Archive for May, 2012

Twitter: The better customer care platform

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 May 30th, 2012 Shibangi DasShibangi Das

While some of us do continue to wait on the phone for often-disinterested and sometimes over-enthusiastic customer care representatives at call centres to hear us rant off our displeasure at how we may be feeling cheated about their product or service, some of us have also taken to expressing our plight on social media. And believe it or not, I have always received the promptest response, and very easily the best kind, to any “dissatisfied customer” tweet I have put up.

In the first case, the website of a well known chain of movie theatres was blocking the payment gateway in a way where I wasn’t getting any confirmation for my booking, but my bank was messaging me about the corresponding amount having been deducted from my account. After three such instances, I happened to tweet about it. Voila! The firm responded to me on Twitter and asked me for certain relevant details. Within the next hour, I had a confirmed booking and a couple of emails telling me about the refund process for the faulty online transactions.

In the second case, an online shopping site had not been delivering my order for more than five weeks. The payment had been made at the time of placing the order and the estimated time for delivery was two to three weeks. In spite of three impossibly long calls to their customer care cell, which had me wanting to bang my head on the desk because the information I was being given every time was utterly useless, I was yet to receive my order. On the fourth call, I was told that the order was never shipped because they had fallen short of stock, and I was asked to send a screenshot of the webpage that showed that I had “made the said purchase so that the company can begin the refund process”.

Exasperated, I refused to share a webpage screenshot from which my banking account information could be extracted, and also to ask for something that belonged to me. They had to return me my money. Three consecutive tweets, and I immediately was contacted by their head of customer relations who apologised profusely for the “inconvenience caused”. The refund amount was credited into my account the very next day.

Some customer care reps are extremely patient and helpful and treat the callers respectfully. Just this morning a problem with my bank account was looked into and sorted out in a matter of minutes. Then there are others who have no clue about what they are doing. I had once called my mobile service provider to report the loss of my phone and to block my SIM card, and the boyish voice on the other side replied enthusiastically and cheerfully, “We are very sorry for your loss, Ma’am”. No, he didn’t sound sorry at all, not even sombre when he said it. Calling my mobile phone service provider always leaves me wanting to bang my head against the wall. The time committments are false and the information provided is always different from what I see in my bill.

Social media is proving to be a useful tool to help sort out customer issues because the very public nature of the complaint gets the company to react and perform some kind of action for damage control. But unless there is some quality control in this aspect of their business, their efforts at damage control will soon go to waste.

An open letter to the Little Master

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 May 22nd, 2012 Joydeep Ghosh

Dear Mr Gavaskar,

Trust a Bengali to respond to you. But it’s almost funny that almost every cricket and news commentator, most less more qualified than you, lectures Saurav Ganguly. Some even pass snide remarks when he is on the field. ‘Oh, they are taking a second run because the ball has gone to him’ and so on.

Here is a counterpoint. Why are we watching PWI play a match at all or, for that matter, Rajasthan Royals? I have not seen anyone, and I mean real people not statisticians or commentators, who are gung-ho about a Punjab (and they are doing quite well in recent times) or Deccan. Simply, because there is no Dravid or Saurav leading those teams.

While Sachin, Viru, Dhoni and Gambhir automatically qualify for fame and support, I wonder how others teams will get the eyeballs if they don’t have talisman captains or players who attract people, even in their failures.

I would expect someone of your experience and expertise to realise that his presence for PWI is important for not just cricketing reasons (IPL is exactly not quality cricket).

But the argument cannot be that since Ganguly does not need to prove himself and he is doing badly, he should retire. Is there really a problem if he wants to prove himself? In the past, he has done so in adverse circumstances so maybe, he feels he has it in him still. And, that is why he is being watched.

I really wonder how many of his teams members have outperformed (him) in this season PWI or other seasons in KKR (would be interesting to compare Saurav’s numbers in Eden with Gautam’s. Is Gauti doing better?).

Unless he is being blamed him for match-fixing, I am sure others did not underperform because of him.

Why are we so charitable towards Sachin and in this season Dhoni, not Saurav or Dravid? Dravid quit after one bad series, will Sachin ever do that?

