Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Quest for the “King”dom

All over the world, in almost all of the marketing related lectures, discussions and conferences, one phrase that’s used is “customer is the king”. Don’t even get me started about the books and speeches of those marketing gurus. You’d get an impression that if you don’t use that phrase, you are in Stone Age. I’ve heard this phrase so many times in my company, in my team and in the marketing classes that I take it for granted.

But I should’ve known that the era of the Kings is history.

A friend of mine and I entered a flamboyant looking hotel in South Delhi with a flamboyant looking name written in a flamboyant font. The aura smelled of money. It radiated opulence from every corner. Clearly, it was a place for people who pluck money out of trees. But we decided to take the brunt. Just for once. We sat at a table overlooking the road. Five minutes went past. Nothing happened. I picked up the menu from a table nearby. No item in the menu, except maybe the soft drinks and the smallest of all ice cream scoops on earth, was less than hundred bucks. I wanted to run, but impression management stopped me. Then my friend saw the menu. And he grinned. Maybe he wanted to run too. We never spoke about it. 10 minutes passed. Still nothing happened. We got out of the hotel, thanking God that waiters didn’t serve us well. We would’ve tolerated if the order took a long time for preparation, but we couldn’t tolerate the fact that no one even bothered to serve us water! That we weren’t thirsty is a different matter.

I didn’t know that that was just the beginning.

The episode involving the Laloo-looking shopkeeper was even more eye-opening. It was a Reliance shop, and this geeky friend of mine wanted to connect to the internet using his laptop through mobile phone. All we needed to do was to get a cable. The Laloo-clone, the owner of the shop, was munching paan (no-brainer!) and watching the India vs. Pakistan cricket telecast. He was cursing. We couldn’t guess if it was meant for us intruding in or for Ganguly and his blue-clad men who were getting roasted – both by sun and by the opponents. With an indecent glance, he asked us what we wanted. The look was more like “you guys are the second pain in the ass”. For all I could guess, Ganguly must’ve been the first one. He then gave us the cable. Fortunately, he didn’t have that look when he received the money.

As – who’s that guy who said everything will go wrong? – said, the cable didn’t work. We met the Laloo-clone again in the evening. He wanted us to be there at 8 pm. He didn’t tell us that it was for admiring the beauty of the closed shop. We met his brother next day who asked us why we didn’t check it then and there. I felt like saying “This isn’t Coke dude”. Fear was the only thing that stopped me. Laloo was far better. He was courteous enough not to curse us right in the face. It took six more days with two more CD changes and two cable changes to make it work. In the end, everyone was happy. Well, not exactly, but we’ll let it pass.

Our travails didn’t stop. Our company had to contact software companies for getting some details about ERP solutions they provide. To make it short, of the 12 topmost Indian software companies contacted – which had the possibly of a business worth millions of rupees – only 2 responded, and none followed up.

I guess I’ve made my point. Now where exactly did they say is that utopian land where the customer is the king? Ofcourse, there are a lot of companies out there that care for the customer, but it is surprising that the difference between textbooks and reality is quite stark.

15 Comments:

At Wednesday, May 25, 2005 11:46:00 AM, Anonymous Chandoo said...

hehe.. that proves that we have some work (or rant about work) to do. If every company is worshipping customers, every company has modern management practices I am afraid we all should go back top typing. :D Thank god :D.

On a more serious note, this post written really well. Had fun reading it.

 
At Wednesday, May 25, 2005 12:05:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

@chandoo: work for us? ahem ahem. :)

 
At Wednesday, May 25, 2005 1:09:00 PM, Anonymous Geeky friend of Govar said...

Dude you remember the details even after so many days?

Nicely put btw ;)

 
At Thursday, May 26, 2005 11:05:00 AM, Blogger Vasant said...

well, i side with you... I liked KOH better than Hitch and Hindu's much better than all the sleaze :P
And yes... I am vijay's batchmate.

cheers
vasant

 
At Thursday, May 26, 2005 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

Aah... I found someone like me. Finally. :)

 
At Thursday, May 26, 2005 6:46:00 PM, Blogger Rahul said...

Visit Palika.

You will witness many such incidents. And maybe we will have the pleasure of reading them through your posts :-)

 
At Friday, May 27, 2005 10:55:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

@Rahul: Aah that made me smile. :) But then, we wouldnt be expecting Palika to provide such a customer satisfaction. THe only thing that we expecct is a good bargain. Nothing else. But in regular business, we expect us to be satisfied... thats where the difference is.

 
At Friday, May 27, 2005 11:44:00 AM, Blogger Vulturo said...

Beautifully written.

You have a demonstratedly excellent sense of humor.

 
At Friday, May 27, 2005 6:08:00 PM, Anonymous wimpy said...

i remember our first marketing class... prof (an extremely scary guy) says, "the era of 'customer is king' is passe. if a company were to treat every customer as king, then it would go bankrupt. the catchphrase now is 'the right customer is king'".

probably the guy at the hotel decided on looking at you guys that you won't be much business to him anyway - and you can't spoil his business by bad word of mouth anyway.

the laloo clone doesn't care for your bad word of mouth. and a cable is probably something he makes least profit on...

 
At Saturday, May 28, 2005 3:42:00 AM, Blogger saurabh ohri said...

hi
try gulati @ pandara road
quite a good one
went there recently

"customer is the king only if customer treats the shopkeeper like a bigger king i.e. maharaja"

saurabh

 
At Saturday, May 28, 2005 11:44:00 PM, Blogger Truman said...

You took the "customer is the king" thing seriously? This is India! Excellent service is a myth here and it only exists in Philip Kotler kind books. I can give you numerous examples. Take ANY mobile phone service provider. Really, ANYONE. The customer "care" is everything but care. For example, I got a "Welcome" call from Airtel after 2 weeks of using my post paid connection. No wonder, in later days it turned out to be a post-pain connection and that was it. Btw, I updated my blog. :)

 
At Monday, May 30, 2005 10:18:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

@Wimpy: True that not everyone can be treated alike, but he couldn't've decided that so fast. For one thing, we are NEVER going to go backc there again, and I guess serving a cup of water is easier than missing some customers for a lifetime.

 
At Monday, May 30, 2005 1:58:00 PM, Blogger Lumbergh-in-training said...

sorry dude, couldn't visit any of my favourite blogs nowadays...
simply tracking it through bloglines.

Actually, visiting blogs is prohibited in our company, that's why reading through bloglines - simply a walk-around.

Anyway, post your photos man, that's what excites me ;)

 
At Monday, May 30, 2005 4:13:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

@Manoj: U mean visiting websites and checking mails aree ok, but visiting blogs ain't? Sounds a bit crooked. Why wold companies do that?

 
At Monday, May 30, 2005 6:28:00 PM, Blogger Lumbergh-in-training said...

that's because visiting websites 'pertaining to business needs' is ok, but visiting personal websites isn't. blogs fall under that category, unless it is some analyst's technical blog.

 

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