7 Jun 2012

An Interaction with Vodafone Customer Service Raises Other Questions...

My first customer service interaction with Vodafone got me thinking - "Where does India stand when it comes to Customer Service? Further, where do we stand while solving problems for those not personally related to us?"

Vodafone Service?
I bought a voucher from Vodafone (the one of bonus SMSes), which had a distorted code when I scratched it. I called Customer Service who told me to visit the vendor. When I did, the vendor said the process had changed. I had to visit a Vodafone Store. That was delay no. 1. I visited a Vodafone Store, where the rep, Laxman, asked me 100 details before telling me it would take 48 hours for Vodafone to put the SMS pack onto my account. No amount of discussion with him helped, so I walked out and thought I’d try elsewhere. This was delay no. 2. I was en route to meeting a friend in Dombivli, where I sawa another Vodafone service centre. I decided to try my luck there. They took my details and told me the same thing – 48 hours. I tried to reason with them, saying I didn’t make them wait 48 hours for payment when I bought a voucher from them; that I would lose money (1 buck per SMS) for those 2 days. I expected some empathy; instead I got apathy. The manager at Dombivli, Haridas, even went to the extent of saying it was my fault the voucher was screwed. He made it sound like he was doing me a favour by going through the process; a process which was more harmful to me than useful. In the end, exasperated, I gave in and walked away. Living up to their reputation, Vodafone recharged my account in – DRUMROLLS PLEASE – 72 HOURS! This drove the final nail in the coffin.

What if the customer involved was someone who couldn’t afford the amount lost over the next 3 days? I’ve worked for an international telecom organization, where we had the option of adding some credit, SMSes, etc. to make life easier for customers when such system generated issues occurred. Can’t the same thing be done in India? When it comes to providing Customer Service here, we often take a beating.

The Expected circle includes what an organization is expected to offer, while the augmented circle includes features/aspects which go beyond expected offers. When an organization blends aspects from the augmented circle into the expected one, it will achieve success and leapfrog competition.
Whole Product Circles

The same applies to Customer Service (CS). When CS goes beyond what a customer expects Brand Equity and credibility improve exponentially. That’s one reason we’re losing the BPO business to Philippines. They focus more on customer satisfaction and finding alternate methods to help, which enhances the customer experience with the brand. We, on the other hand, are still stuck with the concept of... you guessed it... PROCESS!

The PROCESS said I must wait 2 days (actually 3) for a recharge I had paid for; PROCESS says a car cannot be repaired urgently in a workshop though the reason may be genuine; PROCESS is what hurts most of us even in the corporate world. Being accommodating seems to disappear when we have to give; it appears when we want. Giving me 10 free SMSes would’ve cost Vodafone barely anything (10 SMSes x 10 p/SMS = Re. 1). In trying to save that 1 rupee, they’ve lost out on lots of good publicity they could’ve received through customers like us, which is priceless.

My professor told us about a rule in Wal-Mart where anything can be replaced/refunded in 8 days! No questions asked. However, most people who take undue advantage of this rule in USA are Indians. They use something purchased from Wal-Mart and return it in less than 8 days saying they don’t need it. My professor wanted to have a razor blade exchanged he had purchased in Manhattan when he went there again. He had no bill or service number, etc. The rep simply told him it was a defunct piece, no longer in production and replaced it with the latest model. No questions asked, no answers given! On the other hand, when he tried to use the warranty option at CROMA for an article he purchased, he was made to run around so much that he let it go.
VODAFONE and other Indian brands, are you listening?


  1. So true...everyone at some point in their life has had a horrid experience with customer service and somehow it never ever gets better!! Ive been a victim of this several times..and im now literally petrified the moment a product shows even remote signs of going kaput!! Hope SOMEBODY is listening!!

  2. they are and they will not listen for sure, i think we must call CC operator again regarding this issue :P
    technically we are improving their business :D
    and i missed to mention, these guys are educated, white collar robbers !

  3. it's more or less the same with all service providers here. most of them are not well-informed about the service which they are offering and the rest absolutely apathetic. we need to avoid them as much as possible otherwise you will only get annoyed.

  4. Thanks for your comments, people. It's true that all service providers in India are almost the same, and that's the whole point of this post; we Indians collectively fail when it comes to offering CS but expect a lot when we have to receive some. Thankfully I've seldom had to interact with CS; prefer trying all avenues to solve a problem before approaching them.

    Cheers :)

  5. Indian marketers/manufacturers have yet to mature for world class customer service. Even the international organisations like Vodafone stoop low in India. I had equally pathetic experience with Vodafone and was anxiously waiting for 90 day period to use number portability. I used it and opted out, but again Vodafone screwed up and I had to reapply. That gave them one extra month revenue from unsatisfied customer. Indians customers must start dictating the terms for better service. Incidently I had a good experience with Britannia for Cheese and Onjuse for juice. HUL was bad on attending the complaint but gave the replacement for poor standard Kissan mix fruitjam, perhaps the only one in India that need to be refrigerated after opening the bottle, and yet gets fungus.

    Wake up Indian customers, the companies make money because of you

    Good job Vishal, I appreciate

    1. Thank you sir; for reading and appreciating :)

  6. I had a similar experience while converting the post paid connection to prepaid connection. They asked me to get endless no of documents, 3 times. Had I asked for a new connection, they would have given me with minimum documents and that too within one day.

    And to think about it, I ve been their customer since 12 yrs now !!

  7. Vishal, Nice that you have raised this issue. It needs to come out in the public domain. Telecom companies do everything to ensure they get you as a customer and then when you are finally a customer, they ignore you.

    You always have a MNP trump card with you Vishal. Raise it the moment you get the slightest irritation! And then notice their behavior.

    1. Thanks Binu :)

      The grass is just as brown on the other side of the fence.

      The point here is not to complain about one specific company's behaviour; it's to bring to our notice the behaviour we Indians adopt when it comes to solving problems of those we don't know (be it customer service or everyday routine).

  8. Hi Vishal

    Very nice post. Customer Service does go for a toss in India. If its an educated person they would atleast bother to respond. If its an illiterate or a timid individual he would be taken for a super ride in India.

    1. Very true, Jayshree. Especially the last line.

  9. Good post Vishal. How can we solve this problem?

    - Corporate world can put incentives to control their employees. But how can we control the franchisee?

    Let's start discussing solutions and see if we come up with something we can do!

  10. Fantastic take on the so-called 'customer service' .... what our CS agents don't understand is the concept of 'opportunity costs'. Try as you might, we look at every customer with a complaint as a 'cheating' customer. Wonder when we learn to appreciate the real driver of the economy!!


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