Simplify Self Service

You want to order a new cooking gas cylinder (most of us here in India do not have piped gas, bear with me). What would you rather do?

  1. Visit your friendly distributor to ask about his health and order the cylinder using that opportunity
  2. Talk to a grumpy guy over at the customer service representing the gas company or distributor through phone
  3. Order the cylinder through the web site
  4. Send a SMS

For most of the people like me #4 should be an obvious choice. Indane did exactly that. Started in 2009 as a customer service improvement initiative, Indane simplified the exercise that is most commonly used by its customers. A simple SMS with a few daft key words will get a machinery moving to get that cute-looking red cylinder to you in 5-10 days. Now, who can’t like that?

With more thanĀ 63 million customers across the country and a network of more than 5500 distributors, surely this would be a challenging exercise to start, but the rich gains it yields year after year is indisputable. A straight forward analysis tells you that:

  • Indane saved on millions of man hours by freeing up the person manning the telephone for taking the bookings. If the majority of these had not been dealers and distributors, this would have been a straight forward kick to the bottom line (in a positive way)
  • Introduced a feel-good factor and the perception of a well-oiled machinery that gets you what you want without the fuss. Of course all this machinery still supported the human manning the telephone earlier, but a bored human does not motivate you like a nimble SMS
  • Avoided the need of all the complexities associated with developing and maintaining a website. Anything in cyberspace may not be a really good idea for an average Indian. Mobile internet penetration today is not much to write about. And, also consider the fact that most of the Indian government websites are results of college projects for some strange reason
  • Introduced the simplest of the devices for self-service. Now focus on the supply chain back-end (where all the action should be) rather than focusing money/energy on front-office activities

Well, if Indane did have some competition who did not get himself aligned, he would be biting the dust right now.

The story here was to outline the need to determine the most simple path to reach the customer or get the services to customer. Indane could have blindly followed the style of the west (create a jazzy site, open a centralized call center), or remain Indian in deed (status quo is the word). But instead, we have a humble SMS changing the style of service for ever.

Now the sad state of affairs. With the perceived advantages one would expect companies to line up something similar, but a quick reality check says the negative. Apart from the most obvious roll-outs from telephone companies (the likes of Airtel, Hutch, etc.), I hardly see a good case study here. In many companies, the initial roll-out has kind of fizzled away. Yes, you can send a SMS. But, please do not expect a call back, thank you.

Calling all companies: we would need some good service guys, but do keep the fluff out.

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