Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Wandering through WWW...

It was during my usual routine of wandering through websites and blogs that I found this link on the APG site.

GoodLogo!com is a fantastic resource / library of logos of brands from all around the world. To make your experince surfing interactive, they have a rating system for the logos in display, a facility to upload your favorite logos to be rated by others, featured logo of the day section and some (logo) design cases.

More than the things mentioned above, this site also has a small dummies guide kind of a section that talks about how good logos are made, the look and feel. There also seems to be a logo quiz page which is coming up.

I felt this website would be a valuable resource for all advertising, identity and marcom people. If you have not been to this site go here today, it is interesting.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Customer Care Hotline

Last week when I was in dire need of some money I went to this ATM (owned by the bank where I have an account). The ATM was a bit too hungry that it decided to swallow my card for a meal, it rebooted itself. I saw this 1-800 number mentioned on the walls of this ATM bunk and so I decided I would call this number to report the loss. In spite of 8 tries I couldn’t get in touch with a customer care executive. The line would shut itself after giving me a hope of 4-5 rings.

After a while I decided to call another number (not a 1-800 this time) to report my loss. After a customary 4 minute wait for being reassured that I am one of the banks most valued customers and some stupid music I managed to speak to a gentleman. As usual he put me on hold for sometime to get the information on my account on his screen. Then there was another 6 minutes of time spent on verification questions before the card was finally reported lost. I was told I need to wait for 3 days before the card would be returned to me. I wouldn’t have any money or the luxury of a card for the next 3 days.

I decided to bank on one of my trusted sources for the money I required urgently. I loaned it from one of my friends, with a promise that I would return it 3 days later.

3 days later I go to the bank to collect my card. After the formalities my card was handed back but not without another bomb being dropped. I was supposed to call their customer care helpline to activate my card. This process would take just half an hour said the executive there.

I called up the customer care helpline to be put on hold for 9 minutes. This time there was an additional information that was given to me more than the reassurance that I am the banks most valued customer.

The voice this time said “All our customer care executives are busy at the moment, they would be back with you in 5 to 7 minutes”

This 5 to 7 minutes kept reducing every minute. I was relieved when it did say that a customer care execute would be with me in the next minute. But to my dismay suddenly it again increased to 3 to 5 minutes.

And finally well past the 9th minute of holding the line somebody appeared, this time a lady. Then came the usual putting on hold for a couple of minutes to get my information on screen and then the verification questions that take about 6-8 minutes.

My card would now be active, after another half an hour the executive told. Before I hanged up, the executive wanted to know if she could help me on something else. I told her I would be happy if someone picked up calls at least by the 2 or 3 minute someone calls for help.

“It would be very difficult for us sir, you know we keep getting so many calls so it takes sometime before we attend each one of them”

I loved the courage of this lady to tell this as an answer to a (most valued) customer. More than the lady the bank should be proud of itself for providing such a fantastic customer service to its customers.

It is high time the bank looks at revamping its customer care system, else it is going to be too late…

Monday, October 09, 2006

Customer Care(full)

There is this small Lebanese bakery near our office. Me and another colleague order the occasional breakfast from these guys whenever we crave for a Manakeesh (a Lebanese pie that more or less resembles a Pizza). Essentially my colleague calls up the baker and orders a Cheese Manakeesh or Zaatar (a mix of herb topping)

The shop I believe employs 3-4 guys to make stuff, take orders and deliver the stuff. Many from and around the Dubai Media City should be ordering their stuff from these guys as their produce is nice and tasty and their delivery system is effective in spite of their shortcomings in terms of manpower.

How do they care for their customers?

It was one of those days when we wanted a Manakeesh for breakfast. As usual my friend called these guys up. The following is the conversation between my friend and the guy who picked the call up.

Friend: Hello is it XXXX Bakery?

Baker: Yes sir, how may I help you (in a very Arabic accent)

F: I’m calling from Loft office 1-A in the Media City. Number 401

B: Oh, Mr XXX? How are you sir? It is long since you called, almost 3 weeks. I thought you were on a vacation. Is it the usual order sir? 2 Cheese Manakeesh, 1 Zaatar Manakeesh or can I suggest you Egg Cheese Manakeesh today?

We were flattered by the very personal conversation the baker had. He remembered the last time we ordered, what we usually order and he also suggested us something else that would suit our tastes.

Considering that this guy caters to the whole of Dubai Media City, which is a city by itself, it was amazing. There would at least be about 50 orders this guy must be fulfilling every day. Considering that 50% of his customers are loyal, he needs to remember 20 names, addresses and preferences. For a small shop manager in a considerably large neighborhood, this is quite a task and an achievement of sorts.

I’m sure his business would continue to grow leaps and bounds given this personalized, friendly attitude of the baker and his good delivery mechanism.

Me and my friend are one of this bakery's most loyal customers, for life.

Long live the Baker! Long live his Bakery!!