At the end of the day, we are what the Australians blame us for, record seekers. Age, fitness and form are important, which is why a Dravid (he is still the best number 3 for India even considering those parameters), Ganguly and Laxman, may not make it to the current Indian team.

But in IPL, you need someone who will make sure teams catch eyeballs. And sadly, even Michel Clarke or Ricky Ponting or Steve Smith will not get Pune Warriors that.

To put the wayward criticism in perspective, here is a headline of a leading paper. “ Pune Warriors is the first team to bow out from IPL” with a Ganguly’s picture on the front page panel (your column appeared in the same paper).

Here are the numbers on that day. PWI – 13 Matches, 8 points. Deccan Chargers – 12 Matches, 5 points. If both Deccan and PWI had won all their matches, it was not possible for Deccan to have gone ahead of Pune.

Two points: One, we have got into the habit of blaming Ganguly for everything. There is almost a sense of glee when he fails. By the same yardstick, Sachin’s star-studded Mumbai Indians (any of the teams Ganguly or even Dhoni has led does not boast of those names) have never won an IPL but we seldom lift a finger against him. And I am still to see if Gambhir can take KKR there.

Two, even a leading newspaper did not care about the real numbers but just said something they felt like.
Fact: Few would even watch a Pune match without his presence (even if to just criticise him, his batting, fielding, tactics and so on).

Maybe, the owners should think about getting someone who can grab those headlines in the next season. Even bad publicity is good.

In my view, Ganguly should walk out of Pune Warriors after May 19. (As a captain, he has a better record than other Indian captains and experts who are commenting about him. As a player, I wonder how many have been better than him in the one-day format. His test record or IPL records aren’t exactly condemnable.)

But then, he might just come back for more pain and bad press… who cares… people will still watch him… is it so bad?

Books?!

Monday, May 21st, 2012 May 21st, 2012 Praveen Bose

The grocery list for a certain month at my house about 5 years from now would probably read something like this: 10 kg rice, 10 kg atta, 5 kg tur dal, 1 kg sugar, 1 kg salt, 2 novels, 1 tin of baby food (branded), 1 pair of baby shoes, 1 pair of baby socks, 1 non-fiction (think of a title on the spot), 1 baby car seat, 2 milk chocolates of 100 g each, 1 t-shirt et al…

Going the new trend in book stores that are trying to survive, I should indeed be able to make my monthly grocery list that will include books, stuff for the two year old, and some clothes too for me. Perhaps it’s only a mater of time when we may be able to buy vegetables too in a book mall.

A new book mall, as they call it, that’s opened has a section dedicated to stuff that is in no way related to books, except for the fact that people use them.

Stationery, toys, gift items are now passe at book stalls. But, a baby store (a section within the book store with all that stuff a baby needs, except baby foods and medicines).

The next time you go to a book mall, don’t be surprised if there are babies wailing, kids running around screaming and screeching. That’s the new-age book store. That’s one way you can ensure that young mothers who are avid readers and who frequent the book stores continue to do so and don’t feel restrained by their babies.

Those who want to continue buying books in peace and quite, there’s flipkart.com or amazon.com. Shop for books from home with a laptop want online. It’s more convenient. At the click of a mouse you have thousands of titles to choose from. Those from earlier generations scoff at this way of buying books. But, it’s the in thing.
The oldies even pooh, pooh this way of buying books, saying how can you buy books without even getting to touch them? But, then that’s the way today people prefer to do it. The traditional brick and mortar book stores are set to change. Yes. into a noisier place that sells more diapers, prams, chocolates and perfumes than books.

In a Huff

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 May 16th, 2012 Pablo ChaterjiPablo Chaterji

I thought I had a pretty fun job, until I came across a website run by a chap called Steve Huff. Huff is a photographer, and I hasten to add that it’s not him, specifically, that I’m envious of (he does take some superb photographs, though, and the singer Seal, a photo nut himself, writes guest pieces on the website ), it’s what he does - he writes reviews of cameras and lenses; specifically, he reviews a lot of Leica gear, and I would happily become a drug-crazed, alcohol-addled, mass murderer of cuddly animals if it meant being able to get my hands on Leica cameras and lenses. As if this isn’t bad enough, he also writes highly in-depth reviews of all the latest Micro Four Thirds and other mirrorless SLR systems in the market (they’re the future).

