Saturday, September 24, 2005

To Airtel: Express yourself, but don’t overdo it

Oh yes, this is about Airtel and their pathetic service. I’ve been one of the most dissatisfied Airtel customers - without choice - for a long time. The only reason I’m sticking to Airtel is because of my investment, although a low-end one, on the Nokia GSM mobile set. There is no other GSM operator with a service in the region, and that made me a ‘customer’, despite a forced one at that.

Everything started when once, on a very busy day, I was running terribly short on sleep and was woken up by a spam message. Until that point, I used to consider the unwanted smses messages a nuisance and didn’t think too much about them. There was an average of four messages of different variety everyday, ranging from ‘prize questions’ to tone downloads to cricket news to celebrity craps or some really unimaginable junk. When we tried contacting a ‘customer service’ agent to try to stop the spam, we were given a specific ‘sms code’ to be sent to a certain number that would stop the spam. It never worked.

I almost always go for the lowest cost prepaid card (and rarely make use of the full amount) and I pretty much hate smses. Plus, I don't consider carrying a mobile phone as 'cool' either. That essentially means that there were days when I neither had calls nor had smses but the only thing I was doing with the mobile was deleting their spam. One of my irritated friends called up a customer service agent and lambasted him, only to be re-directed back and forth. He ended up talking to some customer service manager for the entire MP region who explained that the smses are sent by default to everyone by a ‘machine’ and there is no way smses can be stopped to specific people. So much for ‘service’!

My first question: why do companies make a default assumption that people like anything that comes to the mobile phone? Even if there *are* people who read all the spam, why do they take it for granted that intruding customers is ok?

Second: How difficult is it to do a customer survey once in a while? There are a hundred customers I know who are only sticking to the service because of lack of choice.

Ironically, one visit to the Airtel customer service website, and the words I notice: over 11 million satisfied customers. Seriously, do they have any idea what they are talking about? I welcome them to take a very small survey in the IIMI campus to start with! In one of our marketing discussions in the classroom, we had to take up Airtel for ‘bad service’.

Sigh! This is exactly why competition can be so beneficial to customers.


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At Saturday, September 24, 2005 12:31:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

Score till now: Spammers 1, Govar 0. Word verification on.

At Saturday, September 24, 2005 7:04:00 PM, Blogger Rahul said...

Have experienced this before...And believe me Airtel is better is than Reliance.

We not only get SMSs from Airtel but also calls with some promotional offers in Hyd. Really gets on nerves....

At Saturday, September 24, 2005 7:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, I had the same problem in Mumbai too. Not just me, but atleast five other people have switched from Airtel on my recommendation (my boss included, though on his own)

This was a problem even 1.5 years back. I did not switch due to my 'investment'
and also due to lack of choice. (wait, you already said that :D) I finally got rid of Airtel when they stole my 500 Rs.

At Sunday, September 25, 2005 1:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comsumer markets should be driven by competition. Then only companies will be vying hard to attract the public by providing better quality, good service availability and a excellent cutomer service.
You mentioned that Airtel is the only GSM operator in your region and there goes the bell!!! See, even if their product is bad, people don't have a altervative. You guys should do something that will make the airtel management to look at the problem. You mentioned about marketing discussions & surveys and that is a good direction to start with. Try to publish the discussion or the survey in college or local magazines. I don't know but that may help...

At Sunday, September 25, 2005 11:49:00 AM, Blogger pm said...

There is not much of an option even if more services are operating in your area. Probably there is a cartel in operation :). I have the same experience with Idea and Reliance in AP. The best is Cellone, by BSNL. They send about one SMS a week and that too about stuff like Blood donation camps.

I guess Airtel is a little worse than the others, as they are the only ones who call you up too. That really gets my goat, particularly since they even call you up even if you are roaming.

At Sunday, September 25, 2005 11:51:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

@Manoj: Touche!

@Rahul: I've heard Reliance is bad in connectivity, but I guess I'll be fine with that since I call less and get less calls. But nuisance? sorry!

@Mirage: Yes, we can always do that, but customers can't infuse this in all the companies. I guess the companies have to learn for themselves. That was my point.

@Manoj: Cellone... thanks for the info. Will check out... altho we dont have the service here.

At Wednesday, September 28, 2005 9:42:00 AM, Blogger Jam said...

Hey there Govar,

First of all, I don't think you quite read the fine print when you signed up for Airtel. There are lines which specifically say that you are all in favor of a few promotional messages hitting your phone, every now and then. Of course, they don't mention the frequency nor the content of these promotional messages. But the fact remains that you've signed up for this bull shit.

In any case, here is a workable solution for you (at least it worked for me). Type NO PROMO and send the SMS to 325, and voila, around 48 hrs later, the stupid SMSes stop hitting your poor old mobile.


PS: You just have to live with the fact that advertising and promotion is gonna be all around you. Hey, some of us aspire to be brand managers some day and these are probably the only ways to reach you guys where you can't change the channel.

At Thursday, September 29, 2005 4:20:00 AM, Blogger Pankaj Sachar said...

For starters, there is a choice. U got !dea in MP.

I m not supporting Airtel, I agree that their service sucks bigtime, but I feel u v been way too harsh. The 'block messages' sms did work for me, (not in the first attempt though).

We gotta realize that marketers do need the sales; and corporates do need the profits. And profits is all about charging the customer the maximum he'll bear.

At Monday, October 24, 2005 1:53:00 PM, Blogger Debabrata said...

In Orissa, Airtel's customer service hasn't really worsened. But then the company's operations in the State is just about a year old and one needs some more time to pass a value judgement. My guess is that they would fall in a rut in next six months like Reliance and BSNL.

At Monday, November 07, 2005 7:49:00 PM, Blogger Sound of Pune said...

try properly eveythig will be done .if not reply to me



At Friday, November 25, 2005 1:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Airtel is a big time suck in other ways also... Airtel is not at all competitive with other service providers such as Hutch or Tata Indicom..

Airtel charges are pretty high as compared to other service providers mentioned above..

I've a post-pade connection with Airtel .. I've opted 150/- plan where in i'm supposed to pay 150/- as monthal rent.. Airtel is charging 50/- extra for Clip charges which is free of cost with Hutch at least..

They are not giving any local free sms/mobile to mobile free also..

They are really big suck !!!!

When i call up Airtel Customer care, they don't care abt any request coming from their clients.. They say "Sir..I'm not here to compare Airtel with Hutch or any other service provider "//

Big suck !!!!!!!

At Monday, April 10, 2006 8:48:00 AM, Blogger Joel said...

I've experienced problems with Airtel myself. I've opened a forum at to address cell phone complaints in India.

I've had 'Hello Tunes' activated without my request, and have not had the money refunded. A friend of mine had fee for Hello tunes taken thrice per month, ie Rs 20 X 3 =Rs 90 per month!

There are loads of other problems..

Joel G Mathew.

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At Monday, October 30, 2006 6:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When i try to send the NO PROMO message to 325 i get this screen: 'Message sending failed. try again later.' Over and over again.

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