Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Keeping ME Happy.

Posted on: June 10, 2008

So this is how the evolution of services have been. First there were services which could not be expanded all over the place because the cost of rolling them out was huge. Take the case of banking services, telecom etc – it was not a simple task. Only the elite, socially rich could afford them because the prices were pretty much affordable only for those classes.

Then came software, commoditization of software and hardware and technology radically paved way for mass distribution of services everywhere and anywhere at a fraction of a cost.

The current stance is essentially is personalization. Not only is one demanding that they be serviced, but is also demanding that be serviced in a manner that suits them. Its the trend of the season and its gonna be here for a little while – bringing along with it, its own set of problems solutions and cause for change.

The timing that has been coincided with the proliferation of individual voices such as blogging, twittering etc have given this “personal me” a tremendous voice and power than ever before. It was said not too long ago, that the amount of noise that was created when AT&T blacked out a few years ago, is equivalent to the noise that is created when Robert Scoble or someone makes a comment on twitter these days. I am not surprised.

So what does this all mean? Two things. You have to ensure that you not only personalize and tailor make service for everyone, but you also have to keep them happy.

I am a little worried about our Indian companies in this space though. For one, lets take the example of the Telecom Giant Airtel. They have essentially become the 800 pound gorilla in the telecom space after they beat BSNL and just about everyone else in the way they’ve handled their branding, kept their market presence and with their customer support. But I’ve noticed something – a minor detail. I am on a prepaid Airtel account. I got a plan when some really strange offer was going on and i’ve kinda stuck to it – partly cause I see my colleagues struggling to keep up with running to the Airtel office every month to pay their bills. I really wish Airtel would do something along the lines of send a person to collect bills, atleast for those under a corporate banner. It would be a showstealer initiative. But coming back to the topic, I am on a prepaid account since its easier to recharge wherever you are, and my account doesn’t get disconnected on the note of not paying the bills in time. The occassional times that my credit does run low, I get this Interactive voice response unit which mentions that my account balance is low, and while it tries to fetch the balance remaining, it plays a tune saying “The feature is currently not functioning and is undergoing maintenance. We kindly request you to call after 6am tomorrow morning”. I heard that same note a year to six months ago. And I also have been hearing the same message from other users as well.

So, case in point. Airtel can’t manage the details. Perhaps its right that they don’t bid to go buy out south african companies yet. Not that reliance is any better. It’s also sad cause ever since Vodafone stepped in, Hutch which was the underdog, has become the bulldog of the turf and a few days ago there was a news that a fair bit of the top airtel executives were exiting. It’s a bit of sad news for an Indian company actually to get beaten up by Vodafone like this.

It doesn’t stop with them. I do have an account with Standard chartered and you wouldn’t believe some of the things they do, and expect people to walk away not noticing 🙂 They are one the slowest banks in terms of any service and charge for just about everything. But the state of all banks are as such here in India as of now. There is not much to say in comparison to anything better. Maybe HSBC and ICICI are fairly okay in that perspective. There is a company named Vyasa which was featured in proto.in which was exactly working towards this goal in the banking sector – to enable large banks to still mine data and provide customer friendly service.

This is where startups could thrive. Personalization and personal services are key to winning the heart of a customer. It’s crucial, nay a survival strategy for startups to understand and represent that attitude.

So lets say a startup does understand and embrace it, and grows to become fairly large. How does one still ensure that they keep that personal touch? I oft keep repeating that there is so much to learn from other sectors. In this case, the answer is very simple. Look into the case study of Mariott Hotels. The entire hotel was based on the ideology of offering a home away from home. They’ve scaled and expanded and yet kept that philosophy alive. Kingfisher in many aspects also embraces the same philosophy and it has become part of its branding. When you merge your core vision of setting your priorities as part of the branding of your organization, it becomes something much powerful than you can imagine.

Try it.

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6 Responses to "Keeping ME Happy."

Have you heard about an ADVOCATE or a POLICE OFFICIAL having a credit card from Standard Chartered Bank.
Strange to hear that this bank cites different reasons and rejects credit card applications if they come from an ADVOCATE or a POLICE OFFICIAL.

Currently most of the service cos from Mobile to Banking are competing with each other on price-points and user-base.

As you have mentioned ,it would be great if the same cos would be fighting on their best customer support or value added services. That would definitely keep you,me and most of us happy. i.e focal point being the customer.

The reasons for choosing a service co right now is either you have no other option or some other stale reason. Instead it is( as you have mentioned ) ’cause the service is suited for me or which makes my life simpler.

Also the cos reputation is so varied and fragmented. This poses another problem. There is no benchmark.(I haven’t had any MAJOR 😉 problems with Stan C for the past 3 years I ‘ve been holding their card).
—Sri

I was surprised that you did not mention in this post one of the key proponents of this model, C.K. Prahlad’s thoughts in the New Age of Innovation. For those who have not yet yet got a chance to grab the book i do think it is a must read.

The concept is driven around a model called N=1, what he terms as
“personalized, co-creation of experiences”

http://www.newageofinnovation.com/

Very True,Quality Shall emerge as winner towards final laps.

[…] also read a post yesterday on the evolution of service, which talked about technology making mass distribution of […]

[…] also read a post yesterday on the evolution of service, which talked about technology making mass distribution of […]

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