In the past few years, I have been witnessing an aggressive approach to Customers from Companies who pride themselves as Customer focused Companies! I will be talking about few Companies specifically. But I am not saying that only these companies are adapting these aggressive approaches to customers. There may be many more. I am talking about these companies on the basis of my personal experience. Experience of others may be different.
I have been Banking with ICICI for about 25 Years. I have good amount of Deposits with them. I am a decent size Customer for them. I have Savings Accounts with them as well as Current accounts too. As I know the Bank for 25 years, I have a right to talk about them. Currently I am actively looking at shifting away from this Bank due to two reasons.
The Bank’s service is deteriorating fast. They were not helpful to me in some specific cases. They will quote their Process when I ask for help. The Staff of this Bank are remarkably unfocused on Customers’ Point of view. Most of the Staff are young and totally untrained on Customer Service.
a) In addition, they adapt a very aggressive approach towards Customers to get more business from them:
a. If I or my wife go to the Bank, the Staff will be all over us. Not to help us. But, to ask for Deposits, ask us to invest in Insurance and so on. 90% of the Visits are marked by Staff asking us to invest in some schemes.
b. If someone smiles at me, these days I am turning my face away as the second sentence would be about investing.
c. Whatever may be the agenda with which we go to Bank, they will harass us about investing. They will ask for Account numbers, look at our Deposits and then will go after us. Right now, a visit to ICICI Bank has become very unpleasant.
d. They also approach us on Phone. There are calls from their Call centers about various schemes. They also call from the Branch where we have accounts. They keep offering the same thing even though we said NO to it. They offer me Overdraft on the basis of my transactions. I said no to it. But they don’t care! They keep calling every week and offering the same! I am amazed by their insensitivity. I keep picking up the call as the number is a usual land line or Cell number. If it comes from the usual 14*** then I do not even pick up the call.
ICICI Bank may be giving their Employees a wonderful incentive to get the Business! Otherwise I can’t imagine the employees to be so proactive. Earlier it used to be the Marketing guys who have these targets. It looks like every Customer facing Executive is given Targets now! With this, they have turned every employee in to a Marketing executive. Is it good for ICICI? Whoever has taken this decision, has committed a big mistake. Now there is no Customer Service at the Bank. It is only Customer harassment! I am talking from personal experience!
I own a Volkswagen Vento. I bought this car in 2012. Since then I spent a good amount of money on this Car. Somehow my experience with Volkswagen had been very bad. But I can say I am suffering the wrong choices that I made with reference to choosing Diesel Car as well as the Brand.
But my experience with the Dealer of this Car in Coimbatore is very bad!
- The Bill for the Servicing is never small. I am suspicious of this Dealer as once they suggested changing Brake Pads when they have just changed it in the previous Service. Since then I am suspicious of their intentions! When I countered the Service Executive that the Brake Pads were just changed in the previous Service, he changed his tack. I never trust this Dealer after that.
- After Service, the Volkswagen (Being Customer Centric!!) asks for feedback. First the local Dealer will call. After that Volkswagen themselves call from Mumbai. Initially I took this seriously and gave genuine feedback. If you say you are happy, you are let go there. But if you say you had a problem, then the harassment is more. They will arbitrarily call you whenever they want and ask for more information. In the initial days, I took it seriously and gave them further feedback. For one Servicing, you have to answer 3 Calls if you told them that you were not happy with something. If you don’t pick up the call, they will go after you. I think the calls are made by a Software program. The program does not get tired of calling you till you pick up.
- Now in the initial days in all my innocence I looked for feedback or addressing my issue that is given in the feedback. There is never any action taken and there is never any feedback on my feedback.
- Since then I just stopped answering the calls. If they fool me by calling from different numbers, I just disconnect if they say ‘Volkswagen..’.
- Is this what Volkswagen wants? To harass their Customers?
With my experience of local Dealer and the Company I have decided that I will never ever buy a Volkswagen product and avoid all Companies that this Dealer represents!
