Millennium Post

Will customer centricity ever come to the fore?

As one among thousands of newspaper readers who spotted headline ‘Nirmalaya Kumar to join Tata Sons’, I felt happy for the Indian consumer as the news announcing the appointment of celebrated marketing professor and author said that he was expected to bring ‘Customer Centricity’ to the fore across the Tata group companies.

As consumers in a scarcity-hit nation until a few decade ago, Indians are transitioning from queuing to being served as consumers. However, the sales and marketing managers are still striving to understand ‘Customer Centricity’ as the following anecdotes exemplify.

* Which Indian hasn’t faced service issues with her mobile service provider? From no network to excess billing, from being served valued added services that she never subscribed to a barrage of unsolicited calls despite registering on ‘do not call’ registry.

* Who hasn’t experienced slow computer networks that bring down the bank branches to a grinding halt as you keep staring at the service delivery norms signage in the branch?

* Why must a customer get groped by clumsy security persons in full public view on entering a mall or wriggle through a 18-inch wide grill door to her favourite bank branch just because they can’t install modern security systems?

* How often do we need to get ‘welcome back’ notes from companies one has discontinued services or stopped using their products?

All these examples are a telling account of how Indian firms love to chase the customer for her money but shy away from addressing real customer issues. Companies come up with innovative ideas to enhance market access, often going a long distance to make it easy for her to buy. The product managers too love making changes to the product and invest in proactively offering new product designs and variants to suit changing customer needs.

When it comes to enhancing customer centricity and addressing customer pain, the enthusiasm of the perky product managers wanes. The head of a large outsourced customer care centre said this is because Indians are culturally averse valuing ‘people’ in general. And the business leaders don’t realise that the customer is a subset of the same group of ‘people’ that it chooses to ignore.
This attitude rules when these companies buy ‘customer services’. While they hire the best sales and marketing teams, engage with the best advertising and branding agencies to look good in public spaces they engage the cheapest service providers for customer support thus damaging the brand.
If Nirmalaya Kumar can help his boss Cyrus Mistry to agree to an entirely new global framework for bringing customer centricity to the Tata Group, he would have resurrected the revolution - for Indian firms to see Customer as the King!
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