To sum up…

a) Personalization pays. But remember it is a double edged sword, so one needs to be careful while personalizing

b) Personalization is not simply putting a Mr. or Ms. before a name. It is remembering your customers preferences, needs, wants and most importantly what a customer doesn’t want.

c) It is not enough if you remember your customer by name, what is more important is to fulfill the reason he / she called

d) And last but not least, it is not enough if you just fulfilled what your customer wanted. It matters when you fulfilled, did you deliver on time? Was the stuff intact the way the customer wanted when you delivered?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

It’s FIRE in the 13th floor

Saturday, October 07, 2006.

It is a holiday, you have invited your friends to have lunch with you. The moment you have had two bites of your lunch, the friend says “Is there something burning in your hall? May be an electric short circuit or something?”.

I reluctantly leave my lunch plate, get to the hall and I can see some smoke and the burnt out smell. I quickly run to switch the lights off, thinking the choke on the tube or something has burst. But we start to see a steady increase in the volume of smoke in the hall. With doubts in my mind I open my door and have a peep at the corridor, I couldn’t see anything it was full of thick black smoke.

My next reaction was to yell out for Roopa and my friends ask them to immediately pick Anirudhha and my friends kid and run out. I quickly ran inside the house picked my handphone and rushed out to help the others out.

It was high drama and tension with Roopa shouting instructions to me to keep Anirudhha covered from smoke. Everyone started coughing and choking because of the smoke. It was quite a task cheering everyone up, keeping them calm and encouraging them to push harder towards safe ground. It took no less than 10 minutes for us to reach safe grounds from our 14th floor apartment.

Everyone had a blanket of black smoke around their faces and body. Anirudhha resembled a cartoon, with his nose and cheeks covered with black smoke. But the man was brave at only an year and one month of age he displayed a very calm attitude but for coughing, when children twice or thrice his age were screaming their guts out as they were running out.

Well to sum up…

a) This fire was started by a bunch of three kids who were playing inside their apartment (unsupervised)

b) It required two fire engines and about 4-5 fire fighters inside the apartment to put the fire off and rescue the inmates.

c) Roopa, Anirudhha and me are safe and sound. It took us a cool 2.5 hours before we were allowed to go inside the building.

d) The corridor now bears the remains of last afternoon, covered with a layer of soot. The smell of smoke would take days before it clears up.

The moral of the story…

a) Never leave your kid(s) unattended, especially when they are in a very playful mood.

b) As far as possible dissuade / don’t allow your kids playing with fire

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The famed Stanford commencement speech

This is the inspirational Stanford commencement speech of Steve Jobs delivered on June 12, 2005.

Most of us would have read this as an email attachment sometime in the recent past. I used to get spammed by this email every alternative day from one of my friends.

I love this presentation / speech. I rank this as one of the best presentations I have ever come across, sans the omnipresent powerpoint.

Stay hungry, stay foolish

God bless Steve Jobs!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Customer Care(less)

One of my friends recently bought a new car. When he did so, he sold his old car and settled the loan he had on it and took another loan from the same bank for his new car.

The used car dealer who was buying his old car required a “Liabilities letter” or a statement that spelt out how much was outstanding on this car loan (normally the amount outstanding on the loan is directly paid to the bank by the used car dealer). When my friend contacted the bank’s call center they told him it would take half an hour for them to issue this letter if he went to the branch from which he had taken this loan. And this would be done free of charge.

When my friend went to the branch the response was diametrically opposite. The guys at the branch informed him that they would take 2 working days to prepare this letter for him and it would cost him Dh. 100.

All my friends efforts to reason with the staff there went in vain. Finally the lady in the branch (head of customer care in the branch) offered a solution. She said she would get this charged waived off under the ground that my friend is continuing his relationship with the bank by means of the loan for his new car.

My friend walked out of the branch a victor. He had finally managed to get the Dh. 100 on the letter waived off. But his feeling of triumph didn’t last long. In came his next months statement from the bank and they had promptly deducted Dh. 100 from his account for the liabilities letter.

The friend obviously was furious, he shot out mails to the head of marketing & sales, the head of customer service and the manager of the branch where he transacted.

He is still waiting to hear from the bank. I am not sure how long he would.

How could this have been averted?

1. Had all the employees of the bank spoken the same language (the call center and the branch)

2. Had the staff in the branch communicated to their internal departments about the waiver of charges and obtained their approvals immediately

3. The most important of all, this customer has a relationship worth more than Dh.100,000 with the bank. To grow that relationship, the least the bank can do is to waive 0.1% of the loan amount, which is nothing but an administrative cost.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sharjah by day

The Sharjah I see, from my bedroom window

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Learn a new word in English

This is Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims all around the world. So it is a custom here in the UAE to have tents / facilities in all major roads / streets where people who are fasting could break their fast in the evening or have their Iftar.

"Faster breakfast tent"

This one is a big sign board on one of those tents along the Emirates Road, which is an express way that connects all the emirates.

“Faster” the one who is fasting

“Breakfast” the meal that breaks the fast Iftar

Was wondering if it would have made good if it just read “Iftar tent”.

I am sure everyone in this region knows what Iftar is.