I am not talking about the Dealer as he may be a Small company. I am hoping Volkswagen will learn from this case study.
I am trying to sell a Flat that I own in Coimbatore. I decided to put an advertisement in Quikr.
You can put a free advertisement in Quikr. But once you put it, you are chased by their Executives asking you to get into paid section. That is not the end.
Once you pay up, they keep bombarding you with calls to upgrade yourself!
After we suffered at their hands with the first advertisement, my wife became smart by the second one. She did not pick up the barrage of calls that they were making after inserting the second Advertisement.
Is this the way Quikr wants to treat its’ Customers? Is there no other way but to chase Customers and wear them out?
We got used to using Swiggy as many people have. Of late, there are many bad deliveries from Swiggy. When you order for Dosa it arrives without any accompaniments. Swiggy App has provision for taking feedback from Customer.
We keep giving feedback. Neither the Restaurant concerned nor Swiggy takes any action on the Feedback! Swiggy App though says ‘Aaargh !! Not acceptable !’ when you give feedback. You may fooled to think that they will really take some action!! Nothing will happen!
Swiggy thinks that we will never go away from them! We as a family are planning to prove them wrong!
There are several more examples. Ola Auto Drivers routinely ask for adding more money to what is shown by the Ola app. Otherwise they will refuse to come OR delay it so much that in a panic you accept their demand or you cancel the ride. If you cancel, sometimes you have to bear cancellation charges. We routinely rate these Drivers low. But no one acts on your feedback! More Drivers keep asking for extra money!
Is this becoming a norm in India? You aggressively go after the Customers for Business using the Technology and connectivity that is available. But you don’t use the same technology for taking care of your Customers?
You give your Executives such an aggressive target that they go after the Customer as if it is a bounty hunt!
Whoever is designing the Customer service in these companies and many more are getting it totally wrong! Customers will respond and dump these companies!
Among these bad examples, there are a few good examples too.
Anandaas Restaurant, Coimbatore
This restaurant genuinely cares about its’ customers. The whole Owner family including the 80 year old Patriarch are in their Restaurants. Talking to the Customers while they are in the restaurant. There are always enough Executives around to talk to the Customers and keep servicing them. The restaurant is always innovative with their menu. They keep bringing special items on the weekends.
As the restaurant is a good one, the crowd is always heavy. But the restaurant’s service speed is very good. With this they try to minimize the waiting time of the Customer.
They are truly focused on the Customers. They don’t harass us with the phone calls for feedback! They make sure they give good service by interacting with us while at the Restaurant.
Invest into the relationship with the Customer
Companies need to shift their focus on to medium / long term. They need to invest into their relationship with the Customers. They should not treat the Customers as Cows that should be milked continuously without taking care of them.
The Targets to employees in the Companies have to be refocused. The focus should be more on the relationship and service to the Customers and less on the immediate results. They should believe that if they maintain good relationship with the customers, they customers will keep coming back to them for all their needs.
Look at everything from Customer point of view: Companies need to learn to look at everything from Customer Point of view. Improve your service to Customers on every touch point. Eg. ICICI Bank gave us trouble on several specific services. When I wanted to pay my Brother’s travel in foreign exchange (as he had come to conduct a Training program for my company), they harassed me a lot. Finally, I had to fight with the Executive concerned to get it done. This is just one example. Companies have to understand the Customer point of view. They may respectfully disagree. But they have to understand first.
Launch more services for the Customers: Measure yourself with the number of services that you launch for your Customers and how simple are the services that you already have for Customers. Eg. ICICI Bank shows a lot of aggression in terms of following up with the customers for more Business. I cannot see the same aggression in solving my problems.
Have personal touch: Amidst all the rules of your Company, still have personal touch with the Customers. Eg. I keep asking the Volkswagen Dealer that I am having bad experience with the Vento car. If he takes out the expense that I had with the Car and tries to explain to me as to why I have spent more money on my car, It will help me a lot. Right now he never listens to me on this. He is just worried about the current bill.