Being an ardent admirer and keen user of this format, I envy anyone who gets to play with this sort of equipment. In addition, being a borderline-psychotic Leica fan (the affliction made worse by the realisation that I’ll probably never be able to afford one), I turn a violent shade of green when I see someone with unfettered access to the glorious world of Leica. When I find that some blighter (sorry, Steve, I’m sure you’re the salt of the earth) gets to use ALL this stuff, that all he has to do is call up Leica, Olympus, Panasonic and others and say ‘Right, I’ll have one of that, and that and, oh, yes, that’, I can’t help but make a sulky face.

You may well ask why I’m getting so worked up over a bunch of metal, plastic and glass. The answer is that… actually, I’m not sure there is a completely coherent answer, but I’ll do my best to explain. I’ve always been an old-school sort of guy, and I just know that I was born in the wrong era. My taste in music extends to about 1985 and no further; I still prefer the tonality of an LP record to that of a CD; I’ll take cars and bikes from the 1960s and ‘70s over modern ones any day; if I could still use a Bakelite telephone, I would; I’m convinced that the best films ever made were shot between 1960 and 1982 and, not the least of it, I absolutely adore film photography, especially with rangefinder cameras like the Leica M series – they’re indescribably beautiful, and wonderful tools in the right hands (I’d like to believe that mine qualify).

This being the case, it’s not surprising that I get so excited about new Leicas and mirrorless camera systems, because with both, you get the best of everything – digital technology, retro, rangefinder-type styling (this is especially important for me), compact dimensions, some amazing lenses, ease of use and jaw-dropping image quality, especially if you’re lucky enough to be able to buy a Leica. I never thought I would say anything like this, but Steve, do you need an unpaid assistant?

Is the Indian workplace gender neutral?

Monday, May 14th, 2012 May 14th, 2012 M Saraswathy

Gender is the main focus of the diversity efforts of companies in India, said a survey by a HR consulting firm. It would include developing women for leadership roles and attracting more diverse talent to the organisation. Though companies are now going several steps ahead to get more women on board, the question really is whether the workplace itself is gender neutral.

The CEO of a global consulting firm dealing with women related HR issues at workplaces says that the Indian workplace is far from being diverse. “The irony is, though the companies are doing a lot on paper, the benefits do not percolate to the women in the office,” says the CEO. It is no surprise that this firm has set up operations officially in India to assist the Indian companies.

The CEO reiterates that even if the benefits do reach the women, it is often not appreciated by the fellow male colleagues who term it discriminatory. Therefore, all the male members in an organisation too, are also offered consulting services by this firm.

There are certainly some professions where women are ill represented. Engineering/manufacturing and automobile sectors are among the most prominent ones in this category, say HR head-hunters. But is this true for other parts of the world? Not quite so. An auto maker’s factory in Japan is certainly bound to have women across the board than its factory in India, informs the MD of a global head-hunting firm. Even among the sunshine sectors like IT, they tend to drop out when there is an absence of an adequate growth opportunity beyond a level in a company.

Absence of enough role-models from the female gender to look up to is also another concern of the female employees. Especially in the male dominated sectors, women have expressed desire to be mentored for senior leadership positions by their own gender.

There is a still lot to be done in terms of gender diversity is the popular perception in the country. Implementation of gender friendly policies and acceptance of talent by fellow workers is key, say women professionals. Overall, though companies have started to take serious efforts, the general belief is that it would still take time to achieve the perfect 50-50 gender balance and retain it throughout.

I would appreciate personal experiences and perceptions about this issue. Please comment.

Super disappointment

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 May 8th, 2012 J Jagannath

Six superheroes under one roof was enough for me to make an exception for a Hollywood Studio movie. How bad can The Avengers be I thought. I can see Robert Downey Jr read a phonebook. Captain America was one of the best superhero movies of recent times. Scarlet Johansson can pout her way through toughest of acting doors. Due to whatever reasons I missed out on the movie during the weekend and by then entire social media was done with oohing and aahing about the movie.

