Monthly Archives: March 2014

Indian Railways’ Bad design = Bad Customer Experience # 1

Indian Railways (and many other Indian Government departments) have a large number of Einsteins sitting in their dusty offices. These Einsteins come out with innovative designs and process solutions which, instead of improving the quality of service, increase the hardships and troubles of the passengers.

Railways has installed some modern escalators at local train stations in Mumbai. At Dadar, one such swanky escalator on platform no.2 on Western side is not much used by people. It is always deserted. Very few people use it preferring the staircase next. Why is this so in a heavily crowded station like Dadar, where people should have loved to use such modern facility?

The escalator leads to a foot over bridge which is truncated up to Western side only. The unassuming people willing to go to East side or Central Railway who climb up the escalator have to first climb down from that bridge and climb up stairs all the way again….! Result ? The escalator is useless for 70% of the commuters.

Some among the Einsteins should have seen the place before coming out with such half-baked modern solution wasting huge amount of time, money and energy. Bad designs result into bad customer experience. At least we should learn this from the wasteful expenditure of our government.

These Einsteins don’t have to pay from their pockets so they can afford all such idiosyncrasies.
We can’t.

What confuses our customers?

Gujarati Thali is a very simple, hassle free format for savoring a wide range of delicacies in an efficient, prompt and convenient way.

It has a fixed price, fixed menu and unlimited food. You can eat anything to your satisfaction from a wide range of dishes on the menu.

Ahmedabad has some very good Thali restaurants. Almodt all of them follow the same model. Fixed price. Fixed menu. Unlimited food.

Gopi is one of the oldest near V S Hospital. Recently, a visit there and the confusion thereof left a not very savory aftertaste.

Once there, we were asked “Fixed or unlimited Thali?”

Then next question was “Kathiawadi” or “Gujarati”?

Then “Which out of the 4 sweets? You can choose any one out of 4.”

For the 6 of us who had gone there for dinner, the next 45 minutes were full of confusion because each had selected a different variant of combinations available.

Companies needlessly come out with creative ways to create complexity out of simplicity and make the customer’s experience unappetizing.

Actually, a fixed menu with 3-4 sweets available to all really does not increase cost to the company significantly.

Here, I remember one profound consumer insight a restaurant owner shared with me. He said “Whether there are 8 items on the menu or 40, a person can eat around 400 grams of food. So, adding or reducing items on menu does not make much difference to the cost if there is some minimum volume in the business.”

Gopi should realize that dividing menu and sweets and confusing the customer results in bad Customer Experience in the end without adding anything to profit.

Give more choice. But reduce complexity and confusion. Many of your new competitors are doing it profitably.

The award for the inefficiency goes to…

If you wish to see an example of the most ineffective way to communicate, just listen to the railway announcement at any railway station in India. Almost nothing will make sense. The equipment will be faulty. Volume – wrong. Speaker’s attitude – horrible.

The universality of the most idiotic and confusing manner in which they speak at almost every station in India gives rise to an assumption that they all are trained in the worst way a commnication job can be done.

Continue reading The award for the inefficiency goes to…

Terminal T2 is a symptom of a larger disease

It is only a month since the new swanky terminal in Mumbai T2 was thrown open with a lot of fanfare. Traditional and Social media got abuzz with proud list of facilities and photographs of this new marvel of the country. This new, modern terminal was touted as one more sign that India had suddenly become world-class.

Now it is coming out that this grand looking structure may be an architectural marvel, but it is not a properly designed one as long as people’s experience is concerned.

Many of the facilities are not functional.
Facilities are badly designed from user point of view.
The first-class lounge is infested with mosquitoes. Recently, a false ceiling came down causing a disruption.

We are a very easily impressionable society and get impressed by grand structures and grand talks. May be the grandeur makes us feel smaller. May be our repeated disappointments have made us lower our standards.

But as a conscious society, we should notice and be warned that in today’s time any public place or structure that comes up, suffers from the curse of poor quality.

Any road, any flyover, any station, any airport, any stadium or any other structure made today by some government department is of the poorest quality. The money spent is for the best quality, but what the country gets is of third-grade quality.

Why?

Because each such building or structure is milked as a source of income for the people involved in approving it. In India, for every 100 rupees spent by the government, major portion is siphoned off by the powers-that-be. In India, for some greedy people who could not employ themselves gainfully in some respectable vocation, politics is a business of looting this country for personal gains.

Till the deep stomach of India’s politics and government machinery is filled up, we will have to content with the leftovers and merrily circulate the photos of half-cooked and poorly designed structures.

When a Raja becomes vyapari, praja becomes bhikhari.

And beggars don’t have a choice.

Yes Ms Shobhaa De, India knows how to differentiate between ’56 Ki Chhati’ and ‘D Cup’

I read a quote by Shobhaa De in The Times Of India, Mumbai dated 5th March 2014. She’s quoted “56-inch chest. This is political chest-thumping at its most ridiculous. What would happen if a woman candidate were to speak of her D cup?” on Narendra Modi’s election rhetoric.