In Banks, today there are Customer Relationship Managers. You would think they have your interests at their heart! This is another designation for asking for more Deposits! I was very disappointed to be fooled!!
Companies should believe that their true service will bring them the Business. They need to believe in this fact.
I have spoken about few specific companies in this article. If anyone from these companies are reading this article and stung by the criticism, they are more than welcome to engage with me. But not for more Business!! I am willing to speak to them if someone senior approaches me and proves to me that they are willing to learn! Otherwise, don’t bother to call me!
I hope Companies would Learn the true definition of Customer Service!! Otherwise they will disappear from the Business map sooner than later!
We have been hearing about Industry 4.0 elements and the amazing change that it can bring in your Company.
It is heartening to see a few companies getting into this game and trying to improve their efficiencies. Many more companies should get started with the Industry 4.0.
Among companies that are getting in to trying Ind 4.0, there are at least two types. Those who are setting up new Factories. These companies are going in for across the factory implementation of Ind 4.0 and trying to define a new level of Manufacturing efficiency in the Company. Companies who are trying to do this are few right now. I am sure once there are a few case studies of Paradigm change in the industry, the momentum will pick up and more companies would attempt change in a bigger way.
Many Companies are trying to wet their feet. They are trying to do one Project that would give them a feel for the Cost / Benefit. Many are trying out in the area of collecting more data from a Machine and trying to predict its’ Breakdown / Performance.
As we support Companies with the Industry 4.0 applications, we at IMA are able to see multiple applications and we are able to get a feel for the big change that Ind 4.0 can deliver. Can Ind 4.0 be the motivation for the Indian Manufacturing to turn to improving their Productivities and Efficiency?
I am presenting here a bunch of areas where you can make a beginning. There are very few Companies and very few People who have really done something in the area of Ind 4.0 in India. But there are some good resources that can help you start off. Everyone will learn together. The provider and the receiver of the Service.
01. Assembly Lines: Companies are looking at ‘No fault forward’ Lines. Their goal in these lines is ‘Zero PPM’. Gone are the days when we say 99 ppm is our target. Now companies are trying to achieve Zero PPM! Assembly lines are getting designed that can deliver the Zero PPM. As many of the CTQs (Critical to Quality parameters) as possible are getting checked online. The Quality data is getting captured at each station with the help of Bar codes / RFID. Assembly stations are remembering the Operators who are working at each of the stations. These Stations also capture the information related to various losses at each of the stations. The Managers review the Lines using the data that is coming from this individual equipment. The Line keeps sending updates about the Production, Quality etc to the relevant people in the Management.
02. Machine shop: The Machine Loading Plan is being done with the help of a Software. The E-Machine Kanban is scheduling the Production across the machines in the machine shop. This itself can give a huge benefit to many companies. The Machine shops keep losing a lot of capacity due to the Scheduling issues. In addition, the Companies are monitoring the Cutter life with the help of sensors to avoid Rejections before they change the cutters. Many more individual applications are being tried out.
03. Predictive Maintenance: Another area many companies are trying out is in the area of Predictive Maintenance. The existing data from a machine itself can give several insights. In addition, more sensors are put to collect data on the condition of the machines like Vibration / temp of a motor to predict the condition and act before a break down happens. Companies are striving to create Digital Twins of their machineries and predict the performance of the machines.
04. Online Quality Management: The Offline Quality Plans are getting online. Companies are trying to collect data on the Quality of the Process & the Product and act on the Quality issues online. The Data on Quality parameters may be picked up from the machines online or sometimes the Quality data may be checked by the Supervisor. The Quality checks can be made by everyone in the Factory and not just the hapless Quality Inspector! As the Data on Quality is available online, a lot of analysis is possible to understand the process / people.