Anyway, I watched The Avengers on its sixth day of release along with copious demographics of 11-17. Then comes the opening scene where Tom Hiddlestone does a mild Joker act and I knew exactly what sort of a snoozefest this is going to be. First half trudges along but I knew that Disney (still smarting from its John Carter debacle) must have something up its sleeve in the second half. The climactic half-an-hour looks like a straight lift from— now all you The Avengers fans don’t issue a fatwa against me— Rajnikanth’s Robo.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t intend to write a review here. As a sporadic reader of Marvel comics I have no right to write a thoughtful review. My problem with the movie is that we are told throughout that the world is coming to an end. Call it the 9/11 paranoia or the white man’s lament or Marvel scam but the truth is that someone is cashing in on man’s primal fears. If that isn’t manipulative, then neither is Aamir Khan’s television show and Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade.

In his persuasive new book The Better Angels of our Nature psychologist Steven Pinker argues that we are living in the most peaceful times right from the days of ancient history. “People living now are less likely to meet a violent death, or to suffer from violence or cruelty at the hands of others, than people living in any previous century,” Pinker says. But the popular culture would have none of it. The moviegoer is forever besaddled with doomsday movies like 2012 and the ilk.

What’s more, the slick packaging ensures that even kids are made to watch this SFX carnage and made to believe that you need a cape to fight the external forces, which don’t exist in the ‘normal’ world. I might sound like a geriatric with both his legs in the grave, who is anyway not the target audience. You, the diehard Avengers fan, might argue that it’s just a movie and no one really expects a superhero in real life. But then, we might not deem anyone who deals with his inner demons as a superhero, which he most definitely is. Why is it that we have an ever-burgeoning mass of kids playing video games (most of them deal with vanquishing unknown unknowns) holed up in their rooms? We dismiss them as nerds and that perpetuates within them to render them incapable of handling human situations.

It’s not so easy to dismiss this Avengers sort of pap as escapist entertainment. Psychologists tell us that the human brain lights up when these scenes of violence are portrayed on screen.

If anything, what this world needs is movies like Shame rather than drivel like Avengers. That raises a question that why did I even go to watch it if I knew exactly what I’ll be dished out. Answer: to write this blog.

PS: Here are two tweets making rounds on Twittersphere and should give you a decent idea on what sort of a scam Avengers is:

“Congrats to The Avengers for shattering box office records. Condolences to everyone trying to make movies about human beings.” @Ti_West

The Avengers took in over $200 million so they shouldn’t have a problem with giving me my $10 bucks back right?” @JBFlint

Much ado about a non-issue

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 May 2nd, 2012 Nivedita MookerjiNivedita Mookerji

Last week when the government showed red light to screening of `The Dirty Picture’ on TV, it brought back memories of the I&B ministry’s long tryst with censorship.

In the case of Vidya Balan-starrer Dirty Picture, I&B ministry recommended several cuts before certifying it for night viewing on TV, though the movie had won the national award. Quite an irony, many pointed out.

But one of the most hyped-up cases of censorship in recent times was that of `The Da Vinci Code’, a Hollywood flick based on a bestselling fiction by Dan Brown. The film drew flak in many parts of the world especially from the Roman Catholic Church because of its controversial theme, but in India the movie kept the government machinery busy for days together, and how.

About six years ago, when the controversy was at its peak, P R Dasmunsi (the then I&B minister) invited top representatives of Indian churches along with bureaucrats, ministers and MPs to watch Da Vinci at the Mahadev Road auditorium in the capital on a hot evening. Dasmunsi also watched along. It was a big mission as this one show was going to determine the fate of the Hollywood movie in India.

Members of the media waited in large numbers, both international and Indian, outside the auditorium, which usually screens films for MPs, ministers and VIPs. Will Da Vinci be screened in India or not, was a question bigger than any other government policy at that point. And media was waiting for an answer to that question.

Despite the long wait, at least spanning four hours, the reply from the people who had watched the film together and had even taken two breaks to discuss the pros and cons of Da Vinci hitting the Indian screens, was: talks are still on and a decision has not been taken yet.

The release date was quite close, and the world was watching the drama in India. After several more high-level meetings across Lutyen’s Delhi, the decision came. The film was to have a prominent disclaimer that it’s a work of fiction, and an `A’ certification.

Da Vinci Code was released in Indian screens without any cuts, though it missed the release date by a few days, after much ado and many ministers, and bureaucrats losing precious work hours over a non-issue!