Business & Management

At the Cafe Coffee Day outlet at the Bangalore International Airport, I asked for an empty cup (paper or plastic; any size) so that I could share my coffee (an expensive one bought a few seconds back) with someone who I was with. Seems they can’t give one. I offered to pay. Seems an empty cup costs as much as a full cup of coffee. Management for management’s sake. True CRM horror.

What has your experience been?

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Quite some time since I posted a CRM horror story. This time it was at The Shoppers Stop at The Garuda Mall, Bangalore.

On the 2nd floor, D and I are looking around, when we’re approached by an in-store staff who asks, “Would you like to avail a First Citizen membership?” I wanted to scream, “WTF! $#@!*^%.” D simply said, “We already have a First Citizen membership.”

At the ground floor billing counter, another in-store staff starts, “Would you like to avail a First Citizen membership? There’s a Rs 200 charge. But unlike before, you now get blah blah discounts for some blah blah products at some blah blah stores. Here are the blah blah coupons for the blah blah discounts.” Pause. “NO. We don’t have time.” Resume. “It will only take 2 minutes. Here are the blah blah coupons for the blah blah discounts.” Pause. I wanted to scream, “WTF! $#@!*^%.” Resume. “You can get 50% off on cosmetics blah blah…”

Message to Shoppers Stop: If you desperately need money to run your stores, just keep a donation box at each entry/exit point. Stop harassing your customers. Thank your lucky stars that they’re still walking into your stores.

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That’s what a security guard at the Reebok store on 100 ft. Ring Road, Banashankari 3rd Stage said when I visited the store at 11:00 AM last Saturday.

I desperately needed a cap and I had committed to buy one then and there. Instead I was not allowed to step inside the store because — to quote the security guard — “the owners are already in the store, but you have to wait outside for five minutes because the salesperson has gone outside.”

WTF mate? Who am I? A committed-to-a-purchase customer or a criminal who wants to walk away with the store in broad daylight? You might have read, heard, and seen these fancy reports written by fancy experts projecting India to be “the thing” in retail. Ground reality is different. This experience at the Reebok store is not an isolated incident. Most retail outlets treat customers worse than criminals, with salespeople and security guards watching — with eyes that would rival a hawk’s — your every move.

And my response to the security guard was, “If that’s the way the owners want to run their business, no one’s going to step foot inside this store.” I actually wanted to say this to the owners, but hey, remember, I can’t go inside and talk to them because “though the owners are already in the store, I have to wait outside for five minutes because the salesperson has gone outside.”

What’s your “retail” experience been this far?

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Tweets on 2008-07-30

by Vinaya HS on July 30, 2008

in Business & Management

A “must see” presentation. Don’t judge the presentation by it’s title — it’s applicable to a general audience.



Link: Brain Rules for Presenters.

Pay particular attention to slides 49, 51, 55, and 56. I strongly believe in the following two points made in the presentation: “There is no greater anti-brain environment than the cubicle,” and “When you’re always online you’re always distracted.”

On #1, cubicles usually leave me feeling trapped and claustrophobic by the end of the work day. I am lucky to at least have a window-facing seat.

On #2, I have simply lost track of the number of times my thoughts have been derailed simply by being always online (email, instant messenger, work phone, mobile phone, and web browser – wow!). The back and forth context switch during each such interruption levies a huge penalty on my productivity. Of late, I have been experimenting with “zone out” windows (absolutely no interruptions) and have experienced a truly significant increase in my productivity.

What’s your take on this topic?

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Tweets on 2008-04-28

by Vinaya HS on April 28, 2008

in Business & Management

This presentation on how to manage your career is a must see and a must implement for each one of us. It’s brilliant — albeit a bit quirky. How many of these lessons do you actually follow today?

Original article at Presentation Zen.

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Tweets on 2008-04-21

by Vinaya HS on April 21, 2008

in Business & Management

A well researched presentation on the state of the Mobile Value Add Services (VAS) industry in India. Being in this industry, I can say that the authors have correctly identified the problems afflicting the VAS industry.

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From an ICICI Bank flyer,

FlexiCash is a special overdraft facility offered to salaried individuals. Simply put, it gives you the benefit of having a pre-approved and pre-sanctioned cash limit in your bank account.

With FlexiCash, you enjoy the double benefit of ready cash for what you need, whenever you need. From filling those shortfalls to the pleasures of shopping, from paying high interest liabilities to buying consumer durables to meeting your everyday needs, the money is now already in your bank account, ready to use.

WTF mate? How dumb does ICICI Bank think its customers are? FlexiCash lets you pay high interest liabilities being a high interest liability itself? What kind of Bank encourages you to go shopping, buy white goods, or meet everyday needs on an overdraft? Wake up CEO. Is this how you want to run your Bank?

I think the second paragraph was originally worded as:

With FlexiCash, you enjoy the double misery of ready cash for what you don’t need, whenever you don’t need it. From filling ICICI Bank’s treasury to draining your savings, from paying high interest liabilities (ROTFLMAO!) to watching your balance go negative to meeting ICICI Bank’s balance sheet needs, your money is now already on the way to our bank account, ready to lend again.

