The way Just Dial works, does not work…

This is how Just Dial works. And it does not work for its paid customers. It may be working for free listers. But moolah will keep coming only if it mends its way of working.

1) I posted a complaint on 14th June 2013 on its FB Page. Somebody responded in about half an hour saying “Please share your contact number with us. Our team will get in touch with you shortly to address the issue.” Today it has been more than 2 MONTHS, somebody is still working on it?

2) For free listings, JustDial may be a good option, (even though a lot of entries are junk and with wrong numbers), but for paid listings, I am finding that  JustDial is a waste of money and peace of mind.

We have registered for a paid National Listing for some Business Categories. But, this is how they are treating our paid listing :

a) On justdial.com, in many cities/towns our listing comes AFTER all the free listings in that city/town. But while in response to a phone query, our name is given along with other paid listers. There is a clear discrepancy in their logic for phone query and web query, but nobody at  JustDial is ready to listen. There appears a stubborn rigidity on the part of the decision makers at JustDial who are not able to see the obvious anomaly in their own product. Any sensible businessperson will agree that this is a wrong logic, but the honchos at JustDial prefer to differ.

b) In some cities our name is not shown (we have paid for National listing, which means all cities are included.)

c) At the time of booking, the sales person took an advance payment of 3-months of Down Payment and a mandate for ECS. He said, the ECS will start after 2 months and the third month amount will be adjusted against last month charges, when you terminate the contract. Contrary to his promise, ECS started in the very next month and that, too, in one month, JustDial deducted TWO installments. On seeking clarification of such random actions, I was communicated by JustDial that only ONE month payment is adjusted against your Down Payment and now, 2 months will be adjusted against your last 2 months. In short, within about 50 days, they collected 5 months of advance payment.

d) All the promises made verbally by the sales representative are not reflected in the contract. Even the contract is silent on Termination terms. On asked a query about the same, mumbai@justdial.com is yet to revert.

3) JustDial does not have any transparent customer accounting practice by which the customer knows when his contract starts, when it ends, when DP is adjusted and when ECS will start or stop. At least in my case, they have failed to come up with ledger or any such document with complete details, adding doubts about their system. They send various intimations in short SMSs or Emails and try to get away with the mandatory process requirements. But these “bits and pieces” practices are surely unfriendly to the customer because they leave him completely in the dark about the exact status of this contract with JustDial. Moreover, in the absence of any sensible person on the other hand, dealing with amateur customer care people really wastes a lot of talk time and and energy. If we ask anything about the accounting to these customer care people, they direct us to write to mumbai@justdial.com, the readers of which take weeks to respond with stock answers and then conclude that “the complaint is resolved….”.

4) A lot of promises that the sales people make are all verbal. I am still in dark about how many cities I am registered. Even though I was promised that my registration is valid for all Indian cities/towns listed in JustDial database, what I am discovering is that my name does not reflect in some of the cities, where in other cities for the same business keywords it does.

5) We have met 3 sales representatives from JustDial and each of them has quoted different rates for similar new listings. One of them remarked “June ke IPO ke baad hamare upar target ka bahot bada pressure hai. Hum sab ko target diya gaya hai…Kaise bhi sell karo…

6) When somebody inquires about our service, and after they give our info to the caller, JustDial sends us the caller’s info. Sometimes the same info is repeated 4 to 5 times, with the same caller details. They have not been able to develop a simple software to ensure non-duplicate leads going to a customer in a span of 4-5 minutes. In the business of information selling, they must have enough talent to catch such simple gaffes, but they come out with silly explanation “The customer has inquired 5 times, and hence 5 SMSs and Emails are sent to you…” I think Customer Care people as JustDial think that all their paid customers are dumbos and they will buy into any story they choose to tell them.

7) The Customer Support at JustDial is very bad. They take a lot of time to understand the problem. For all of the above concerns, we have contacted them umpteen number of times, but some ill-informed juniors on the Customer Care line respond with recorded feedback, which does not make any sense. Writing emails to mumbai@justdial.com also results in some feedback only after 2-3 weeks with some illogical and unsatisfactory replies and a prompt SMS saying “Your complaint has been resolved.” Writing some stock lines in reply has become a way of ‘resolving’ customer complaints at JustDial.

Honestly, it has been a huge disappointment and harassment after registering with JustDial. Nobody seems to care there.

It may be a good free telephone directory,  for finding some restaurant or courier numbers, but if you hope for some serious business leads, JustDial just does not measure up… They have a very long way to go. The first step may be to listen to the customers who pay them. Second may be in investing some really sensible marketing team, who can understand the mindless anomalies in their own products. Till then, it is not just  JustDial.

