Customer Service across Countries

It is great to be back in the US. British Airways turned out to be quite nice with a very large bunch of customer support people at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi. They had a separate gate and from 4 am there were young customer service folks at every step: getting your baggage screened; helping you through immigration; moving folks through security including such friendly tips that coffee is available after security but if you need to eat- buy and carry food, before security. Naturally, I found this new but just wonderful customer service one more instance of the "diffusion" of the customer service ethos that is spreading in India. British Airways at Heathrow was good but had simply fewer people and when one of our bag handles  were torn at Newark we had a hard time finding the BA office and the person was tired ( almost mid night) and pointed at the notice which says that torn handles are not covered as loss. Surprising because I remember at least one airline ( probably Japan Airlines) which did replace a busted bag in the past. My experience at three airports with the same airline, this time, was different. Quite simply while in low cost countries airlines  can put more people on the customer service job it is probably not cost feasible to do so in higher cost countries. I predict that in the future business processes will make up the service gap – thus you might call a 1800 number or go to a website for damaged/lost luggage issues. Once "globalized" via a telephone or Internet service can be provided more rapidly…

It was therefore with some amusement that I read the book review of THE BACKROOM BRIGADE: Seetha; Penguin Portfolio; 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi. In my own interview with Raman Roy about three years ago I had come abreast of the role of American Express and John Macdonald. Apparently, John made a comment in the 1993 India meeting that the revenues from India were less than the stationery expenses in the New York office. He was amazed at the very low ratio of operations costs to revenues. They decided to shift all SE Asian work to India. This was before the Internet …after which things changed totally.

As I observed during a midnight visit to a call center operation at Delhi – the workers were actually happy. Happy making outbound calls to UK phone customers. These kids saw their jobs as careers and Indian HR managers are in a tizzy trying to work out career paths that will help retain the best employees. The jobs that Indian workers do happily are derided as "cyber coolie" jobs according to Seetha. But happy service workers and many of them working will keep customer service up to speed  and customers happy. Seetha mentions that eLoan offers India processing of loan applications in one day and US processing in two days. 85% customers prefer the one day processing.

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