Poor customer service in India: Will Social Media solve the problem?

Customer service in India? Hardly go together.  Pick up a company and there is huge amount of anger flowing in the social media channels. Let’s look at Airtel, arguably they provide one of the best customer service in India. Here is one angry customer tweeting about his bad experience:

Airtel angry customer

This is just a small sample of the overall dissatisfaction around poor customer service. Go to http://search.twitter.com/ and try some popular names.

All the anger goes un-noticed (at least for now) as companies hardly follow up and close the loop. Even if the companies are active in social media, their presence is just a charade, as in this example:

Tata Indicom bad customer service

In the above conversation, Tata Indicom (using @tataphotonplus) regularly talks to customers and asks them to send an email / call their customer service, which probably starts a separate thread in their CRM. Probably, they do not even have the tools to research the issue. I can guess that it’s being managed by a marketer.

On the other side, young companies like Cleartrip are doing a much better job. They take some time but put some effort in resolving the issue. Recently I found a bug on cleartrip’s site related to how they calculate dates for a railway booking. It took me 5-6 high pitch hollers before cleartrip acknowledged the bug (I haven’t seen my lost money yet as they booked me on a wrong date!)

Cleartrip Railway booking bug

The anger being spewed on the web is nothing new–There have been scores of websites, forums who aggregate the data centrally and nothing happens unless the companies have presence. Very few such forums have a model to engage with the customer. Tripadvisor does it a bit; Getsatisfaction was built on the same premise. However, the fragmented open channels provided by twitter and other social media streams allows companies to tap in easily.

The technology to connect the social media dots with the regular CRM is also coming together and most of the vendors have now started offering ways to complete the customer service loop.  The company can keep a customer happy if they are able to connect it’s customer id & the twitter username of it’s customer. There are a lot of initiatives for a separate Social CRM, but an existing CRM would work best if it’s connected to the social channels where customers are present rather than reinventing.

On the flip side, I see that it is a good start. The customer service in the above case is most probably being done via the marketing channels. And when a marketer gets a negative feedback about the brand/service, it gets escalated. Not every company is on the social channel, especially the government run companies who have a history of checkered customer service.

Companies provide good customer service when they have the fear of god in their mind; fear of losing the customer or lawsuits taking the company down. However in India, where there are few laws to “really” protect the customer nor the companies fear about losing a customer or two–The only way companies get attentive is when they fear that a large number of people would read about other people’s bad experience and the dilution of the brand.

Good thing that people have a vent and companies have started noticing and the new channel is able to connect them publicly with the footprints left all over.

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