I am a well-wisher of JustDial.  I have put faith in its services, but the sloppy execution model of JustDial is utterly disappointing. Before it erodes the value created by the brand, I hope the top minds at JustDial will pay heed before it is too late.

The games Indian telecom operators play make customers hate them…

If you ask any mobile subscriber in India about their experience with the operator, 99% chances are that his/her experience is not pleasant. Why? Because true to a maxim in Gujarati which says “All crows are black, no matter from where hail”, almost all telecom operators in India are notorious for their dubious and customer unfriendly practices. I am sure, most of us may have suffered due to some or the other of them. Here are some examples.
1) When a mobile operator comes out with a cheaper plan, it NEVER informs the existing post-paid subscribers about the new plan, which surely can reduce the subscribers’ billing amount. But, when you apply to port out from their service or try to get converted to Pre-paid connection, their customer service (!) personnel get hyperactive. At that time they call and offer “A much cheaper plan to reduce your expense…” I wonder in which heaven these overzealous souls were resting when we were subjected to higher tariffs which forced us to get away from patronizing them. I have had such unpleasant experiences with Reliance Mobile and AirTel.
2) If you change any value-added pack, and then next day you wish to subscribe the same pack again, the operator may give you the bad news that “That pack is no longer available. Now the same pack is available with half of the benefits at the same price.” Previous day, at the time of taking your request of cancelling the existing plan, they don’t inform you about the plan not being available for new subscription. This gross loot they do with the loyal subscribers (whom they classify as “Platinum” subscribers), who have been with them for years. This is the worst gift for loyalty a customer should expect. Reliance Mobile, AirTel, Idea and Vodafone all of them have done this.
3) Mobile Number Portability (MNP), is the facility TRAI has provided to customers, giving them an option to change their mobile service providers. But, in MNP the mobile operators have found a new way of harassing customers. Because of any reason, when a subscriber applies for Porting out, the erstwhile operator puts as many obstacles as possible.  Recently, Reliance Mobile delayed releasing the number beyond stipulated 5 days and then released the number at 10 pm on Saturday night, knowing very well that the offices of the new mobile operator will be closed for weekend and the customer will have to suffer no-mobile services for the weekend. This is like arresting somebody on Friday evening, knowing well aware that the courts will be closed for the weekend, so that the person will have to remain in custody for at least two days as no bail can be processed. This dirty kick by the telecom operator in the butt leaves a painful wound in the customer’s mind.  We had a similar experience with Idea when they, too, delayed releasing the number for a very long time.
Every subscriber in India may have such stories. In response to my post on Facebook about one such grievance against Airtel, one of my friends commented, “All operators are same.”
Truly echoing the fact “All crows are black… regardless from where they hail.”
Do you have any experience with any of the crows? I invite you to come and share.

Why is it not difficult to understand customer expectations?

Because we all are customers. Most of the times. We regularly buy a lot of things that we need (and many things which we don’t need but we want..). And sometimes we get pissed off by that shopkeeper or that company. And we get delighted at some extra discount, service or some favor. And we become loyal to some brand or some store…. And we resent some other brand or some other store and tell others not to go there…

If we are in the business of some product, we may know that product, market and industry too well. But, we are not so familiar with all other products, markets or industries.

So, for all these products we are naive. And when we think of evaluating or buying these products, we behave in the same way as the customers for our products behave.

So, if we observe what we, as a customer, expect from a product, we can understand how our customer may expect from our products or from us. A lot can be learnt about our customers, only if we closely observe our own behavior.

And, just like as a customer we won’t like to be taken for a ride, our customers also don’t like if we treat them like a Bakra. So, please don’t look at a customer as a sacrificial goat that has come to fulfill your profitable dreams. Be aware that a customer is also a human being, just like us, and she also has her own aspirations and dreams, joys and emotions, frustrations and disappointments. Customer ko kabhi bakra nahi banane ka….Kyunki hum bhi kisike customer hain, na…?

What drives our B2B customers away from us?

Milind runs a DTP set-up in Mumbai. He takes typesetting jobs. Regional languages like Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati are his specialty. He uses an Indian language software on top of DTP software. He had bought that software about two years ago which came along with a dongle (security lock).

Recently, he had to format his computer hard disk and hence needed to re-install the Indian language software. He found that the installation CD of the software was not working. May be due to prolonged non-use it had been damaged. He immediately contacted the dealer of the software from who he had bought it and requested for another copy of the CD. The dealer’s response shocked Milind. This is what he was told :

Dealer : Damage of CD is your fault. You must have kept CD properly. Why you did not take care of it? Now you will have to pay money for that. People are careless and then they come to us. You should contact Company for the new CD.