Since this fundamental truth cannot be printed, the wordings had to be changed.

I once had an overdraft facility on my Citibank Suvidha account. I called to close it. I was informed that once a line of overdraft is closed, I will not be given the option to start a new one again. I have never been happier than that one fleeting moment.

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On my way home from work yesterday, I had the opportunity to tail a Maruti Swift DZiRE for close to four kilometers. Having looked at the car from all angles, I have just one thing to say:

Just because you know how to weld things together does not mean that you should weld together everything that you see on your assembly line.

The Swift looks awesome. The Swift DZiRE looks totally lame. It can compete with the Mahindra Logan in an Ugly Duckling contest.

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Yesterday, at the Cookie Man outlet located in the Forum Mall, my five-year old niece wanted a single coconut cookie. I was informed that the coconut cookies could only be bought in bulk. While I was explaining this to my niece, the employee overheard my explanation. She immediately went over, got a single coconut cookie, and handed it to my niece. The smiles on their faces were priceless.

Wow! Employees empowered to take decisions. Cookie Man gets it. I’m their customer for life.

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Videocon first burns shareholders’ money in creating this meaningless and irrelevant ad. And when it’s time to cut that multi-crore check to each of the multi-crore demanding celebrities, they unleash this lame scheme on the public.

Maano Ya Na Maano!

Pay just Rs 12,990 for the Jumbo 34 Flat TV and deposit a sum of Rs 7000 to get a Plasma 32 Entitlement Certificate. Redeem this certificate after 2 years and 11 months for one Plasma 32″ (81 cm) TV. You can also redeem this certificate earlier to get heavy discounts on the Plasma 32, under the premature redemption option. Hurry. Book your TV in next 3 days!! Better believe it. It’s full Paisa Vasool.

Source: Videocon’s printed ad featured in leading dailies.

“It’s full Paisa Vasool,” actually means “We’re scamming you, you fool.” I asked this question a while back and I pose it again: What do Indian corporates take the Indian public to be? Mindless idiots?

What do you think? Seriously.

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This brilliant ad from Barclays Bank for their credit cards would like you to believe that you are in total control. However, dig deep and you’ll find this:

Barclaycard Gold Card

Our fee free for life Gold card gives you simple options to tailor the card to your needs. Choose between a minimum monthly payment of 5%, 7%, and 10% of your balance, determine your billing date and adjust your credit limit to manage your spendings.

Barclaycard Smart Budget Card

With Barclaycard Smart Budget you won’t have any nasty surprises. You decide how much you can afford each month and only need to pay that amount, regardless of how much you spend. As with all credit cards by Barclaycard, you can also choose your billing date.

I am being encouraged to spend on my credit card and then conned into believing that I am in total control of the situation by paying 5%, 7%, or 10% of the outstanding balance as minimum monthly payments. The naked truth is that when you make a single minimum monthly payment you’re transferring 100% of the control to Barclays Bank. It’s a lost battle from this point forward.

And which bank so far has set the credit limit that you asked for? I don’t carry a credit card simply because of the ridiculous credit limits that banks choose to set on my behalf. One bank set my credit limit at Rs 148,000 when I had asked them to set it at Rs 25,000. I’d be delighted to own a Barclaycard with a credit limit of Rs 10,000. Then again, I don’t fall within their definition of a customer-in-control.

What do you think?

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Wow! Experience: Courtesy, Dell

by Vinaya HS on January 15, 2008

in Business & Management

I placed an order for the Dell 19″ SE198WFP Widescreen Flat Panel (Analog and DVI) monitor on January 10, 2008. I was given an expected delivery date as January 16, 2008. The monitor arrived at my doorstep on January 12, 2008 — in just three working days! The packaging was top-notch, the packaging was complete (power cord, analog and DVI cables, manuals), and the monitor worked flawless out of the box. I can’t get my eyes of this beauty.

Under promise. Over deliver. Put a BIG smile on your customer’s face. Truly a “Wow!” experience.

If you’ve been thinking of purchasing a Widescreen Flat Panel, I’d recommend a Dell.

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I think Vodafone, as a company, desperately needs these astrology alerts more than you do. Here’s a possible list of astrology alerts Vodafone would receive:

  • You will continue to irritate your customers if you run this advertisement again today. PS: Not that you care two hoots for that.

  • You will lose a lot of customers in the real world tomorrow. PS: Not that you care two hoots for that.

  • You will continue to burn cash if you run this advertisement again today. PS: It’s the shareholders’ money anyway.

  • [Having burnt the cash,] You will complain about falling revenues in the next quarter. PS: Damn those market[ing] forces.

  • You will beat that mutt in the elevator today. PS: That mutt wasn’t your idea anyway. And pink? WTF mate?

And finally,

  • You are using one useless service right now. PS: Amen!

Can you think of more?

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Says the Airtel marketing department:

Trends indicate that youth and young professionals are more active users of messaging. SMS 2.0 represents a huge opportunity for Airtel to differentiate itself, and further gain both mind-share and market-share in these segments.

So what exactly is the “value added crap” you get in this endeavor to gain mind-share and market-share? It’s a long list. My comments in [ ].