05. Sub-contractor Integration: A Company that has many Sub-contractors can integrate these Sub-contracting locations as if it is one big Shop floor. Schedule the Sub-Contractors close to the Point and Time of need that goes along with the Demand Planning of the Company. The online information about the Status of the Machinery, resources in the Sub-contracting locations can be available for the Company. The rescheduling of the parts can happen online on the basis of the condition of the machines at the sub-contracting locations. You can monitor the Preventive maintenance schedules at your Sub-contracting locations. You can help your Sub-contractors to plan the Maintenance schedules. Once you treat them as one big group of machines in your Shop floor, you can do a lot more.
06. Supplier Integration: You can schedule your multiple suppliers for a Part on the basis of their Quality and Delivery on a dynamic basis. You don’t have to wait for the Supplier rating and correcting the Share of Business at the end of the year / half year. You can act in a more dynamic manner. The Dispatches from your Suppliers can be controlled online by issuing the E-Kanban Cards close to the Time of need. You can monitor the Final inspection of your Parts at the Supplier end online. You can monitor the ‘Approved Inspectors’ at your Supplier place online. Depending on the cooperation of your Suppliers and the need, you can monitor the Quality of Process at your Supplier end. You can give feedback on the Quality of their supplies to the Shop floor teams at suppliers directly from your shop floor.
07. Dealer Integration: You can go forward with your integration of Business Partners and integrate your Dealers into your network. You can have the online information about the Products that are moving in the market and keep adjusting your Production Plans. You do not have to wait for the Sales team to give you schedules. You can understand the Consumption pattern of your Customers more online using the connectivity.
08. Skill Development: You can make BIG changes in the way you train your Employees. You can train them on Micro Topics using Micro Learning modules on a continuous basis. You can use E-Learning for this. With a good E-Learning developing partner, you can improve the Skills of your Employees at a much more depth than the conventional training. Eg. If Lean implementation is your priority, you can train your Engineers on ‘Time and Method study’ after which they can carry out the projects in the shop floor. You can use the Partner to certify your employees on Skills and Results. This perhaps is one of the areas where you can get BIG results and transform the way you run business. Skills have not been at the Centre of the Business in India for too long.
09. Problem Solving: You can bring the Problem Solving in your Company online. The Problems can be allotted to the employees and the various stages of solving the problems can be brought online. The Employees can be taught to work in a systematic way for Problem Solving using an App.
10. Promoting Learning in your Manufacturing Process: Today the Quality Plans are put, and the Quality Plans are not getting updated with the learnings from the manufacturing fast enough. If you have a Process from which you are collecting a lot of data online, then you can let the Quality Plan learn from what is happening on the ground. You need to keep recording the Quality of the Product that is produced online or close to being online. Then, the Process parameters are captured as well as the result of the Process condition. From this, the Quality plan can learn using Artificial Intelligence much like how your Google maps app and several other apps learn from your usage of them.
There can be many more areas where the Ind 4.0 elements can be used. Some of them may sound like ‘Hey, we could do this earlier too’. Does it matter if you haven’t done it earlier?
Let us use this current wave of interest in Digitalization to improve Efficiency on your shop floor and that of your Partners to give better service to the Customer and improve our competitiveness in the market.
But there are a few MUSTs for you to get on to this journey.
Come to a Basic level of efficiency: If your Company has never visited the Lean principles, you have never heard of Kanban and other Best practices, then you have some work to do before you go on to the Digitalization. Many companies did not move to use the Best practices so far. If current Digitalization wave is interesting you, that is good news. You just create a Phase 1 where you implement the Best Practices. The results that you can get from the efficiency improvement can pay for your investment in the Digitalization!! Let us turn the adversity of ‘low efficiency’ into a virtue to pay for your Ind 4.0 efforts!! There are very few companies in India that can say that they are very efficient! There may be huge scope for improvement in their own shop or in the shop floor of Partners or in the Market place. Exploit this inefficiency to pay for your big efforts in Ind 4.0.
01. Have a BIG target for your Ind 4.0 efforts: Only a big target will help you adapt the Best practices using the technology. For 10% / 15% improvement in Productivity, you don’t need Technology. Aim at doubling your Productivity / efficiency. Then, there can be a challenge for you to find technology that will take you to next orbit. Disrupt your Company with technology. Don’t try to cut vegetables with Bahubali’s sword !!
