Home > Uncategorized > What do you do when things go wrong?

What do you do when things go wrong?

Over the weekend I was watching a cricket match. Australia vs England. Australia had finished their innings and England was batting. England got into a spot of trouble early on and the Australians were all around the batsmen hoping to make further inroads and win the match to keep them in the tournament. But things didn’t go according to plan and the two batsmen played England to victory.

Through the innings the camera kept showing the increasingly frustrated face of the Australian captain. One of the commentators said ‘ This is the problem with the team, they have no Plan B’.


While the story has to do with sports, we find the same situation replicated in real life.

At one extreme the storied situation United Airlines was in, where they had overbooked the flight (which happens all the time) and had to get a passenger to deplane. He refused (which they didn’t anticipate). And they called in cops to physically pull him out causing injury to the passenger and to the brand. While this is probably the rarest of the rare, brands nowadays often face similar situations and how they react makes customers decide whether they want to stay on with it or not.

Amazon, of course set the bar high, early on in their business, where refunds ‘no questions asked’ were just unheard off.

My experience with amazon has always been good. They don’t always get their delivery right but their ability to fix it, I have found, is next to none.

Flipkart on the other hand is a mess. (my experience) They seem to have no idea how to handle customer issues. And I have had two issues with two orders and stopped going back to them. (With great reluctance I just bought a phone from their site last week, because only they had the model I wanted, and this is an issue too.)

Some of the newer brands have been very good. A few months ago I ordered a shirt from the Bombay Shirt Company. As I was not in a hurry for it, I put it away to wear at an appropriate occasion. Some 3 months later, I pulled out the, by then, dry cleaned shirt and alas, the sleeves were too short. Unhappy that I had lost a few thousand rupees I wrote to them about the problem. Within hours I got a call from them. They said they would replace it. And they did.

I have had similar good experiences with placesoforigin and dunzo. Swiggy and bigbasket not so much.

The born on the web brands seem to understand, though, that customer service is a key aspect of their brand proposition. They have made some investments in that space and are at varying levels of excellence.

Offline businesses moving online that have traditionally not had to pay attention to this aspect of their business model need to undertake a cultural transformation to bring this to the core of their business.

When everything is going well, no one notices. It is when things go wrong that reputations get built.13d68adfcd0859ac00269d8b8403fa70

One of my bosses, the founder of Direct Marketing, R Sridhar, published a booklet titled, Life begins after the coupons come in. I think we can safely update it to ‘Brands get built when customer service kicks in’

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. June 12, 2017 at 2:27 pm


    Interesting analysis. I must confess I started reading it because you spoke about that great match over the weekend, which I think was the best sporting action compared to the fare on Sunday.

    While my experience with Amazon has been similar to yours, I have noticed I have moved away from other platforms due to this aspect of better customer service, Flipkart is rarely on my list these days and Big Basket I abandoned after they messed up an order.

    I guess the larger issue is about how a company manages the process internally, while its easy for born on the web companies to manage the front desk a little better than offline companies, we are still dealing with a scenario where the Internet enables supply chain improvements to ensure convenience.

    Why are offline companies not transforming to become like them ?. I recently visited easy eats to check if I could order some ready-made food but they added shipping via Blue Dart and added Rs 250 to the shipping charges, this in this day and age when Amazon Prime delivers overnight.

    This is not about changing the business model, this is about changing the business and then working your way back into making it an enterprise-ready and enterprise secure business. Offline to online may be hard if you are an established offline business. So what is the answer ?. Go online and then do the securing and plumbing later ?. That way, business will understand the client better, grab their data and then build a data warehouse from the start, instead of renovating an offline business and then stumbling on customer service.

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