation package' where I get to keep last 5 digits of my Airtel Bangalore number and only first 5 digits would change, and she could send an executive right away to give me the connection. Just imagine, a relocation package, man!! She also told me that I was their valued customer and they didn't want to lose me. Just the stuff I wanted to hear. Sad it was that I wasn't destined to be loyal Airtel customer any longer, and sad it was that Poornima was just a bit late. I just laughed a sad laugh and said bye to Poornima.
So sad was I that I had to disappoint Poornima, I kept thinking about the whole thing for quite sometime. I was just thinking, why Anjali and Imran didn't know about this relocation package and only Poornima knew about it? Either it is their top secret or only Poornima works sincerely for Airtel. Funny it is, how the retention process starts only after the customer puts up a cancellation request. It is commonsense that a normal sane human being can't live without a mobile phone and they would get another connection before canceling an existing connection. Why don't they - Poornima and Anjali and Imran and Mittal - think about it? Isn't this a flaw in the process? Why can't they equip their Anjalis and Imrans with the knowledge of all the packages they have?
All said and done, I don't think Mittal will miss me much.
ps: Some names have been changed. No, not for protecting their privacy, I am not that nice to them. Just that I have bad memory.


vennila said...

This is so familiar. Life is a long fight against the absolutely arrogant and extremely clueless call center people!

Manasa.Vaacha.Karmana said...

Hmmm. Can relate to everything you have experienced... Wish someone from Airtel could actually read all this and then DO something about it...

Shrilatha Puthi said...

thanks for reading, girls. idea was to pull off a funny one on the whole event.

deepocean said...

Oh yeah...tell me about them. My frustration levels too are saturated and I have given up. I've come to realize, these companies really don't know what it means to care for a customer. Nothing more to say. I'm tired of all this. I quit. :)

Tina said...

Hi Shrilatha,
Loved your piece and couldn't help smiling!!

Leena said...

Title is too attractive which made me read the whole story.. Yes yes the story is very "touchy" touches all funny bone(s) ;)

Shrilatha Puthi said...

@deepocean: life's like that! i feel call-centre ppl make life interesting.
@Tina: thanks.. means a lot coming from the celebrity blogger :)
@Leena: thanks for letting me know that my purpose is achieved :)

Unknown said...

Yes, somewhat fits into Project 4 :)

Smitha T T said...

nice one. This is truth. Airtel has so many customers that they do not care for me and u.

Rajan Behal said...

Quiet Touchy,

Yeah, its all the same.
I don't know why but your actual worth is realized only after you call it a quit.

Shrilatha Puthi said...

@bhavna: thanks :)
@smitha: :)
@rajan: nice to see you here! hope you are doing good.

Vinutha N said...

Sarcastic wit at its best !
Loved it :)
Business is all bout being pro active but somehow when u are too big [ like Mittal ] the guys u hire may not die for your business.
Either ways even a post mortem report about why the 'customer had drifted' is enough to get their pay checks ;) After all they gotta prove that they do WORK n not simply kill time :)
Waiting for more !

Shrilatha Puthi said...

thank you vinutha..

Unknown said...

Very nice story...i can relate to many of things...Volga-ganga review took me to u r blog and now i can find u r blog as interesting as the book...keep blogging :)

Shrilatha Puthi said...

thanak you madhukara...