  • SMS 2.0 is unique in that it converges messaging, content, and contextual advertising into one seamless application that resides as the default SMS application on the customer’s mobile handset. [You can now get all the crap in one place. Wow!]

  • SMS 2.0 also serves free content to users, contextual to their areas of interest. The content is served in the form of teasers on the Message Compose/Read window and a Full Screen that appears along with the Message Sent/Sending Window. [Crap with window dressing. Wow!]

  • SMS 2.0′s message personalization options include additional features like composing and sending messages with a variety of text, background colors, and emoticons. [I can now irritate message recipients in myriad ways. Wow! Caller tunes anyone?]

  • The content experience is driven around leveraging SMS, and delivering user-relevant content such as news, jokes, movie updates, cricket, astrology, etc — all seamlessly integrated into the messaging experience. [My intelligence is being insulted. Wow!]

  • Available as a “free upgrade” to the regular SMS application, Airtel subscribers can download SMS 2.0 by sending “SMS2″ to 543210. There are no charges for downloading the new application or for subsequent content delivery on this platform. [Sign-up if you're brave enough.]

Finally, a couple of user comments I found about SMS 2.0:

This sounds like a total crap of an app. Airtel would do well to focus instead on improving their network quality instead of boneheaded apps like this.

I fear this is a new way to bombard us with intrusive pop-up spam advertising messages.

What do you think?

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Recently, at the Cafe Coffee Day outlet near Ashoka Pillar, Bangalore (South), we asked:

Could you please change the television channel to the cricket match? We just want to catch the score.

To which came the reply:

Sorry sir. Management has asked us to keep the television tuned to only music channels.

Management for management’s sake — that’s what I have observed in most Indian service establishments. What do you think?

It’s a completely different matter that the “television tuned to only music channels” is always kept on mute. The music that you actually hear is from a separate source.

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If you’ve sat on the driver’s seat of a Maruti SX4, you’ll definitely have observed a huge blind spot in the front right portion caused by a wedge shaped A pillar.

On my way to work today morning, I tuned in to a program on Radio City during which SX4 owners in Bangalore could have a live chat with a Maruti Marketing Guy. A software engineer calls in and says,

The car’s awesome. It’s got great ground clearance and spacious interiors. But the front right portion blocks my view while taking a turn.

To which the Maruti Marketing Guy replied,

Thanks for your great comments. But the wedge-shaped A pillar you are talking about is actually a safety feature. I am not sure if your driving posture is correct — maybe your seat’s way too front or way too back — but that wedge-shaped A pillar is a safety feature.

WTF mate? Blind spots being sold as a safety feature? Maybe it’s safe because what you can’t see while turning can’t hurt you. Right? Classic marketing at work — blame the customer.

What do you think?

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Head over to:

Madhus Enterprises

No. 35/5, Langford Road
Near Double Road Circle
Bangalore — 560 025.

Tel: +91 80 41519430 / 50
Email: me [at] madhusindia [dot] com

Highly recommended. I’ve personally witnessed their efficiency in service. They use high-precision wireless equipment to get the job done. You can also get your vehicle’s emission test done here.

PS: Thanks to Notary for letting me tag along to Madhus, where I witnessed wheel balancing and alignment done on a Skoda Octavia, a Maruti 800, a Tata Indica, and [gasp!] an Ambassador!

Update:

If you happen to live in/near Bangalore South, there’s another awesome customer-focused tyre service center:

Tyre Professionals

No. 1, Lakshmi Towers
200, R.V. Road
Near South End Circle
Bangalore — 560 004.

Tel: +91 80 26561097 / 26561835

They do wheel balancing and alignment, and puncture repair. You can even buy a fresh set of tyres. “Wow!” service — guaranteed.

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Tweets on 2007-12-05

by Vinaya HS on December 5, 2007

in Business & Management

Says ICICI Bank:

Carefully Read The MITC.

While applying for a credit card, insist on your agent to provide you with the Most Important Terms and Conditions (MITC). Also, carefully read through the terms and conditions before signing your application form.

Makes me wonder if there are any Less/Least Important Terms and Conditions (LITC) that ICICI Bank isn’t telling us about.

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If you run a mobile phone company and broadcast your wares with such lame advertisements, especially in a market considered to be Mecca of the telecom world, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your shareholders are unhappy.

Read: Motorola Replaces Chief With an Insider.

Said the dissident shareholder Carl C. Icahn,

I believe that the steps announced today do not even begin to address the major problems at Motorola.

Spot on mate. It’s time to fix these marketing campaigns.

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Select your country, enter your phone number (any), and hit the CALL button. That’s it and you’re connected to me! Once we’ve hung up, I’d really appreciate your gesture of leaving a comment about your experience.

What are you waiting for? Call me now.

Note: Unfortunately, the flash based calling widget doesn’t display on a few RSS readers (I checked with Google Reader). If that’s happening with your reader too, then hit this link.

Disclaimer: I have no financial or management interest in Jajah. I am only testing their service as part of my role as an expert on Techdirt’s Insight Community.

Update: The trial funding in my account has dipped to zero, which means no more satisfying your itch to call me for free!

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