In good cheer of the holiday season, a columnist’s thoughts turn to happy experiences. Mellowed by the Christmas spirit, I decided to skip the rant and dwell on those offering great service to Indian customers. Now, for some quick caveats. All lists are, by construction, subjective and not exhaustive. The names below may not deliver perfectly all the time. But they do most of the time and for most people. In a democracy, “majority” is a magic word, so I am going to use that basis here. Here’s the list:
Rahul Bhardwaj, who works for a credit company in Mumbai, and is a compulsive book buyer loves Flipkart for its comprehensive range and timely delivery. But there was one instance which stood out for him. “Once, they found they needed a timeline extension and called to inform me about the delay. They said if that new timeline didn’t suit me, they would refund the money. How many people say that to you? Typically, a company will just apologize for the delay and the customer cribs but lives with it. But these guys were giving me the option to get the books from somewhere else if I was in a hurry. When I agreed to the new timeline, they promptly met it,” he says. I am also among Flipkart’s many happy customers. Last month, I bought a set of Geronimo Stilton titles for my 10-year-old daughter. Two days later I got a text message in the morning that the books were on their way. A couple of hours afterwards someone called from the courier company to recheck my address. By the time my kid got back from school, the books were waiting for her. A huge collection of 11.5 million titles, lower prices, prompt delivery system and genuine customer orientation converge to make online book buying pleasurable for the Indian customer.
By Shyamal Banerjee/Mint
Air Asia’s tagline “Now Everyone Can Fly” is so apt. As Asia’s pioneer in low cost, no frills international travel the Malaysia-based airline has redefined who can go abroad. Interestingly, it was originally a Malaysian government conglomerate purchased by entrepreneur Tony Fernandez for a token sum of one ringgit and a debt of $11 million in 2001. The following year it made a profit. It’s obvious why it works. There’s a basic fare and there’s a charge for everything else, short of breathing—check in baggage, food and drink and even pillows but the unbundling of services is executed transparently. What you see is what you get—there are no surprises. More significantly, you go in thinking that at this price, it will be worse than “cattle class” to use the expression Shashi Tharoor made famous, but it isn’t. The crew is sharp, flights are on time, baggage collection is like it usually is elsewhere and if you change your mind you can buy add-ons in flight. Air Asia sets low expectations and then exceeds it.
Jet Privilege Program
Redeeming frequent flyer miles is not the easiest of tasks. Many airlines, including Air India, make the customer physically submit boarding passes by a certain date and need a long lead time before you can redeem points for a ticket. Several hundred mileage points are lost to mankind because the airline makes it as difficult as possible to exchange your points for a free ticket. Not this one. Adding and redeeming miles are both a breeze. V.S. Hariharan, head of an e-learning company in Mumbai, says “It’s awfully flier-friendly. I’ve often bought tickets for even the next day’s flight by redeeming points online within minutes.”
Narayanan Madhavan, associate editor of the Hindustan Times, says about his recent Meru cab experience in Delhi. “There were newspapers, cushions on the seat, the driver gave a bill printout, credit cards were accepted, the AC worked, the telephone booking is efficient. Other cab services may provide some of these, but Meru offers the whole bouquet. Drivers don’t round off the figure and pay you back the exact change.” Manish Agarwal, a management educator in Hyderabad, has a similar appreciation of Meru cab’s service in that city. “Their cabs are always on time, drivers are courteous, no fare manipulation, clean taxis. Meru is fabulous in Hyderabad,” he writes on email.
Online movie ticket booking is surely among the innovations which changed the way we used to conduct our lives. This weekend, a movie fan in Chandrapur, Maharashtra, and Tinsukia, Assam, can both book tickets for Don 2 by clicking on Bookmyshow.com. They can choose a seat and select their snacks. Minutes before the show, they can stroll in to their respective cinemas, show a text message at the counter, collect the tickets and saunter into the darkened hall. Unthinkable, some years ago. The back-end operation has obviously been neatly tied up—the link with the cinema hall, the prompt text message and smart customer database management—to avoid instances of the message not being received or the counter turning a cine fan away.
Yes, I know this is parochial. But from chilly London to Sunnvale, California to Singapore to saadi Dilli, Saravana offers consistently hospitable service, that warms the heart as much as their saambar does the stomach. Once, after two days of foreign food, we scoured the streets of Kuala Lumpur through a continuous rain, determined to locate Saravana Bhavan. It was worth it. The waiters smiled broadly, chatted in Tamil and quickly brought kaapi and fussed over us recognizing that we had made an effort to reach there. In all the outlets, the staff cross checks if the order is placed, tells you how long it will take to arrive and keeps a connection going. One usually associates warmth with small local restaurants. But Saravana makes you feel at home despite being a global chain.
Happy New Year and do write back if you have your own great service experiences to share!
Also Read | Vandana Vasudevan’s earlier articles
Vandana Vasudevan is a graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and writes on mass urban consumer issues. Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org