Saturday, November 9, 2013

Knowledge workers in the service sector-some musings

Its been 15 months since I joined Airtel, since then I've been lucky to work in a company which is (nearly equal parts) an utility, consumer goods, services and products company. Also, Airtel's outsourcing the 'core' operations of network and IT made it to global Bschool case studies-for example In recent times, the top leadership rejig may lead one to think that Airtel is now a consumer products company. After all, with the CEO, CFO, CMO etc from HUL(Indian arm of Unilever and a CXO factory), one may be forgiven for thinking thats the case. However, things can't be more different. For example, a channel manager in FMCG must manage physical inventory/branding/availability without customization, while his telecom counterpart manages zero inventory, and can often customize the recharge plan etc. This is just the tip of the ice berg, but this post is on service sector in general, not just Airtel, so I return to the topic.

I was reading a research paper on TRIZ in service sector( where it explained that Service development is differentiated from physical product development because of the unique characteristics of service products, such as customer participation, simultaneity, heterogeneity, intangibility and perishability, etc
  1. tighter coupling between marketing and operations aspects. Service Operations integrates customer experience management involving customer service, operations, marketing etc
  2. Since end product is intangible, the soft skills matter a lot in front end roles, so this percolates into the (otherwise) non client facing roles too like finance.
  3. Inventory does not exist in service sector-so this is both a boon(less logistics hassle) and also a nightmare(manpower utilization)
Also, knowledge work does not happen only in services sector, even the service/support functions in manufacturing/agriculture can add a lot of value, however since there are unique issues in the service sector, thought to comment on them in the blog

ICICI Bank is khayal unka, not khayal aapka-why I shifted my main banking to HDFC

Next January(i.e Jan 2014), I will be an ICICI customer for 7 years. It was my first bank account, and for many years, the only. But next month onwards, my salary account will shift to HDFC, I will convert my demat account into basic demat services account with zero AMC, and use ICICIdirect trading platform only as a last resort. Why is this? Many reasons, but mostly to do with their not recognizing customer relationships across products, and pathetic product knowledge/customer service.

1) When I went to open a PF account at ICICI Bank Mulund(West) branch in Sep13, they subtly refused to open it for me, saying I could do that via internet banking. They were incorrect, since I could only do that by submitting a physical form. And then a 19year old salesperson spends 15minutes unsuccessfully selling me on an ULIP plan(surprise :D) instead of a plain vanilla term plan.

2) Even at ICICI branch Cyber City, whenever I visit the branch in person, they try to cross sell me into taking investment products rather than addressing my needs.

3) When I converted my single banking account into a joint account, the associated trading account was automatically deactivated without intimation to me. And apparently, a manual request to close the account was submitted in June 2012, while the fact is I had never done that. Repeated calls to customer care by myself and two branches(Sion/Bhandup) resulted in a solution that I should submit a form to relink trading account and banking account. The ICICIDirect Sion branch was OUT of stock of forms-which they could have printed from the net-a clear sign of them NOT wanting to do any extra work, while the Bhandup branch reluctantly  accepted the form, and tried to sell me an advance brokerage product for 15yrs. My form has gone missing now, and while customer care raised a ticket, d note that my so-called relationship manager did not help at all, and the branch landline number given by customer care is defunct4)I had to virtually plead with the customer care of ICICIDirect to raise a ticket

4) When I tried to get a personal loan recently, ICICI refused since I was not residing at the same address for more than a year, and this norm was not relaxable even for customers with long relationships. So much for stickiness!

I decided that I will NOT boost a bank's CASA ratio, when it so evidently can do without my business in its broking, retail assets and other areas,HDFC has been very responsive when I had customer care issues, but ICICI Bank phonebanking has been awesome and its overall technology platform, but people wise leaves much to be desired. I know its a rant but there was so much to say, so felt like saying that,.