Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Appraising the Politicians

Most of us who are part of corporate world have to go through the grind of annual (and in my company's case - semi annual) appraisal cycle. This was very astutely called Character Record (or CR for short) in my dad's organization (any guesses why? :) ). Whatever we call it appraisal is a process where an appraiser (employer/manager) gives us feedback about the performance of the appraisee during the appraisal period, identifies his strengths and areas of improvement (a euphemy for weakness), measures performance against set targets and set targets for the next cycle. It is a fairly standard process with slight variation across all kinds of job.

Interestingly, I have never heard that such a thing exists for the most important job in the country. That of the elected political leaders. Shouldn't we, as the people who elected them to their offices, at least have the right to ask them what exactly they have done for the people of this nation? Shouldn't we, as tax payers who part with over a third of their hard-earned money to pay for these politicians' Z-grade security, escort of dozens of cars, palatial living quarters, numerous foreign trips, deserve to know where all this money is going apart from providing comfort and luxury for them?

In a perfect world, as a citizen appraiser I would love to set real targets for the politicians. Targets that can be quantified and compared - like what percentage of people were brought above poverty line, improvement in literacy rate, increase in per capita income, fall in crime rate, availability of basic amenities for common man, generation of employment .... so on and so forth. But this is definitely not a perfect world, so in reality our politicians have agenda like drive away non-Maharashtrians from Bombay, demolish Babri Masjid, make a new state, change name of a city/street/square/airport/museum, annihilate people of a religion/community/caste/tribe, ban dancing/smoking/drinking and so on. My memory fails me when I try to think when was the last time a politician took up a real issue and did something for it.

We pride ourselves in being the world's biggest democracy, but I see more reason of being ashamed of this farce we call democracy. Does being big only mean having a higher number?

Image courtesy: www.rediff.com

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Customer (dis)service

The past couple of weeks have made me wonder whether there really exists such a thing as Customer Service in India. The move to our new home entailed moving our satellite TV connection, broadband, water purifier among other things. We started enquiring about the maximum lead time for moving these service more than a month prior to the actual date of moving. Everyone gave us timelines from 3 days to 5 days. We tried to play safe and requested these services with 2-3 days more than the timelines given by these companies. Little did we know that we should not judge a company by its sales department, which is always extremely responsive, attentive to customer needs and goes out of the way to fit in your schedule. The true picture of a company is reflected by its customer service department.

Some of the companies that have left a very bad taste for us due to their extremely unprofessional handling of service requests are -
  • Tata Sky - it by far tops the list of poorest customer service providers. For servicing simplest of service requests like change of address in their records, they took more than a month. For changing the package, we were given two totally different details & tariffs by two of their service reps. Even making payments through their voice response systems has been a challenge. I unsuccessfully tried making the payment for 1.5 hours before giving up.
  • Eureka Forbes - We needed to move our Aqua Guard water purifier to the new home. They seem to have very selective way of handling different types of services. When we called them to renew our annual maintenance contract for another year AND for moving the purifier to the new home, they came within an hour for the contract renewal. But the service for moving the purifier is yet to be serviced, after at least fifteen follow up calls in the past 4 days and threats of taking them to consumer court
  • Airtel Broadband - I was most disappointed by Airtel, because all along I had always recommended Airtel broadband to everyone in the past as I had never faced any problem with their connection. They had assured us of getting our connection moved to the new home within 3 days. It has been 5 days and still counting after receiving multiple 'within 24 hrs it will be done' assurances. I can foresee many days of no internet connection ahead
  • LG - We had placed a simple request of checking the motor of our microwave oven (as it made some noise) and it took them over a month to service it after innumerable calls to their service centers

I will definitely think many times before taking any more products from these companies. The unfortunate part is, all of these companies are renowned and are good when it comes to sales but they are extremely apathetic when it comes to customer service. We keep hearing that customer is the king these days but I, for one, definitely don't feel like a king (or queen) after the so-called service being meted out to me.