Tuesday, August 04, 2009

How to be a Service Consumer

Its not easy being a service provider. It is even more difficult being a service consumer. You can prove a thing not working right. How do you prove service deficiency in a largely nebulous world of service? How do you fight arbit charges, rules that make no sense.. and levies that should not be there in the first place?

This is a brief guide to being a service consumer.
  • A small pencil is better than a long memory.

Write, write, write. Do NOT accept verbal "assurances" from your service provider. Do not sign anything that is contrary to what is being orally promised to you. Assert your right to not sign. Assert your right to have an offering in writing. Do not pay up unless that concession, or provision, is given to you in writing. Please also check for the wonderful rider "This is not a legally binding document."

This tip is most handy when we are talking abt services like banking, shares brokerage, property, medicine, tourism et al.

  • Complain to the highest possible authority.

If things are not working out, do not just switch. You do yourself and others a favor when you complain. The entire banking industry con happens because people do not complain. The day service consumers start complaining, the quality of services will have to come up. Please lodge formal complaints. Most service providers dread the word "Formal Complaint". BUT, complain ONLY to the highest possible authority at that level. In a store, that would be the store manager. At a call center, that would be the shift supervisor. In banking, that would be the head of the division. In a hospital, the CEO. Do NOT, talk to anyone in the middle. This ensures that people talk to you with an open mind, without being primmed by their juniors with half baked information.

  • Corollary : Laud good work

The natural corollary to being a cribber is to be a praiser as well. When you encounter good work, make sure you put it down in writing, and send it to the highest possible authority. Ask the service provider who it should go to, to help their appraisals. Then send it to that person and to the highest possible authority.

  • Do not believe that you are dumb.

A lot of "knowledge" industries are based on convincing the client that s/he is dumb and is incapable of doing the job without "expert" help. A lot of that selling is BS. Financial Planning is not rocket science. Law is not rocket science. Even rocket science is easy. The first thing you should do with a service provider who is trying to scare you, is get rid of them.

Let's take an example. My son was not well. The doctor prescribed him an antibiotic. 2 hours after the antibiotic, his condition had worsened. He had rashes all over his body and his mouth was full of mouth ulcers and inflammation. I told the doctor rightaway that this is an allergic reaction to the medicine and we need to change the antibiotic. The doctor convinced me that that is not the case. 3 days later, with absolute deterioration in Ishaan's condition, the doctor changed the antibiotic, started an anti allergy medication. In the process, my son developed an allergy to one of the best, most used anti biotics, and went through pain that one cannot describe. His ped is a good doctor. He usually does not make mistakes. But he did not know much better than the person going through this.

  • Corollary: Ask questions and speak up.

If you are not as dumb as the other person would like you to believe, it is obvious that you should ask all the "dumb" questions and speak up your opinion. This is especially true of services where the person is empowered to take a decision on your behalf - your doctor, lawyer, property dealer, financial planner et al. Do not let them bully you into a decision that you are not convinced about.

Here is an example of "questions" - this is to a hot shot financial planner:

WA(wealth advisor) : Madam, SIP is the best way to invest in mutual funds.

me: Why?

WA: Because madam, you are only committing a fixed amount to the SIP, so if the NAV goes up, u end up buying fewer units and if the price goes down, you end up buying more units, which is the way it should be.

me: If i dont use SIP, all i have to do is compare each month and put the money in a good investment instrument (not ncessarily a MF) that is available at that time. If ur fund is performing well,sure i can put the money there every month. But if you are not, i have the flexibility to take that money elsewhere. If you take that flexibility away from me, and still sell to me only on market price, with no bonus units, no other benfits, how is that good for the customer? The only person for whom this is good, is the fund manager, who is assured of a certain infusion every month, irrespective of his performance. Where is the customer's benefit in this?

WA: Silent.

What are your strategies for getting good service.. ?


BK Chowla said...

It just happens that I am the first one to comment.Yes,what you have said is absolutely correct.I have had a personal experience with a very famous bank in Delhi.I was debited wrongly. None in the bank would listen to me until l lodged a formal written complaint.After that,I was surprised as to how fast does the decision making process starts.It took a couple of months before I was reimbursed and I insisted upon a letter of apology from the branch which I got.
Donot give up your right.

Peenuts said...

I loved the last section..m so tired of agents trying to sell me ULIPS. I did some research and concluded that they can be among the worst short term options. If only i cud give a peace of my mind to these agents who still keep on calling me again and again :|

Mama - Mia said...

so true! all that you have said!

and after all that you have mentioned blog about it too! most companies these days have a person who gets updates of whats being said about them online. your blog doesnt even have to be popular for that.

i know M has got at least an apology from cafe coffee day and another company as well as thank yous by coupla places he praised! :)