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.