02. Train your Teams: Please remember however much the Managing Director may know about Industry 4.0, you can’t implement it without an urge of your team. You need to educate your team about what the possibilities are. Current level of knowledge of the Engineers / Managers in the Industry is quite bad. Let the thinking happen across your Company and aim at making the Ind 4.0 implementation an Organization wide initiative and not just the fad of the top man/team.
When are you starting off on your Transformation journey?
This is the time around the end of the Financial Year when you have to look at your Performance in the current Financial year and take some bigger learnings from it. Every Employee in the Company should be encouraged to have a look at his/her performance in a structured manner and then learn from it.
This is what I am calling as ‘Business Diagnosis’.
Learn from your Performance: Every Business Team tries their best to achieve all their Goals for the year. Whether they achieve the Goals or not, there is always learning from the year. It is critical for a Company to learn from its’ performance every year. This learning does not happen unless there is a process to it. There should be a process by which everyone in the Company looks at their own performance last year in a systematic manner.
Recently an Entrepreneur friend told me that his team took decisions about New Products on the basis of data collected from Customers and that is his BIG learning this year. Earlier they used to take decisions just on the basis of judgement of their internal team.
Are you going towards your Medium-Term Plan: The Company can anchor around the Medium-Term Plan that they have created? Is the Company going firmly towards it? A Business Diagnosis can help you to keep yourself firmly on the path to the Medium-term plan. If you are veering off the path, the Business Diagnosis is a chance to come back to the Path. A Company that is chasing the expansion to ASEAN countries looked at their performance and decided that they need a separate Project Team as their Sales team is not able to pay attention to the regular Target chasing and also the expansion to ASEAN countries. This happened after they kept flogging the Sales team and finally took this call.
Are you going to go beyond the Medium-Term Plan: Today the Business scenario is changing fast. When you have completed one year in your Three-Year Plan, you may have got some new insights in to the Business and you may decide to change / modify the Three-year plan. The Annual Business Diagnosis is a time when you may just do that. A Company who are setting up a new Factory have decided that they should leverage Industry 4.0 in their new factory, and they decided to change the Goals in the Three-year plan and took much tougher Transformational Goals for the Three years. They are confident Industry 4.0 will help them to achieve these stretch Goals.
Scope for the Diagnosis
The learning that you get from the Diagnosis will depend on the level at which you would do the Diagnosis. How open are you to learning? Are you willing to question the direction in which your company is going?
Normally there will be no problem in learning at the Lower / Middle level of your Organization. As long as you give a good Process for the Diagnosis, they would be applying it and bringing out the Learnings. For these teams, you need to help them dig deeper and take more learnings.
For the Senior Team, the problem would be that of acceptance of the Process. You need to help them to go beyond their Ego and become open for learning. This can happen if the Chief Executive is serious about learning for his organization. If the CEO is not serious, then no learning can happen.
Some of the areas in which the Learning can happen are:
- The Businesses that the Company should be involved in
- Medium Term Goals
- Strategy of the Company to reach the Goals
- The Organization structure of the Company
- The Overseas Strategy
- Manufacturing Strategy in the light of Ind 4.0
- Marketing Methods
- Sales Process
- Engineering Strategy
- Tooling Strategy
- Machine choices for Manufacturing
..and many more.
Process of Diagnosis
You need to look at your performance through different lenses of the process of getting results in a Company.
Choose the areas in which the Diagnosis can be done. Normal areas will be the KPIs of all members of the Team at all levels of the Organisation.
But, very often there can be learnings on Processes cutting across the KPIs. The Process of setting KPIs itself can be one area for Learning.
Target Setting and Planning for Performance
How did you set the Targets in your Chosen area of Diagnosis? Were the Targets too tough or too easy? Were there Targets for Processes and Results as appropriate? Were the Targets broken up into Micro Targets that you have to achieve on a daily /Weekly basis? Was there enough linkage between the work that is happening today and the target that has to be achieved at the end of the month?