Milind : My work has stalled and I am losing at least two thousand rupees a day due to that software not installed. Please give me company phone number.

Dealer : That is your problem. I am not here to give everybody phone numbers. It is printed on the CD. I know at least you can  find those numbers on the CD label.

Milind was shocked by such callous attitude. Helplessly, he contacted the Pune head office of the software company. There was another shock waiting for him. The person at the company told him “Why did you call up the head office? We have a dealer in Mumbai and so we don’t attend customers directly when a dealer is assigned a territory. You will have to speak to him.”

After explaining to him the story, the person relented, listened to him and told again “Ok. You call up the dealer and tell him to speak to me.” It was only after about ten days, that Milind could get the CDs after paying an unreasonable amount for something which should come to him at a very nominal cost.

He decided to switch to another Indian language software as soon as possible and he did it within a few weeks. Sometimes, no complicated reasons are responsible for business failures. They are all simple, silly things which lead to mammoth failures. The apathy of the dealer and other customer-facing individuals in a company’s channel can destroy a customer’s trust and drive them away from us. When a B2B customer’s work gets affected due to the supplier  /vendor’s delayed response, he will promptly find another vendor and product. 

Quality sells – even at a public toilet in Mumbai !

A pubic toilet in Mumbai is clearly an unlikely place to learn some good business practice. Just like in almost all parts of India, the disgusting, nauseatingly stinking public toilets are one of the worst nightmares people in Mumbai face. The situation for ladies in Mumbai is even worse because in the event of an emergency,  ‘Gents’ can assume the whole earth to be a public urinal, which ladies simply cannot, hence they have to silently pass through unspeakable agony for attending this natural process. The sorry state of public sanitation facilities is a blemish on the dreams of making Mumbai just like Shanghai or other such big global cities. It will remain a pipe dream, until this basic necessity is not given a serious thought.

But, a public toilet at Marine drive, just below the flyover junction connecting Marine Lines Station and Princess Street with Queen’s Necklace is a striking exception. It is a shining (literally…!) example of what differentiation means. The toilets, even though used by hundreds of people daily, are refreshingly clean. They are very well maintained and for that, the attendant there charges people for using the facility. Nobody appears unwilling to shell out a rupee or two for a service which saves them from the unpleasant experience of visiting a dirty public toilet in Mumbai out of helplessness.

Any product or service, maybe as mundane and unimaginative as a public toilet, can also provide quality, which people will happily welcome. The toilet at Marine Drive is run by some organization. I appreciate the clarity of the mission of the bosses there. If quality is given due attention by the bosses, it can be surely executed down the line. Otherwise, the stink continues to spread, from the top downwards….!

Is your business ready, fit and in perfect shape?

Recently, while on a holiday tour, we hired a car for visiting some places. The distance was about 400 kms round trip and we started at 6 am. Hardly one hour on the road, the car developed a flat tire (puncture). The driver, a middle aged fat man, could not set the jack, as it was old and worn out. We had to help him to change the tire.

Going forward, the car could not move faster, because there was some engine problem. Finally, we reached our first halt spot at 1.30 pm, 4.5 hours behind schedule. There, he found out that the car had heated too much and developed some serious problem and couldn’t go forward. He told us go hire another vehicle. We were stranded in the middle of the trip and had to arrange for another vehicle by paying twice the money.

It left us with a bitter experience in the middle of a happy holiday tour. The car driver lost his customer and future business from a lot of referrals as well. Why? Only because he did not keep his car in proper condition, by maintaining it regularly.

It highlights the importance of infrastructure in any business. The basic tools, equipments, machines and all other things which are required to conduct the daily operations of the business must be kept in perfect condition. We see a lot of customers in shops getting frustrated for reasons like PC, Printer, Fax Machine, Credit Card Reader any many such things not working properly. Some places have issues with Air Conditioners, somewhere the furniture is in bad or damaged condition or the toilet taps are having problems or stopper hooks are missing…!

Many hotels have swimming pools, gyms and other games equipment, but are unusable because of very poor maintenance and hence they are there only for the sake of a mention on the brochure or the web site. They are not functional and don’t add any value. In fact, their non-functioning erodes a lot of value.

These are very small things, but they create a lot of irritation and inconvenience to the customer.  One of the very important aspect of any buying process is the customer’s experience while buying our product or service. Such malfunctions leave a bad experience on customer’s minds which are detrimental to the long term health of our business.

So, get all those things repaired and in perfect condition which are important to make our customer’s experience pleasant. It may cost some money, but if not done in time, the damage in terms of customer loss will be costlier….!