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Thursday, February 3, 2011

EVERYONE IS WORKING FOR THE CUSTOMERS BENEFIT, BUT STILL THE CUSTOMER IS SUFFERING THE MOST. IS IT NOT IRONICAL???

I went for grocery shopping to Reliance Mart Faridabad on Monday 24th January 2011 at around 12.30P.M. assuming I will return home before the kids come back from school at 2.45p.m. I had a very long list of items, so chose a Monday afternoon for shopping. The idea with which I went there was convenience (all items at one place). After picking up most of the stuff I reached the cash counter at 2.10 p.m. with around 160 items in my shopping cart. Most counters were closed for some reason (most probably lunch time). Only two counters were functional, with long queues. When I raised a concern I was asked to move to newly opened counter.

The boy at the counter told me that because polythene bags are banned I will have to carry my shopping loose or bring my own bags. I also have the option of buying a cloth bag for Rs 7 each. (A bag which could hold around five to six Items.) My shopping required 7 to 8 large sized bags. I would have to buy 15 to 20 of those small bags. They would have cost me over hundred rupees. My billed amount was Rs 5800/- after I refused some items because of non availability of a bag. ( apart from other items Ceramic Coffee mugs without  a packing)

I asked the junior staff to call the floor manager but the cash counter supervisor informed me about his inability to help. When I asked them for the email ID of someone senior they were afraid and gave me a customer care id. I told them I understand they cannot do much but let me write to the people who can take action. They asked me to write a complaint in their complaints register. When I reached the Customer Care counter there was no one available.

Finally after the billing and arguments my stuff was loaded in my car at around 3.10.p.m. After reaching home it took me 15 minutes to unload. I live in a high-rise building. It was embarrassing to carry loose shopping in our building cart with security and cleaning staff looking as spectators.
Is this the way a convenience store treats its customers? What could have been my options?
1.       Should I have the left the stuff in the mart? My time is valuable I could not have wasted 3 hours of a day. Besides I needed the grocery that is the reason I went on a Monday afternoon.
2.       Should I have bought the bags? Was Reliance getting polythene bags for free? Why should I pay for a bag which is not of appropriate size, in fact why at all? I expect the store to take the responsibility of making a reasonable alternative available to me. They could have packed my stuff in an old carton if they were sensitive to the need of a customer. I was refused the carton too.

The nearby kirana store takes much better care of me. He is concerned about my convenience. I get free home delivery that saves me time and energy. The basic reason why we go to a Mart is for the shopping experience and ease. I have the option of going back to my neighboring store and I will.
The whole episode ruined my day but as a conscious customer I feel there are a lot of lessons we all need to learn.

Customers
I was suggested always carrying a few cloth or jute bags was a solution. I accept being an ignorant citizen that day as I was not carrying enough bags.   Are we talking about going back to the horse carts because petrol pollutes air? We are in the 21st century where all innovations are being done to make life convenient. Is it practical for me to carry bags with me all the time? In multi-storied Malls how is one expected to go and bring a bag from a car which is parked in a Level three Underground parking.  I beg to differ on this.  Should we not demand alternatives from whoever is not providing us with one.

Civic Authorities
I am a law abiding citizen of the town who really appreciates banning of polythene bags for a safer environment. I would like to request the authorities to please suggest alternatives to the public and businesses before a ban so that the transition is smooth.

For Senior Managers at Reliance Retail:
I was associated with the company for a short while even before it opened its first store in Faridabad.  I had felt the enthusiasm of the top Managers then about the entire project.  I had travelled 12 km to just see the first Reliance Fresh outlet in 2006-2007. Soon there was a Reliance Fresh in my neighborhood. The initial enthusiasm did not last too long. It is sad to see a brand falling even before a proper take-off. The ban on polythene is no excuse to make it inconvenient for a customer.
Your sales revenue figures might be showing the drop after the ban. Please be innovative and come up with a solution fast. There are thousands who would have stopped buying from you without a word. A small business realizes the damage fast and so adapts to the change quickly. It takes long for a big business to realize its mistake and it may be too late then.
The entire concept of a huge Mart is convenience. That is exactly what you forgot. If you are here to stay I suggest:
1.       Bags of appropriate size of environment friendly material be made available
2.       You can provide a free bag beyond a particular bill amount. (It will help you increase your revenue marginally)
3.       Sensitize the supervisory staff to help a customer in need. In this case even an empty carton could have worked.(only if the staff took initiative)
Making available a bag of inappropriate size is no solution. If you feel the cost of an alternative is too high, please also keep a check on the cost of an unhappy customer, cost of inefficiencies in staff due to lack of training, cost of damage to your brand, cost of employee dis-engagement to name a few.
I wrote to Relienaceinsider.com immediately after reaching home.  They have not even acknowledged my complaint.
We are talking about FDI in retail sector. How will these brands compete with Global Giants if they treat their customers so casually?