Targets are not useful if they are not tight enough. They are also not useful if they are too difficult to achieve. Every Company has to go thru their own Learning process in the area of Target setting.
Targets also need to be deployed systematically to the whole of the Organization. This has to be checked.
Was there enough Planning to achieve the Target? Was the Plan detailed enough? How was the success of the Plans? Was the Planning process good enough to produce Plans for all situations? Which are the Plans that worked and which that did not work? Why they did not work?
All the important Planning Processes like Annual Planning process, New Product Planning Process, Strategic Business Planning process, Manufacturing Planning, Sales Planning have to be reviewed and improvement in the Processes has to be initiated.
Planning is an important Process in any Company. Most of the failures in any company can be traced back to an inadequate Planning process. Production Planning may give out low success if the Material Planning is not good enough.
New Product Development process may not help to achieve the New Product Sales for the year when the New Product Planning is not done in adequate detail.
Sales Target may be continuously missed out if the Sales Planning at every Region is not happening in detail.
Getting things done
How good is the process of getting things done in your Company? Once you have Energizing Targets and Detailed Plans and Planning Process, you need to have good process for getting things done.
Getting things done involves several practices like:
- How well are you monitoring the Plan vs Actual? Do you have good Dashboards to monitor Performance?
- How well are you motivating your Team towards the targets? Do you have methodology to encourage appropriate behavior towards achieving Targets?
- Do you have Skills defined for your Staff for achieving the regular and special targets? How well are you Training your team?
- How is your Cross Functional Working? How is the cooperation between the Functions towards achieving the Targets?
- How are you using I.T for getting things done in the Company? Today there is enough technology available to help you get things done.
Feedback: It would be useful to take feedback from your Teams about the problems that they face in getting things done.
Sometimes Customers and Suppliers will be able to give very good feedback about how well things are getting done in your Company. While our thinking can be at one level, feedback from our Customers and Suppliers can be from an entirely different angle.
How well are you doing Business Reviews?
How are the Business Reviews happening in your Company? Are you reviewing the Status of the Goal achievement and helping the Teams in time?
- Are Business Reviews happening at all levels in your Company?
- How is the effectiveness of the Business Reviews?
- Is there a process for the Business Reviews in your Company?
- How is the follow up between the reviews?
- Are the teams enthusiastic about Business Reviews?
Business Reviews are perhaps the most important aspect in Indian Business environment. Without proper Business Reviews Getting things done may not happen well.
Are the KPIs being reviewed systematically or the Reviews are becoming an occasion for Bosses to let out their steam?
Are the Business Reviews happening with a good presentation by the Team member? Is there a preparation for the Business review from the Team members? The real learning for the Team members happens when they prepare well for the Business Review.
This author has written another article on ‘Business Reviews’. You may refer to that article for more details.
How good are you at making Course Corrections?
Problems in Manufacturing and Business are common. How well are your team members implementing the Corrective actions?
There are many Companies that are not good at this. As Corrective actions are not happening, the same problems continue forever.
Some of the areas where the Companies get stuck are:
Company Growth: The Company seems to be planning for a great growth every year. But the company keeps failing on the Target achievement. The actions that need to be implemented in the field are not happening and the teams seem to fail in the implementation time and again.
New Product introduction: The Customers seem to suffer same problems with New Products. The New Products do not come on time and they come with many problems. This is continuing for years. The Company do not seem to get out of this habit.
Quality Problems: Companies deal with the same Quality Problems forever. Customers keep getting the same problems. The Teams seems to solve the Problems. But they keep coming back. The Corrective Actions implementation and sustenance may be the issue.
Is your company stuck in some areas? It will be good to identify these areas where the Corrective actions are not happening, and learning is not happening.
This way the Business Diagnosis can help your Company to learn from last year and take some bigger Corrective actions.
Are you learning from your Current year performance?