Respected Ms De, you, being an Indian, are well aware of the nuances of our lingo. The term ’56 Ki Chhati’ and ‘D Cup’ don’t amuse the same target. These are targeted to two entirely different segments of the society.

Yes, some people in the society may be interested in knowing about ‘D’ or other cup sizes, and they may be lured by such characteristics, but I believe that won’t be a majority. For obvious reasons, Rakhi Sawants of the society are not taken seriously when discussing the matter of nation’s future and its leadership, even though they may be hit on other platforms and on other occasions where curves and dimensions of a different type matter.

The larger segment of India today is more interested in somebody more resolute and bold who has the courage to lead the country with his vision, audacity and determination. This could be a man or a woman. ’56 Ki Chhati’ is gender-neutral, because it is not in the body, it is somewhere above the shoulder, in the mind, where it matters.

To lead a country, ’56 Ki Chhati’ is a must. To drive a misguided leader, a ‘D Cup’ may suffice in some special cases, as old and recent history has shown.

India needs a person with the metaphorical ’56 Ki Chhati’ to lead it. Others may flaunt their ‘Cups’ to win the battles of the other kind.

ICICI Bank, don’t make your customers’ life more difficult

Even when companies deploy latest technology which can make customer’s life really easy, the same companies can find ingenious ways to unnecessarily irritate a customer and make their experience unhappy.

ICICIBank.com’s Netbanking has a weird virtual keybaord layout instead of the traditional and highly familiar ‘qwerty’ layout. What is the logic behind this stupid design of keyboard layout which keeps the customer fumbling for keys?

The Account Summary statement display has the same column for Cr and Dr. So you keep searching what is Deposited and what is Withdrawn. How much time does it take to write few lines of software code to separate two columns for Cr and Dr or Deposit and Withdrawal? And contrast it with how much time it will save for your customers?

ICICI Bank, is this your way to prove you have “Khayal Aaap ka” in your approach?

Bad. Grow up.

What makes Radhakrishnan Pillai a bestselling author?

Radhakrishnan Pillai’s latest book Chanakya’s 7 Secrets of Leadership, has sold 10,000 copies in a month since its release in late January 2014, making it a bestseller. What makes him a bestselling author?

I have known and observed him since last few years. Here are my views on his well-deserved success.

He is authentic
Radha is intelligent and genuine along with being articulate. Amongst the current breed of Business Gurus where many fake and irritatingly dumb copy-pasters are masquerading as Business Gurus, Radha comes as a refreshingly fresh air.

He is focused
He has consistently focused on his studies of Chanakya and his teachings. He is not talking of anything else. Clear, unwavering focus.

He interprets and not simply translates
Radha has made it a mission to spread the learnings from Chanakya. He does not simply translate the verses, he simplifies them with his own insights, making the learning relevant to the contemporary times.

He writes to express, not impress
He uses facts and thoughts to express and does not resort to well rhyming words to impress his audience.

He is not out to build a personal brand
Many business writers write to add the word ‘Author’ on their visiting card. Radha is not driven by such purely commercial interests. He is not trying to lure some unsuspecting businessmen to get some consulting or executive coaching assignment through his writing work.

He is trying to propagate wisdom not encash it
Radha is a student of leadership wisdom of the ancient India. He is living a mission. He is driven by something larger than money can buy or valuers can evaluate.

He is not trying to sell anything
Radha does not write to sell his seminars or workshops. Neither is he bent on building a tribe where he will be worshipped as a demigod.

Radha, This is my tribute to your passion and mission. Keep doing the great work…

The manner of speaking matters

Heard two back-to-back announcements by two airlines announcing departures of their flights at Ahmedabad airport.

The lady announcer of IndiGo started “IndiGo announces the departure of its flight to Mumbai….”, spoke the name ‘IndiGo’ in a very low and unclear voice only once in the beginning of a rather long announcement, which is generally missed by the passengers as they are not able to hear initial words, due to the sudden start of the announcement.
Result? Total confusion for most of the passengers as for which airline the announcement was.

Next announcement was from SpiceJet. The lady started with “Kind Attention SpiceJetters…This is an announcement for passengers traveling by SpiceJet flight number xyz…”. Also, she spoke the word ‘SpiceJet’ 4 times clearly and loudly in the same amount of time.
Result? Total clarity about for whom the announcement was.

At a terminal where 5-6 airlines operate flights to a small number of destinations, the name of the airlines deserves the most clear mention.

Common sense, no?
But common sense is not common, no?

SpiceJet makes it loud and clear. IndiGo needs to improve skills on meaningful communication where it matters.

To be aware of the effect of our communication, we should hear through the ears of our customers.