Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dial '' for Customer Care

The average Indian is worse than Mt. Krakatoa. Beaten, bruised, let-down and cheated by all, he trusts no one and in return isn't faithful to anyone for the very same reason. The government lets him down by pocketing his hard earned money to buy their children that expensive little toy (read BMW) with which he could feed his family of four and maybe get a roof on his head. 

When the public sector doesn't come out to help you often enough, you turn to someone of your own kind, the private players. Almost 20 years ago when the massive Indian economy opened its pearly gates to let anyone and everyone in, people heaved a sigh of relief that the western world was here to save the day. Better infrastructure, job security, improved quality of living and a better life, in general, was perceived to be not too far from Indian shores. This dream was not entirely fulfilled because most players exploited a gaping loophole in the Indian law and order system. Well, its not really a loophole its simply the mere absence of law and order in the country that was taken for granted. American brands, which had to take astronomical efforts in order to make sure their customers were happy, were let loose to do almost anything they wished. Products without adequate security labelling, sub-standard and at times toxic materials used for baby products, chemically induced food products and life threatening transportation options maybe a norm amongst their lives. The sole reason why the party went on far beyond the deadline is because the night guard was fast asleep and the watch dog was simply never there.

Birds have often been used in mythology and ancient history as a mode of fast communication or fast transportation. We have all heard of pigeons as messaging systems, mythical demons that can fly and modern planes as the fastest mode of transportation in today's era. Flight was associated with speed, quick dispatch, strength and something very hard to catch and pull down. No surprise that it was lone blue bird that came to the rescue, not just for our country but for the entire world.

Social media is one such tool that started off as a mere way of interacting and connecting with people with brands soon jumping onto the social media bandwagon. Where the people at, we go. In earlier days, in fact even today, when we cal a customer care number, our grievance remains confined to the one-on-one conversation with the executive on the other end. The brands solution to the problem is mostly confined to the same corridor of communication and nobody outside it is familiar unless one makes the effort of spreading it. Social media, and the brands presence on it, has allowed customers to publicly voice their satisfaction or dissatisfaction about a brand to everyone who is listening to hear it. Now, the very same dissatisfied customer can tell thousands of others of their problem and hence negatively influence the purchasing decision of other customers. The advantage for the brand, however, is if the problem is tackled smartly and efficiently, consumers would be proud and they might just gain some followers because even the average buyer understands that everyone can make a mistake every now and then.

The reason of starting this blog was to publicly voice satisfaction or dissatisfaction towards a brand and in almost all the cases, the result has been astounding. Brands who failed to take any kind of action when multiple calls to the customer call centre was made now suddenly sprung into action the moment someone tweets about their product. Try it; the next time a major brand upsets you, put a simple tweet and if you can, tag the brands twitter handle on the message. I can assure you that 7 out of 10 times the brand would respond back and speed up the solution to your problem far more efficiently than they would if you had called a toll free number.

Its sad to see that people need a rap on their knuckles to straighten things up but on the flip side, at least we have brands now give two hoots about their customers bad experiences. I urge readers to use social media to bring out that good/bad brand message which would not only tell your friends and family of what is good and bad but also make sure brands don't take the consumer for granted and in the long-run, improve their service and product quality.

Please feel free to post any thoughts you have upon this or share any other similar experiences that you might have had with regards to brand experiences and social media.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Matrix Cellular: Unauthorised contract extension

Matrix cellular became popular for its international sim card services where travellers from India could purchase sim cards with an international number from India itself and thus promising to ease the cellphone dilemma whenever one travels abroad.

I recently undertook a year long stay in the UK and decided to avail the services of Matrix. The sales representative promptly arrived, led me through the formalities and I had a working sim card in my hands withing a few hours' time. I had signed a one year contract that was slated to end on Sept, 2011 which I assumed that Matrix would self-terminate upon the completion of the contractual date.

I received a pleasant surprise when Matrix generated a bill for the entire month of September and October and expected me to pay it. A call to their call centre revealed that until and unless I ask for a termination of contract, the bills would continue to be generated and in order to terminate the same, I must send an email to the concerned department requesting for it. Although a bit flustered at their cheek in extending the contract without intimation, I sent an email as told to me and included the clause that I would be unwilling to pay any amounts due after the official completion of the contract date and a fresh bill with these amendments be sent to me at the earliest. A confirmation of the same was received by Matrix and I assumed the chapter to be closed.

To my horror, a subsequent bill for the month of November was raised. At this point I decided to ignore any communication from Matrix. I had done my part in informing them for termination which they have sadly failed to execute. Constant telephone calls were received by my father from Matrix, demanding he pay the outstanding bill amount. After explaining to every possible person who made the calls, the bills continue to float in, till this day.

The comments section would prove that Matrix attempted to get in touch with me to resolve the issue. They claim that the contract contains a clause where the connection 'rolls over' to a monthly basis after the contract term expires, which I found hugely absurd. After agreeing to pay off their outstanding, Matrix amazingly screwed once more by generating an incorrect amount and attempted to claim payment for bills already paid. The issue is finally resolved with Matrix waving off any outstanding amount.

Issue Summary:
1. Non-termination of services after expiry of contract
2. Non-termination of services after requesting for the same
3. Continued harassment for bill payments

To begin with, Matrix isn't very cheap unlike the way they advertise themselves. Their charges are ridiculously expensive and far cheaper services in UK like Lebara, Lyca, Vonage etc. sell for 1/20th price that Matrix charges. Their back-end services are ridiculous and it is above me on how the company could continue to raise bills even after the expiry of the contract date. I would strongly advise all travellers to refrain using Matrix services and rather purchase sim cards from their destination country itself.

It is disheartening to see such large organisations blunder in such a manner, not once but multiple times. Issues such as bill payments are sensitive to the consumer especially if the commodity is expensive. Although Matrix did waive off the outstanding as an act of good faith, the scar still remains.

If you have any similar concerns about Matrix or any telecom operator, feel free to mention it in the comments section below.