Introduction Walk into the branches of the superb Annapoorna and Gowrishankar group of hotels in Coimbatore city. You can read a saying in Tamil which simply translates into this: if you have any grievance please tell us. If you are satisfied with us, please tell others." They did over the years. Hundreds of thousands of them. It is the restaurant of choice for any Coimbatore citizen and till today, maintains such a world-class quality. Rumor has it that it has not entered Chennai only because of a secret pact with the famous Saravana Bhavan group of hotels in that city. Be that as it may, these two groups would testify to what it takes to increase customer satisfaction at all times. There could be hundreds or lessons to learn from these two market-leaders in their respective cities. Both of them target only upper-middle-class and the rich. The lower middle classes enter these establishments, only to have a cup of coffee, now retailing at around Rs.35/-. To be sure, there are too many good competitors like the ever-growing Adayar Anandha Bhavan group of hotels. Yet, the market-leaders are what they are.
Cut to what will happen if customers experience just the opposite. They would be fuming. They would possibly demand the immediate attention of the waiter or even the manager. These experiences would leave a very bad taste in the mouth and customer dissatisfaction follows naturally. In this connection, the triggers for customer dissatisfaction would result from a) Poor quality of the core products or service b) Inability to answer customer queries c) Inadequate attention to the individual customer d) Delayed redressal of grievances if any e) Don't care attitude for customer feedback and f) Inconsistency on every key parameter.
Poor quality of core products or serviceCustomers do not like a Manager who barks at his employees in the presence of the public. This is exactly what happened in one branch of the famous Indian Overseas Bank. However, in one small town, the manager would often quarrel with his employees in full public view. The employees were always unhappy. A massive fraud involving three crore rupees was done over a period of a few months by an unscrupulous jewel loan appraiser, who worked on contract. All this was happening since the staff was very frustrated and they trusted the guy handling the jewel loans. This fellow replaced the gold jewels with duplicate ones, pledged the original jewels with a private organization and happily eat the money. When he was stuck with some money that did not come back to him, he was caught red-handed when the internal auditors found out a major fraud. The bank manager, since retired, died of a heart attack. The damage had already been done. Customers flocked to the nearby branch of Karur Vysya Bank, a big player in jewel loans.
Cut to the two famed restaurant chains. What makes them click. Consistency. Reliability. Honesty and Integrity. They would never ever use pre-used oil for cooking at all. This ensures purity and quality. They immediately act on customer feedback. Till today, no one really knows how the sambar is so tasty in Saravana Bhavan. Extra fillings are charged. But those from up North drink the sambar as if it were water!!
We have also experienced a very lousy service in many lodges wherever we stay. Yet, customers flocking to one traditional lodge near Coimbatore city Railway station called the Krishna Vilas hotel and lodge will offer you a light breakfast free for a room rent of Rs.600 if booked through the phone. Online services do not have breakfast service. In the peak of summer, when the power supply goes off, the generator would immediately be on. The customer is always satisfied with the standard of very good service of this famous lodge. The food is also very good. When we have experiences like that, we can only share good experiences with others. The "what should be done?" question finds so many answers.
Inability to answer customer queries There are so many places where there is sheer frustration on this count. Not every customer is intelligent. Those who are new to a particular place often experience such frustration. At Madurai, in a good decent middle-class hotel, one waiter was rude with one person, seemingly from Andhra Pradesh who wanted to know what was meant by "Kaara Dosa". The waiter, who did know English, sought the help of the Manager, who took his own time to come near the customer. The customer was on the verge of walking out. It was at this time, the owner entered the scene, gave a piece of his mind to the waiter and the manager and patiently explained the meaning. When the customer understood that it was a spicy item, he was so happy. He was then taken care of by one waiter who also knew Telugu. This is actually the key. Immediate attention should be to identify someone who knows the language and help the customer. Even a small single gesture will go a long way in customer satisfaction. It was another big plus when both the Manager and the waiter were told to apologize to the customer. This reduced all the tension. Though this happened some fifteen months ago, it is fresh in the minds of this author, as it had so much of learning on a very single customer touch point: a query that would give the required information. No wonder, the tourist would have gone out very happy at the end.
In service industries, it is very important to answer customer queries. In fact, at the yearly book fair in Chennai, in the month of January every year, one can learn many lessons. The publishers have several representatives in each stall and they patiently answer every single query. More so, as many new books in the local language and even in English or Hindi would require very good explanation to be understood by the customer.
Inadequate attention to the individual customer One would have to understand what happens in a retail showroom selling televisions and refrigerators or even the air-conditioners. Many intelligent retailers keep small toffees ready to immediately handover to children. Even if they are ten years old. The most important point is that the purchase decision is always a collective decision and the perception of the child is very important too. It is very important to address any query from the very young, even if he or she is just ten years old. More often than not, the children would have seen something working so well in the houses of their friends. They would also be armed with advanced technical features. The sales pitch should be to give the customer the very same brand that the family, as a whole, like. If this is not available, very shrewd retailers would even hand over the same to the customer at his door within hours and then take the cash against a bill. This is very important. Such individualized attention is needed for serving customers at hotels, lodges, marriage halls ( when they come for checking facilities and for booking), theaters and so on. Any single lapse can simply make the customer never visit the same place again. Today, makemaytrip.com immediately promises to take up with the particular lodge any complaint, from the customer. Seemingly, something seems to be happening. Only such prompt action will ensure customer satisfaction. Redbus is the undisputed market leader in the online bus booking business, as its service delivery is very good.
Delayed redressal of grievances if any/ Dirty bed covers. Cockroaches in bathrooms. The geyser that does not work. The room boys who take their own cool time to turn up. These are common instances. Customers do not even mind the shoddy facilities. They want immediate redressal of their grievances. If this does not happen, one can easily find dissatisfied customers. This is one area no owner can neglect.
Don't care attitude for customer feedback At hotel Alankar, at Arcot, near Vellore, and bang on the Chennai to Bangalore Highway, the customer is asked for immediate feedback and cell numbers are taken. There are phone calls informing the customer that the suggestion has been implemented with a request to come back. This is exactly what should happen in any business. The absence of this kind of prompt action can easily result in customer dissatisfaction.
Inconsistency on every key parameter The aforesaid parameters need to be consistently catered to. If there is a single lapse, the customer would look for various options. These are days when the options are also too many. Every single business enterprise in the service sector should understand this basic fact and act accordingly.
Conclusion By understanding successful case-studies, one can also understand what will not work. The discussion above is also focused in this direction. Service businesses are very delicate businesses. Customer satisfaction is an art by itself.