Now coming back to my experience of getting a pre-paid mobile connection in Ranchi, the capital city of the meneral rich and Naxal infested Jharkhand state of India. I came to this city nearly an year ago, after staying in the near by state of Chhattisgarh for three decades. My PSU employer wanted my services here now. The company provided me an official mobile connection operated by the PSU telecom company, BSNL. After a couple of months, I thought of having another mobile connection for my private use. So I went to a shop near to my residence, which displayed the logos of many mobile telecom operators. The shop owner told me the mandatory requirements for getting the SIM. I should have an identity proof and and address proof and a photograph.
For the identity part, I had many things with me. I had a passport, a PAN card issued by the Income Tax Department, a driving license issued the Transport Authority of my previous state of residence and my company's photo identity card. Except the PAN card all had my address also recorded, but those addresses were all where I lived before and not my current residence- the current residence at that time being my rented accommodation.
The shop keeper explained that any of the identity proof are okay, but for the residence proof none are acceptable. Then he suggested to have a notarized rent agreement for my rented accommodation. Fortunately I had that and all documents were submitted happily and I was issued the SIM of Airtel.
The SIM costed just about Rs.50. ( approximately one US dollar). Due to the cut throat competition and large scale volumes the connection costed just pea nuts !
So happily I went home with the SIM to be inserted in my new mobile hand set. The shop keeper had told me that the SIM would get activated by the Airtel company after they receive the documents. And I waited for that moment.
To my surprise, nothing happened for some days. I kept enquiring with the shop keeper. At last, after a lapse of about two weeks, he informed me that the company officials did not approve my address proof ! I asked the shop keeper to return my documents. Though he could not give it back, thankfully he returned the Rs.50 that was taken for the SIM. Since the pre-paid mobile connection was not such an important thing for me, I just left the thing there.
After a few months, my employer allotted me my official residence in the company's own township in a prime location in the city, a well known address of its own. Now I had my CPSU company's quarters allotment letter as the proof of residence at last.
With these documents, BSNL was happy to give me a pre-paid SIM which was activated in no time. BSNL being a PSU was now working much more efficiently than the private players. Thanks to the competition that the latter created !
Recently, I thought of having another pre-paid mobile connection. This time I went to the shop owner who got me the BSNL SIM connection. Since I had the BSNL, I thought of trying another operator and opted for Airtel once again forgetting my previous bad experience. At least this time I was pretty confident about the address proof. I gave him the same kind of documents I gave for getting the BSNL connection !
Fortunately, the connection got activated and I used it for nearly a week. In between I recharged it twice. Then all of a sudden, I got a SMS on the mobile asking to meet my shop owner in connection with the documents. Since the shop was near to my residence I went to him. He casually said to forget it. It is a common practice of this Airtel fellows, he informed.
Then to my surprise, in the next day, the mobile went dead. I approached the shop keeper, my only contact in this connection! This time he gave me back all the documents with an unsigned checklist with a tick mark on the column marked 'un acceptable address proof'. While all the documents had the signature and rubber stamp of the vendor who sold the SIM in the first place with due attestation of the verifications, the checklist returned did not have any such thing. It did not say who is returning the same or on whose behalf. It even did not bear the Airtel logo. Obviously, the company had outsourced this function to some local fellows who are either not competent or arrogant with their whimsical 'power' of deciding who can get an Airtel connection in Jharkhand.
This time I decided to do some research on this. Through google search I came to know that this kind of complaints are frequently happening with Airtel .
Just for a curiosity, I wanted to know how this company disposed their customer complaints.
So I found out their customer care e-mail from the Internet and wrote about this to :
I had clearly stated all the things regarding this new Airtel Prepaid SIM .
I had given my contact details and all such things that they would need to have a proper enquiry.
The next day a lady contacted me on my cell phone. She talked about the complaint which I had. She seemed understanding the problem.
She was apologetic for the whole incident. But her solution was that I should find out their office located in this city and meet some one there to resolve the issue. Perhaps to listen to their new demands! I do not know.
Having purchased the SIM from the local shop, I did not feel like spending my time and energy again to go in search of some offices of this company for making an argument with their incompetent staff once again to have the connection restored.
When there are many options left to the customers, no one would like to do such a thing.
But had this company cared really for the customer, they would have seen that a legitimate customer is not lost, even if that individual customer is not worth much for them taken solely. That is what customer care is all about.
But for many of the Indian companies, this is what the employees are not taught well.
And after some time of their existence, the employees start making rules of their own, pulling down the company that provided them their bread and butter for some years !
Unless the top brass of the companies take special interest, such things keep happening in all companies, not only with this Airtel.
Before concluding this, I remember how some similar instances of customer grievances that one of the prominent private banking company of India handled. The top management of this bank deliberately chose to be a six sigma company with regard to customer complaints, not just in words, but in action. The effect is that now most of the businessmen for whom banking transactions are very important for sustaining their businesses, chose to be the customers of this bank, for they knew that the bank would solve their problems if at all something wrong happens. In less than a decade, this bank became a consistently profit making venture and the number one in private banking sector in India.
That is the importance of customer care.
But when companies begin to forget it, the stage is set for them to perish !