Sunday, September 11, 2016

An Aggravated Customer is an Opportunity

Every business has a human dimension - it must because all businesses eventually serve humans. This human dimension best comes to life when the business meets the human who is paying up for the service offered. When the human paying for the service is not very pleased with what they receive in return, we have an aggravated customer.

Too often, businesses tend to accept the aggravated customer as a natural side-effect of running a business - something that needs to be dealt with - because the show must go on. Businesses that look at an aggravated customer as a problem are missing out on a huge opportunity.

Here is an alternate perspective on receiving an aggravated customer.


You have a customer! Someone actually believed you had something worthwhile to offer and signed up. You must be doing something right. This calls for a celebration, followed by an appreciation of what you did do well so far.

They Hung Around!

The customer didn't simply walk over to your competition. Or just abandon the whole idea of leveraging your unique offering. There was something worthwhile, other things they believe can be fixed, a promise of better returns in the future - they hung around hanging on to that hope. Don't kill their belief. Reach out to them, now!


If you care to listen, they will share. Patiently filter out the abuse, the frustration, and dig deep with them.

Empathize. Relate. What might be unique to their circumstances? You might just realize a whole new customer group existed you were never even aware of.

Understand. Confirm. What would they like to be taken care of? You might draw parallels with other problems you've seen and start seeing patterns.

Offer. Solve. What might be a possible resolution? You might just develop a new offering within your business - something someone might be willing to pay for.

You actually found someone who will give feedback voluntarily. Someone to learn from about your offering. Someone to bounce ideas off. Someone who dearly cares about what they deserve from you. Businesses would normally kill for that opportunity.

Celebrate your Aggravated Customer

Other businesses will brush the customer off by pointing the customer at their terms and conditions. They will try to teach them how to experience their business, to learn to accept their flaws. They will hide behind their vast number of customers who never grumbled, and convince themselves they are as good as they can be. You will be different. You will treat your aggravated customer as an opportunity, and treat them with the respect an intelligent, paying customer deserves. After all, they made the smart choice to choose you.

Note to: VFS, I have some ideas for how you could improve your services while making more money at the same time. You missed your opportunity.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

When Premium is Wrong

It's all around us - pay more to get treated like a king - the Premium Business Model. Pay more, arrive later, jump ahead in line, spread yourself out, get a shower while others stink. Premium lounges. Premium seating. Premium visa appointments. Premium parking. Hell, there's even such a thing as Premium darshan at temples - which is borderline discriminatory - but we'll let it pass. I have nothing against the concept. You have it, you like to splash it, and keep yourself in relative comfort - sure, knock yourself out.

Despite the premium everything, humanity persists, and must persist over everything else. Businesses eventually have to be just, because being humane and considerate is the ultimate customer experience. Imagine suggesting that people with physical disabilities should purchase premium to jump the line. Or parents with twin wailing, tired, hungry kids must buy premium to get served first. An airline could say "Just travel when you can walk yourself" or "Just travel when your kids are all grown up", but they won't - it's bad business.

If you directly serve consumers, pay close attention to where your premium model starts differentiating on humanitarian features, as opposed to material features. Because being inhuman through a premium model is bad business.

Note to: VFS Chennai, where 1 year old infants are held with their parents for 3 hours for a Visa appointment, without being allowed to carry infant food inside.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Persistence wins Mannequins

As a visual medium, cinema continues to capture our imagination, bind us into a story and take us on journeys we never thought possible - all in under 3 hours. As a visual medium, cinema also silently influences the masses, sometimes consciously, and other times subconsciously. That influence is both a powerful boon and a dreadful bane. While I don't insist on only making cinema to preach goodness into the people, I do have two sincere requests to those who make our Indian movies.

It is 2016 - please weed these out of your movies already.

If you persist, she will say yes

It's simple. You like a girl? Just keep pestering her. Stalking her. Get to her friends via other friends. Sing songs to her. On the streets. In college. On the phone. Never give up. Prey on her mind. Eventually, she'll be yours.

Every "hero" you can think of, has portrayed in reel life what would amount as "eve teasing" in real life. Think Shah Rukh in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Salman Khan in Wanted. Govinda in almost every movie.

Please put an end to this rigmarole. People die because the idea catches on. 

Mothers or Models

Struggling to list a handful of movies where a strong female character, or even a realistic female character was portrayed? Producers do have massive challenges reaching the masses in a patriarchal society. Woe betide the one who puts a woman in the forefront. Who would pay to watch that? 

Since I promised not to force movies to preach to the masses, I will stick to the Model problem. Male actors don't really need to look young or hot. They just need to be good actors. Why do we have a different bar for females? Like the beautiful landmarks songs are shot in, the hills and forests and oceans in the background, female actors only need to dress smart and look pretty, and carry home a paycheck. 15 minutes since the last song? Time to roll in our pretty thing. Too much drama and seriousness? Time to roll in a hot one.

Can we please stop using women as mannequins? They are real people. As real as the men who are portrayed in those same movies. And have their own stories to share. 

Please put an end to this rigmarole. You certainly don't want your daughter to think she is worthless because she isn't pretty enough.

PS: Hat tip to Siddharth for breaking the mould.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Happily Ever After

Marry, or stay single? Get hooked for life, or retain your freedom forever? Is it worth turning your nomadic existence into a three-legged race?

Some endure, others fall by the wayside (Courtesy: Wikimedia)

I once received sound advice on this matter that I feel altered the course of my life. I believe more people should be exposed to that line of thinking before they make up their own mind.

Are you a friend magnet?

It all boils down to one simple question - are you confident that no matter where you are, what your circumstances are, how old you are, you can always surround yourself with friends. Because here is a fact of life - friends come, and then they move on in life. Or you decide to move on. You have to make new ones all over again. If you stay single but your friends don't, you are competing with their families for their time.

Loneliness is always around the corner. Unless, of course, you find yourself so many friends the odds of your being alone approach zero. And remember, you must be capable of this mighty feat under all circumstances. Congratulations - you have now defeated one of humanity's greatest anxieties!

Mission Possible

Now, if you are one of the rare few who has already found their purpose in life, and are willing to dedicate everything you have to that purpose - time, money, life itself - congratulations! No, really. You don't need this advice. You don't fear loneliness. You accept your vulnerabilities. You are single-minded in what you want to spend your life on, because you realize there is no finish line to your purpose.

For everyone else, what my friend's father said is worth considering. A marriage is not about living happily ever after. It is about sharing your vulnerabilities with a companion. Within a socially acceptable bond. If  you're lucky and you both strive hard enough, you each also have a best friend for life.

So what will you choose for yourself?