Telecom companies will go to any extent to convince you to go in for their product or services. But the moment you become a customer, they’ll place you at the mercy of their after sales and customer service.
There are a lot of Indians out here. Over a billion of us populate this planet. Naturally, the country is a huge market for anybody to sell anything under the sun. Be it mobiles, PCs, automobiles, bank accounts or fizzy drinks, every marketer is raking it in.
However, when it comes to after-sales service, it is a very different story.
Earlier, shops used to sell and also service products. But now, different entities take care of sales and service. That's why service standards have plummeted. Even in the case of banks, where both sales and customer service (should) be under the same roof, the treatment you get after you become a customer is more or less the same.
All telecom service centres operate between 10.30am to 6pm during weekdays. Are we back to the heady days of the mixed economy? One must admit, these centres manage to squeeze in half a day's work on Saturday. Sundays, of course, are when they rest.
So if you maintain regular working hours, and your mobile decides to develop a mind of its own and go on the blink, you face the prospect of having to leg it to the nearest service station and let your files (or emails) pile up. But better be warned. A visit to the service station is no guarantee that your device will be repaired.
I'll let you in on what happened to yours truly. Two-three months ago, I bought a Samsung mobile. Unfortunately, my son took a fancy to the device, and dropped the mobile while playing a game at home. The screen went kaput.
Now I had to read the fine print on the guarantee card. Screen damage, said the card, is not covered in the guarantee. The service centre wanted me to fork out Rs950 for a handset which cost me Rs2,500.
I had no other option, so I paid the amount. Unfortunately, the service centre did not have the required new screen. They asked me to keep my handset with them and promised that they will call me as soon as they get the screen. I waited for a week. No call from the centre. I had to phone them. Then they told me that they did have the new screen and it was promptly attached to my mobile.
But my woes were in no way over. My mobile was not getting charged any more. When I asked the service centre about how they plan to resolve this new problem (before accepting the handset), I was told that there might be a problem with my phone's battery.
You guessed it. They did not have a new battery in stock. After yet another week, I went to the service centre again, but the they still did not have a battery. Another week passed by. When I went to the service centre for the fourth time, to my horror, they told me that the problem was not with the battery, but with the motherboard of my handset. And pray, what was the cost of this motherboard? Around Rs1,200-Rs1,500. Great... I bought the handset for Rs2,500 and within two-three months, the 'authorised' service centre wanted me to spend the same amount to get it repaired.
The handset is a living proof of how easily I was fooled by Samsung and its authorised service centre. Every time I look at my handset, this thought still mocks me.
But the point is, this is not an isolated case of an errant service centre. I'm sure that you will have - or must have had - the same experience with all kinds of service centres. As soon as you enter any kind of service centre, the chaos you face will put a crowded fish market to shame. There are no indications, signboards, instructions or smoke signals on how your problem will be resolved.
If you stars are in the right position and the gods are smiling on you from the blue yonder, you might actually be able to speak to someone from the inside.
Let's assume that it is a mobile service centre that you are visiting. That elusive representative will ask you if your handset falls under the stipulated warrantee or not. If you answer in the affirmative, then you will be asked for a photocopy of your purchase bill - which, of course, you would not have thought of carrying with you.
Therefore, you have to come out of the service centre, search for a photocopy shop (it will always be nearby, since they get huge business from customers like you), get a copy and again enter the service centre.
From my experience - as well as feedback from fellow sufferers - one thing is pretty sure that unless you visit the service centre at least a couple of times, your complaint will never, ever, be resolved.
I have seen something happening all the time at these service centres. First, people plead with the service centre personnel, then they beg for their handset to be serviced and later they threaten them with some dire consequences.
But nothing works with these centres. You just have to grin and bear it. You are left with no other option but to get your mobile device serviced from your friendly neighbourhood mobile mechanic, tearing up your guarantee card into a zillion pieces in the process.
Why then, does the customer have to suffer at the hands of these 'authorised' service centres?
Am I being a conspiracy theorist, or does this have something to do with the business model of these companies?
Many moons ago, in my hometown, there were shops which sold all kinds of electronics goods. From different companies. But they serviced them as well. There, the shop-owner never treated any sale as a one-off deal. The customer was a lifetime patron. This may be the secret behind the success of these shops, despite competition from 'authorised' dealers located all over the place. Are the mobile handset companies listening? Are they even bothered?
(This is the first part of a two part-series)
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