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In a world that has reached product parity, where all computers have the same functionality, all mobile companies have the same services and almost all apparel manufacturers more or less produce identical products, customers have a plethora of choices. In addition, loyalty cards, discount schemes, promotional offers and pricing are all too similar. The challenge in these circumstances is to create a zone where you and your customers exist as one, and that no one else can enter. It is the experience in this zone that makes the same customer return again and again, with the Company always living up to customer expectations. This is the new frontier, where great experiences through great service will result in loyal customers. ASHWANI KESWANI, Vice President (Service), Appliance Division, tells CHANGE more about the ultimate frontier.


SmartCare ?The New Frontier

reat customer experiences are truly becoming the driving force behind great brands. SmartCare,the Customer Service brand of the Appliance Division, is aiming to be one such frontier. The name, SmartCare, is self-explanatory. However, the customer of the 21st century is one who is stressed for time, is sophisticated, fickle, tech-savvy, has diverse demands and, last but not the least, is very smart. SmartCare caters to such customers.

SmartCare has a clear and specific mission - to provide the customer with meaningful solutions faster and better than anyone else.

To lay the foundation of great Customer Service, the Division had to go back to the drawing board. What are the determinants of great service? We went back to customers to understand their needs and experiences. Having understood them, it was important for us then to have performance measures. We believed that if “you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it?

All that the customer was looking for was:

Empathy

The attributes under the simple expectation of Empathy are accessibility, understanding and personalised attention. To meet expectations, SmartCare now has a national toll-free number - 1-600-225511 - operational in nine cities and, by the end of 2004, all our 18 Branches will be covered by this number. There are nine professional Call Centres handling calls in the nine cities. These Call Centres are operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Customer Service Representatives, who are the first point of contact with customers, are specially trained to handle all product complaints.

Performance measures here include the number of calls received, Automatic Call Diversion reports and abandoned calls.

Responsiveness

Speed of Response in answering the customer’s call was important to customers, both in terms of answering the phone as well as the time taken for the technician to visit the home. Authorised Service Providers (ASPs) have been appointed at various strategic locations in each city to cover a particular area. Technology plays an important part in meeting this very critical determinant of service quality. Computers, software, connectivity and cell phones become enablers.

Performance measures are the speed of answering calls, service levels in the Call Centre, First Time Fix (FTF), First Response Time (FRT) and Close Response Time (CRT).

Tangibles

The physical or, shall we say, the visible attributes of SmartCare come next in the form of Tangibles. These include physical facilities of service centres, viz. technician uniforms, mobile vans, communication material, stationery, all in alignment with the brand, SmartCare. The signages at the ASPs also bear a similar look across the country. We believe that uniformity and standardisation are very important and that a technician from any part of the country should look like a Godrej SmartCare technician.

The performance measure for this determinant is compliance with the operations manual specially made for Godrej SmartCare service centres.


To meet expectations, SmartCare now has a national toll-free number ?1-600-225511 ?operational in nine cities and, by the end of 2004, all our 18 Branches will be covered by this number.
 

Assurance

The attributes of Assurance are competence to do the job and fix the problem. It rides on the basic tenet of courtesy. We believe that we must be able to instil confidence in the customer’s mind that his problem is being attended to by qualified and trained technicians.

In the last financial year, techs in SmartCare have undergone over 10,000 man-hours of training. Both product and soft skills were covered in the programmes. Managers of the service centres (ASPs), too, underwent some training as we felt it was important for them to be aligned to the brand. We want our techs to be both efficient and effective for we believe that efficiency is doing things right whereas effectiveness is doing the right things.

The measures of performance are tests conducted to rate techs as well as customer visits by our engineers to gauge the experience. Technicians are paid according to their star rating and the ASP penalised if his/her team is lagging in any way.

Reliability

The last determinant, Reliability, has three attributes: dependability, accuracy and trustworthiness. To meet the expectations of the customer, for whom time is of the essence, we have provided appointment slots of two hours?duration. The technician’s route takes into account the number of appointments along with the distance he has to travel within the span of the day, thus enabling him to keep his time commitments. All our technicians are equipped with mobile phones and are accessible from the Service Centre. Technicians not belonging to Godrej very often collect money thereby increasing the possibilities of fraud and leakage. To ensure that customers get the feeling of trustworthiness, our SmartCare technicians get the Call Card duly signed by customers. Frequent surprise audits are conducted by our Division and technicians are rated on honesty as well!

Performance measures are daily FTF reports and revisit reports by the technicians. Payment is again linked to the number of calls attended and closed.

All the above determining factors are so simple and logical!

The ERP software, BaaN, has played a major role in the improvements of SmartCare. It is now the backbone of information availability. Free replacements, warranty, contracts, inventory, service levels, etc. can now be tracked anywhere in the country.


Service is a people business and the key to success is operational excellence. While we have made progress in many areas, we are still far from being world class.
 

Service Mantra

The road map or the mantra of Service now has seven steps:
1) Study your customers - know what they want
2) Exceed customer expectations
3) Retain customers via relationships
4) Value what each customer is worth
5) Innovate constantly
6) Care for customers and our own employees
7) Empower our associates to do whatever it takes

Efforts must yield results and one of the most important performance measures of the service dashboard is the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI). Approximately 10 per cent of the customers who have availed of our service are called regularly in the nine metros for feedback. In late 2003 and early 2004, the CSI was at 89 per cent.

Technology enablers have helped us achieve better response times as well. FRT has come down from 24 hours to 13 hours and the CRT has reduced from 50 to 30 hours. FTF is climbing from 53 per cent to 73 per cent.

SmartCare

New Initiatives

Service is a people business and the key to success is operational excellence. While we have made progress in many areas, we are still far from being world class. For the year 2004-2005, we will focus not only on technology to get us better results, but on training as well. “Putting People First?is a programme that will cover the entire service team across the country. It will emphasize the various aspects of internal and external customer service with examples from all over the world. We intend to bring the star rating concept into the call centres also to ensure uniform quality across boundaries.

With Computer Telephony interface technology making rapid strides and becoming affordable, we intend to link our technicians through SMS feeds to the main server to be able to update, check for stock and order material at any location. Investments into systems at the Service end will be made in the form of a knowledge management tool as an enabler for all technicians to identify and order the right spares.

Our target this year will be to achieve 95 per cent overall customer satisfaction.