Tag Archives: customer service

Big Retail Store Vs Mom-Pop store – who wins?

27 Dec

Here is a reason why mom and pop stores are gonna to stay for a long time to come in India.

Was getting back home around 10 pm today.

There is a Heritage Fresh retail store near to my house. I always stop by to pick a Tropicana juice pack before i head home . Usually i get there before or by 10 pm . Today, I got late and reached there around 10.10 pm. The shop was not yet closed. But they were putting out the lights. I stop there and explain , ” Sorry I got late. Can i just pick up the juice ?” .

The guy at the store says , ” Sorry we are closed. Billing is closed” .

I was like , ” what the hell are you talking about ? the shop is not yet closed. the shutters are not down( The bugger  knows that i am aregular customer to his shop. I have been coming here everyday for the past 6-8 months to pick up juice pack) Why cant you just  go in there and get me the Rs 18 juice pack .”

But he wouldn’t budge. He put his foot down and refused to get me the juice pack.

I was determined to get my juice today. I went in search of another retail store. I found most the big retail stores closed. Spencer Daily was closed. Daily Life was closed. But …

But, the small shops were open. I zeroed in on a shop named ” Anna Stores” . Not a sophisticated  shop at all. He sells stuff across the counter. And guess what ? He  has almost everything you would need for day to day household purposes.

He was about to shut the store. It was already close to 10.25 pm. The shutters were  down halfway and he was checking if lights were all switched off.

He saw me approaching his shop, gave me a nice smile and asked , ” enna vennum , sir?” ( what do you want sir?)

I dint get my tropicana juice pack. He dint have stock. I got Appy Fizz drink instead. Not exactly the  juice I would like to drink before I hit bet. It cost me Rs 25. Why did I buy it ? Because , this guy took the time out to re open the shop , just for me, and offered to sell the stuff I wanted. Even before he re opened the shop I told him that I needed the Tropicana. He knew he dint have stock and yet he said , ” I will check and see if I can give you something else” .

He apologetically added , ” I usually keep 2-4 juice packs for my regular customers. But today i dont have stock. Come tomorrow I will keep one extra for you.”

I beamed …..

See ..  The Big Deal is – I was not his regular customer. Rs 25 was not going to set his cash register ringing to a bounty. He could have as well said no to my face and got back home to see his family after a hard day at work. Instead, he knew more about customer service than a professionally managed “hi-funda” retail store like – Fresh.

Now, why did that mom and pop shop owner go about his way to help me out ?

Where do you think I would go tomorrow to get my juice pack, my next soap,Gillette,Maggi noodle purchase?

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How the Rs 10 soup selling gal gets its right and Satyam doesn’t on customer service

19 Dec

The race to MBA degree is mind boggling. In India especially, it is craze sometimes rivaled only to cricket. You can see it for yourself the hordes of mba wanna- be’s and the media coverage peak during the Nov-Jan season every year. What a spectacle to watch . Almost every magazine worth its salt come out with b-school suvery giving a list a top 50 colleges “you should study at ” . Some even bring out a separate book to cash in on the boom. And, hey .. don’t count me out.. I am in the race too .

A degree in MBA teaches you to understand cash flow statements, how to come up with great marketing ideas and all that jazz. But I wonder how did Shankari ,a 1 st year B.com student from a low rung women college get great ideas on marketing and customer service.

Let me give you the story first .

I love soup and for having that one or two cups of it  I go all the way to Ananna Nagar park where this guy sells really mouth watering , pipping hot soup ( completely natural ) at Rs 6 per cup. He has good stuff. You have to give him that credit !

These days( 3 months approx) ,  I drink soup from one of the Fresh retail outlets i visit. The soup is sold in small kiosks at Rs 10 per cup. You would have seen similar kiosks selling sweet corns and popcorn’s at a retail store near to your house. Small enterprising men/women take franchise contracts from the company which sells these products , then pay rent to the retail store and put up a kiosk outside and sell it. Great business idea . Has the ideal ingredient of entrepreneurship, job and wealth creation and good products to customers at affordable rates.

