C Gopinath

Feedback, please!

C Gopinath | Updated on January 13, 2019 Published on January 13, 2019

But do companies really act on it?

There is hardly a purchase of a product or service that you can engage in these days without a request for a feedback. This is certainly healthy and should be commended. It shows that the seller is interested in satisfying the customer and is looking for areas to improve. While such requests are mostly optional, some make it mandatory. My Uber app would not allow me to book the next ride without first providing a rating for my previous ride.

But how do we know if the service provider is actually acting on our feedback? Surely, we do not want another newsletter in the mail describing what they did. But we certainly should expect is to see an improvement over time in those areas where they were falling short. A leading wireless phone company whose service I subscribe to sent me an email alerting me to the fact that I am running low on my data plan. That’s helpful, but the phone number they quoted at the top was not mine. So I replied to the message saying they have mismatched my email address with someone else’s number. I promptly got a reply from the company signed by ‘Bhanumathi’ saying that the appropriate department has been informed and thanking me for my message. And is there anything else they can do for me?

The next month, I got another alert from the company about the low balance on ‘my’ data plan. I wrote to them again. Again, I got a very kind reply from ‘Jayashree.’ Is there anything else they can do for me? This happened again a few months later. It was beginning to feel like the movie Groundhog day in which Bill Murray acts as a TV weatherman who keeps reliving the same day. But this time, I replied to the company attaching screen shots of their previous replies and asking if they are really taking action? I got a very nice reply signed by ‘Visalakshi’ that they were taking care of my complaint. Is there anything else they can do for me?

All was quiet for a couple of months and then again I got an alert that I was running low on my data plan. Should I let my blood pressure rise, or close my account and move to another service provider, or …..just delete the message! I chose the last option as the sanest, fastest, and least disruptive. Surely, my meditation teacher would be proud of me.

As I was reflecting on why this telecom company would create an algorithm to reply to my messages if they had no intent of dealing with the problem, I received another message from my bank about how I was a ‘preferred customer’ and I should take advantage of the Customer Service Representative who was assigned to my account. Wow! I was excited till I realised that I had not been told who this person was and how I could contact him/her. I replied asking for details, and am yet to receive a response. They must be very busy with the thousands of account-holders asking for this information. In this narrative, I have not provided the names of the companies nor the real names of the bots who signed the letters for I do not want to use this column space to resolve my problems. But the two episodes narrated above is disturbing. These companies have adopted the façade of best practices without providing the back-up systems and procedures. Much like the ‘palace’ in a film set with nothing behind the façade. In the very competitive businesses they are in, customers are increasingly savvy and vote with their pocket books. Maybe I can profit by short selling their stock!

The writer is a professor at Suffolk University, Boston.

Published on January 13, 2019
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