Customer Support: Customer Is Not King

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Are you getting the right and legitimate kind of service from a company's

service center? The answer, most often, will be NO. Whether it is a computer

product or an electronic device, or a telecom service, the after sales service

is never up to the mark-and that's one reason why the gray market still

exists. Companies and service providers are forgetting that it's easier to

retain existing customers coming back for more products than focusing on getting

new customers. But, without proper service, the existing customers will turn

their back; and a customer once lost is lost forever. The same holds true for

the mobile phone space. With every phone is associated a customer and the

cellular service provider. But who is the real king-the customer or the

service provider?


Miles to Go

After-sales service has long suffered a tarnished image. Customers get to

know the real difference between sale and after-sale once their communication

device starts giving trouble. With four to five million mobile connections being

added every month, handset makers have swanky showrooms and point-of sale

outlets everywhere, but service centers are the objects of expedition. To find

the service center of any said handset maker, the customer is handed a list of

names-and hence starts the customer's unending visit, not to one but to all

on that list. The customer is made to run from pillar to post to get the desired

service...even if it's a small repair. Sometimes, he's even fooled out of

his warranty scheme, and made to pay for the repair.

The Outsourcing Bug

It seems the outsourcing bug has not spared the handset vendors. Almost all

handset vendors in India have, completely or partly, outsourced their

after-sales services to different outfits-the so-called service partners.

Nokia, with almost 70% of the Indian handset market, also has the most number of

service centers across the country. For Nokia, HCL Info has set up a nationwide

network. The service network is under a 100% subsidiary, HCL Infinet, which

currently has over 300 such centers. Samsung, which is at the number two

position in the Indian market, has more than 200 authorized service centers and

10 authorized partners operating under the name of Samsung Authorized Service

Center. BenQ's repair services are through its service partners-Adonis,

Salora, and Accel-totaling 118 such outlets; and LG boasts of having 354 such

outlets. The service and repair works of Motorola have been outsourced and are

done in 262 centers, some also carrying the service and repair responsibilities

of Huawei and other makers. But, the customers are anything but satisfied with

the service they are getting from these service centers.

With four

to five million mobile connections being added every month, handset makers

have swanky showrooms and point-of sale outlets everywhere, but service

centers are the objects of alarm

Customer Care Redefined

There is little sign of relief for the customer as the quality, as well as

the quantity, of after-sale service centers seem insufficient to cope with the

pressure. Security of handsets is becoming a major concern for customers as in

many cases customers get their handsets back with a part or two missing. In the

case of high-end phones, many customers have complained of missing memory cards.

As one Sanjit Saxena of Green Park, New Delhi narrates his story of the

Motorazr V3i, which he bought six months back as a gift for his daughter-in-law.

After emphasizing his age, 68, the customer said that this was this 11th visit

in four months to the service center. He came to the center for a display

problem in the handset. He got it repaired within three days, but left without

its memory card. He made another complaint, and since then he is on the move.

The story of one Sohan Pal of Badarpur is no different. On his 10th visit to

the service center in the last two months, he was told that his Motorola 168 is

missing from the storeroom.


Cheating the


The customer is the

king, but only in fairy tales...

The fairy tale is spun

and told daily in the many mobile phone advertisements and finds fruition

in the hordes of swanky showrooms selling mobile phones to over-eager

buyers-crashing (in many if not all outlets) with the buyer returning to

the shop and saying, “warranty repair”.

The real experience of

a customer at a Delhi showroom is cited here.

After having bought a

Nokia 6230i for Rs 12,000 plus from Pankaj Electronics, a very reputed

electronic retail outlet in South Delhi, on March 29, 2006, our customer

went back to the shop a month later for repair of a faulty keypad and an

improperly fitting front cover. The first response encouraged the user to

go to the Nokia care center himself. After waiting in vain at the center

for 3 hours, just to be able to deposit the phone for repair, the user

came back to ask the shop salesman to take care of the repair. On seeing

the faulty set again, our user was again referred to the 'service

center' of the shop, the last shop in one of the many bylanes of the

Yusuf Sarai market. In this service center-cum-godown, the executives did

not even know how to open the cover and take the battery out, or the

memory card. To prevent further damage, the buyer did the honors himself.

When the user came back to collect the phone (after about 4-5 days) he

asked for details, but no documentation was provided to state what repairs

had been made; only a stock reply, “all repairs have been done”. On

finding the front cover still short of a snug fit, the curt reply was,

“accessories will not be replaced”. Does the retailer charge a premium

(sales margin) from the customer to represent the customer's interests

or to represent the company's interests? And the most important issue:

why is a 'buying customer' provided air-conditioned comfort whereas a

'service-seeking' customer is subjected to rude executives sulking in

a shanty?

Customers also complain of rude behavior by the care center executives, in

person as well as over the phone. A telephonic survey of service centers of all

big-name mobile phones-Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, ZTE, Huawei, LG-that

the dedicated customer care telephone number is busy most of the time, if the

call is taken at all the caller is put on hold for indefinite periods.

The Grey Market Booms

If watched closely, it would be evident from the number of unauthorized

service centers that they mean business unlike their authorized counterparts as

far repair services are concerned. The number of unauthorized repair centers

would well match the number of grey handset retailers. So for small repairs such

as sound or display, or keypad and joystick problems people prefer to visit

these repair shops as they get value for money, at least in the sense of time.

Customers also prefer to go to theses unauthorized shops once their warranty

period is over. Though doubts exist over the manpower skills in these centers,

but then customers are equally apprehensive of the same in the authorized

centers as well. Though handset makers claim to provide training to their

service engineers, as do the authorized centers, what the authorized centers

mostly lack is a zeal for care. This is where the unauthorized repair shops have

an advantage. With little knowledge of the information system but with adequate

service and technical skill, they drive the market with little competition from

the counterparts.

Need of the Hour

With the mobile handsets market showing 62% y-o-y growth, and new players in

the arena, the quality of after sales service is going to be a major factor in

deciding the winner. Also, when the government as well as the telecom players

having big plans for rural telephony, there's no way for handset makers to.

They have to increase their reach, which right now is not even enough for metros

and A, B category cities. Also, adequate training of the service center

employees, and a change in attitude will definitely discourage the gray market

service centers.

Gyana Ranjan Swain