One of the most frustrating experiences I have in India is dealing with the customer service department of a company. For the most part a companies idea of customer service is hanging up a sign saying “Customers Are #1 To Us” and then offering up a comment card for any service they provide.
Recently, I went to the Airtel office in Lower Parel, Mumbai to change the name on my account. It should have taken 10-15 minutes but instead we waited 1 hour and then got the run around for the various forms we needed. They could have improved the process flow through two options: have the correct information on the internet or have a person at the entrance give you the correct information. But in reality they don’t have to because they really don’t need my business.
In mature markets there are various studies on the cost of acquiring new customers. It can be as little as pennies (via Google AdWords) or thousands of dollars (property, cars, etc..) to acquire and retain customers. But in emerging markets such as India, the cost to get new customers is almost nil. Take a look at the mobile phone market in India, during November 2007 the country added 8 million NEW connections. In one year they’ll add around 100 million new users. In India with so many new potential customers, the cost to acquire them is next to zero when people are falling over themselves to buy your product.
At some point this will change when the market becomes mature/saturated. Then companies will look to streamline operations and make customers a priority. Hopefully sooner than later.