Now, getting back to the story . Shankari is a 1st year student studying for B.com at W omen’s College. She sits at the kiosk every evening with a book in hand selling Rs. 1o per cup soups. I have options to chose as well – Tomato, Plantain, Mushroom, Vegetable. For reasons unknown to myself I always buy Plantain or Mushroom. I knew what I was  buying but never gave it much thought to it. I just go up ask  , say , Monday it is plantain soup , Tuesday it is Mushroom. It is cyclic.Till the day – about  3 weeks back – shankari popped the question at me , ” Sir, why do you always buy Mushroom and Plantain soup, why don’t you ever try Tomato and Vegetable?” …

I dint know what to tell her. I muttered and gave some lame answer about my preference for mushroom and not liking tomato taste and stuff.. the next question caught me by surprise.

“Sir , other than mushroom and plantain, what other variety you like ?” ..

I gave her my options. And then asked what is she gonna do about it . She said , ” I will ask my brother to check if the company can give us the soup of your choice” ..

That bowled me out completely . Why did she bother to find out what my taste are ? why didn’t she just sell the soup at Rs 10 and continue to sit and study with that book in her hand ? why ? why ?

Normally, unless you pack it to your house, one drinks the soup standing there right next to Kiosk. There are 2 advantages to it – One , the soup remains hot and two you get extra corn as second helpings. I love the corn which comes with the soup , so I stand there and finish the soup then drop it in the dustbin and go back home.

That day,  while I was standing there drinking the soup ( I was drinking vegetable soup with lots of pepper. I had cold and shankari said drinking that soup with lots of pepper helps) she was asking the same question to lts of other customers of hers. Not every one. But a lot of them . Similar questions . In her own ingenious way she was conducting a survey. Maybe she realized what she was doing . Maybe she dint. That is not the point. She was proactive. She tried to understand her customer.

Later when i asked why she only asked the questions to a select few customers , she replies , ” They are my regular customers” ..

I felt privileged that day to  be a customer of hers.

Her brother has taken the franchise contract from the parent company. While she sits at the fresh outlet , her bro is doing the same thing some other part of the city.

I wonder if  she had read any of those management books? did  she read “The New Age of Innovation: Driving C0-Created Value through Global Networks” by C.K Prahalad on how to serve customized products to a customer in a collaborative environment with the N=1 , R= G rule ? How did she get this idea what a Univerity of Michigan Author did after much research ?

By the way, The New Age of Innovation has made it to the top 12 books on innovation given out by Business Week.

Read it here :  Best Innovation & Design Books 2008

But how come Stayam Computers dint get it right ?

The big fiasco of merger/buying Mayatas infra and properties which caused ripple of appalling magnitude among the investors across the table is there for everyone to see.

I read somewhere that the ISB’s dean was also part of the board which took the decision to buy out the two companies ( run by Ramalinga raju son’s). I am no authority to question the merit of the proposed buyout. Nor am I an investor. As a rule i don’t directly invest in Sensex. No speculative, sentiment prone gambling for me..No Sir.

But what I would like to know is how come such highly educated ,the creme-la-de creme managers and CEO and CFO of the company dint have the inclination to ask its investors and clients their opinion before taking such a decision? How come the MBA’s of IIM and MDI and blah blah dint know the tenets of customer service when such a proposal was mooted in the first place?

But man, what a PR and Corp Comm nightmare they should be having right now ? I cant but feel sorry for the guy who is handling the company’s PR account. He must be literally running pillar to post to get things “done” . The green horns must be having a great time in learning the art of crisis management. what better case study can they get .. ?

By the way , I loved the new Idea Cellular ad . About asking the people first before taking a political decision. The creative guy and the copywriter deserve full marks for the new ad . The previous ads were highly creative but not practical . The new one is very creative, very practical and got the execution right . kool Ad huh ?

IBM has a great caption going for its print ads – “STOP selling what you have and Start selling what they want”. Now, they get it .. Bingo ..

You get the drift ?