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Back to the Basics What Mystery Audits do?

I frequently ask questions to various people about my personal experiences with some Big Brands & this time around I asked, “Do Big Brands disappoint you?”

My experiences tell me that as Brands grow & start their journey with standards, processes & systems, they need to keep their focus on the purpose of building Customer Relationships rather than just the activity.

I see a ray of light too but from unexpected corners. These were lesser “known”, less “sophisticated” and growing setups and it was a delight to see the kind empowerment given to the frontline and how beautifully the frontline uses it.

I would love to put down those brand names as iBall (mobiles, computer & peripherals) and GM Bells (makes remote calling bells).

iBall Experience: iBall designed a mobile for senior citizens a while ago – iBall Asaan, loaded with very practical and easy to use features. One of my colleagues had bought a handset for an elder member of the family and it was working perfectly until one day when she was out town and the phone’s ringer gave away. Since that was the only means to communicate with the elders at home and left with no alternate, she called iBall customer care and explained the situation and why she was so worried.

True to the spirit of service and level of commitment, iBall representative came to the house to collect the phone (as iBall understood and did not want a senior citizen to travel to the customer care centre). He offered a standby phone, repaired the phone and gave it back the very next day (realizing the urgency and utility of device for the senior citizen). And of course, this was an exception and not the company policy.

GM Bells: The remote controller of the bell stopped functioning and there was no way it could be repaired. We wrote to the company asking if there is anything that can be done as the bell was not in the warranty period anymore. The response was quick, and we were requested to visit the nearest dealer and get it replaced.

The person who replied from the company was not the MD or the owner; it was an empowered team member who cared to understand the issue and was graceful enough to make the service gesture without spending too much time on investigating and making the replacement sound like a big favour.

Something is going right for these companies; I guess it is the culture coupled with the hunger to stay ahead in the market. Perhaps they have a lean operation with plenty of ownership.

My sincere hope is that while their businesses see plenty of growth, they don’t lose sight of what they are really doing well besides their products. Someone in their team has found the road to success for their organization.

At least four “Big Brands” failed to even come close to my expectation of service. And most unfortunately my expectations dealt with just the basics, “Attention” &, “Empathy”. It seems these brands were “too busy” to handle exceptions, forgetting that it is this quality that made them special at some point of time.

And I am talking about a bank (whom you trust your money with); mobile operator (a service which is like your toothbrush today); electronics brand and food & beverage service chain (your weekend escape).

This is not to say that they lack systems & processes, but those seem to be paper horses and mere documentation effort. The escalated cases were very “efficiently” stonewalled by layers of “polite” but “ineffective” people.

Look out for these “red flag” symptoms. To preempt a downhill situation, figure out if these phrases are being used:

1. “Sorry that is not possible” (With a tone that suggests – “Don’t ask any further”)
2. “Even my seniors will tell you the same” (then why do they exist?)
3. “This is the company policy” (and not able to explain the logic behind the policy)
4. “Sorry I cannot share the name and number of my senior, this is confidential” (are the seniors on a country saving top secret mission?)
5. Reconfirming address and contact details every time you contact (as if I am a nomad)
6. Agent keeps talking to you in the language other than you opted at IVR (Why does one ask for language at IVR? Can’t there be a standard opening and then switch as per the customer)
7. Repetitive calls to check if the complaint closed? And when you tell them it is not and there are issues, you are told to call the call centre. (Then why did you call?)

However, what keeps an organization young and going is its sincerity in “Inspecting what they are Expecting”.

Mystery audits provides an organization with the moments of truth as the customer experiences it. This is also a test of the standards laid down by the organization for –

1. Conformance
2. Relevance to the customer
3. Are the standards genuinely furthering the brand values?

A highly effective process, still at nascent stage in our country, the mystery audits sometimes ends up being an “activity” rather than being organization’s “ear to the ground”.

I love to share this when asked about the essence of mystery audits… Once upon a time there was a king, and all was well in his kingdom. There was peace, prosperity and all were very happy the way king ruled. A traveller came to the kingdom from far off lands, he too was amazed at the prosperity and peace in the kingdom.

He asked the king, how he manages things so well? The king said you come to me tomorrow evening, I will show you. The traveller reached the palace in the evening and someone patted at his back, he turned, and saw an unknown face staring at him. “What can I do for you?” asked the traveller.

The strange faced man said, “It’s me The King, I have changed my appearance so that no one can recognise me, come with me.”

Vijjay Jassal
Founder & Partner
RAG Scores

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