Saturday, January 15, 2011

Awaken the Soul of a Corporate

A corporate is referred to as an artificial person. It is a separate legal entity. It is different from its owners. It has a signature etc. If it is a person with an identity, it should have the characteristics of a human being too. In this article the author makes an attempt to explain this metaphor of a corporate.
A company is born, it grows, it lives, it becomes sick and it also dies. It is born with its incorporation and grows with time. If it is like a person who is born and who lives, it should have a body. One cannot really comprehend the body except through the annual report. The physical aspect of the company is understood by its balance sheet and income statement. They show the physical dimension of this being, how tall or short, fat or thin, healthy or sick it is. These statements are made in order to record the progress of the company in a particular period of time like health reports of individuals. Income statement is information about its general well being while Balance sheet shows its picture on a particular day. All activities are primarily aimed at keeping this physical aspect of the company in good shape by earning good income to feed itself and its family. In other words the main attention is on profit maximization.
If a corporate has a body, it surely has a mind. The Board of directors is the mind of the corporate. Directors are the ones who do all the thinking and directing for the company. The Board takes decisions based on the past experience and keeps focus on how to steer the company forward. The role of the members of the board is of great responsibility and vision. Thus a diversified balanced and sound board is the requirement not only for corporate governance issues but for any healthy mind.  Decisions of the mind are also focused on maintaining and improving the physical picture in order to make the company more beautiful and attractive. The purpose behind this is better valuations, luring investors and lenders. The aim is wealth maximization.
The third dimension of any person is his soul. Unlike the mind and the body the soul cannot be seen and does not have a physical form. Does a business really have a soul? Certainly!  When a corporate is born, it lives and dies like individuals, it is bound to have a soul. How can the soul be felt? Well, the soul of any business can be felt by the energy each of its stakeholders radiate when they take pride in their association with it. What makes the soul? In spite of the fact that a corporate is an artificial person, it is composed of real living human beings. The spirit of its people makes the soul of the company. The philosophy - on which the corporate is based -and its culture make its soul. The vision statement is the essence of that soul.
What is the role of the soul in a human life? It is the guiding light which shows the right path, helps in making the right choices and inspires right actions. It always helps an individual to focus on a bigger and greater good than merely selfish motives.  It is unlike the mind and the body which are more self-centered.
Long term sustainable growth is possible with the coordination of all the three aspects of a company. Not many businesses are able to find their soul. Most of the focus is on the mind and body and only a few discover and operate with their soul.
Management studies have been focused on how to keep a healthy body with a sound mind while there is little or no focus on the soul. It is so obsessed with the more recent technical developments in management science that the ancient wisdom is left behind. It needs to remember that no tree can grow strong and tall till it is very deep rooted. It is time for us to learn and practice the awakening of the soul of a corporate.
Most human beings are also driven by the needs of body and mind. A very small population of individuals is inclined towards the soul. People who have a spiritual bent are awakened and are the ones who lead a happy and prosperous life. They do not just live for themselves but they serve a bigger purpose in life, for the society and the planet. All individuals who are termed great were (are) people of wisdom. Wisdom will come through the soul.
Profit maximization is often done at the cost of the employees, suppliers and customers. This has been the main focus of business and time has shown that when the real philosophy is ignored businesses decline and ultimately die.  What is the death of a business? It is when its soul leaves its body. It loses strength; the mind is unable to function properly and a “going concern” comes to an end. Most of the businesses today are living without awakening their soul, moving them towards decline or long sickness and finally death. Thousands of small and big businesses in the corporate world die each day. No one really knows the real reason.
For a corporate to live and grow to its maximum potential it will have to nurture its soul. This is possible when the management and the employees of the company are aligned with the corporate philosophy. It is on this very basis that the vision statement of a company is written. In most cases the vision statement loses it’s meaning with time, it is only hung on the walls as a display article.
This alignment is possible when the top management sees to it that the individual goals are aligned with those of the corporate. This will bring about a sense of purpose in the employees and they will take responsibility of their jobs. In the absence of this alignment, they are merely doing a job in order to earn a living. They are driven either by a promotion or the fear of losing a job. When they are assured that their job helps them achieve their bigger purpose in life, this alignment is natural. They will take pride in their work and create a corporate culture which will be self sustaining. A self driven work force will produce excellent results by adding strength to the top line and reducing costs. They are the real brand ambassadors of the company. Their contentment will assure less spending on marketing, innovation recruitment and bad debts. They will feel the responsibility of the owner, owners of their own destiny. Then it will not be about salary but about their life and its purpose and not merely a Job.
Once this is done there will be harmony in the organization, which in turn will help it to serve its customers better. The energies and time employees waste in cribbing and gossiping will be channelized into more creative and productive actions in the form of improvement and innovation for the company.
When the employees and the Management are inspired the soul of the company will come alive. This in turn will benefit all the other stakeholders. When all stakeholders are happy good numbers are bound to happen. The top management just needs a paradigm shift. Numbers should not drive people, people should drive numbers.
Each corporate is serving a unique need of society. Society is the source for its input and society is the end user too. Society is composed of labor, employees, suppliers, customers, investors and shareholders. Imagine a society without businesses. It is impossible to think of one. Technical developments and innovation in any field are brought to society through businesses.  So we see businesses are the vehicle on which mankind is evolving. They have a far greater responsibility than they understand. They are so obsessed with profit and wealth maximization of the company that this main purpose is generally overlooked.
If a corporate could ever park its greed and think with a clear mind, what is the end result of the money that it squeezes out of most stakeholders and puts in the hands of a few shareholders? The Policy makers and bureaucrats make sure they get a fair share of the kill in the form of bribe. The government takes it as taxes. Most of the big shareholders have so much abundance that when they cannot put it to better use, they eventually give it in philanthropy. The money completes its cycle and reaches back to society. If only a corporate mind could have this understanding it would allow the fair share of each stakeholder in its hands, allow and facilitate everybody’s growth and development. It would not only save itself of the charges of greed but also be instrumental in achieving emotional, economical, environmental excellence and balance for all to cherish.
In this way businesses will not only be the vehicle of evolution of mankind in form of goods and services but also for its intellectual and spiritual development, making this world a better place to live in.