Sunday, May 1, 2011

Service Oriented To A Fault

I've come to the conclusion, that the Indian people - at least those in the Bangalore Service Industry - are Service Oriented to a fault.  This is better than not customer centric at all, or surly, or lackadaisical, as one finds so often in the US service industry, but the Bangalorians go so far to the other extreme, that they tangle themselves up in their efforts.  Let me explain:

At dinner last night, I perused the wine list, and found French, California, and Italian bottles at unacceptably high prices (100s of dollars), and local Indian wines at  a reasonable (20 to 50 dollar) range.  I asked to be able to taste a Grover Vineyard's Syrah Cab blend, which they offered both by the glass and by the bottle, and if I liked it, I'd buy a whole bottle. The waiter was delighted, and ran to get the manager.  The manager poured me 2 centimeters of wine to taste, and it was good.  Not awesome, but drinkable. Better than a nasty Australian Yellowtail.  I ordered my food, and awaited the bottle.  30 minutes later, no food or bottle arrived.   I got antsy around the 20 minute mark, as I was eating alone.  I summoned the waiter.

He explained that they were out of the bottle I ordered in the restaurant and they were  checking with other restaurants to see if they had any, and summoning the hotel owner to unlock the wine storage cave so they could look for more.  They were bending over backwards to get me the PRECISE wine I'd ordered, when I was not all that enthusiastic about the wine.  I told both the waiter and the manager that I'd take a glass, and there was no need to scour Bangalore for a bottle of the same vintage.  They tried to assure me that they'd locate another bottle in the next 10 or 20 minutes.  I told them I'd been tortured enough with a small taste and a long wait, and please bring a glass and the kabobs I'd ordered, and that I didn't want to wait another 10 or 20 or 30 minutes.  Crest fallen, the manager agreed.  As I finished my meal, he showed me the bottle that they'd turned over every rock to find, and I assured him I would be here all week, and I'll take the bottle tomorrow or the next day, and thanked him for his efforts.

That was not an anomaly.

This morning at breakfast, I spied bottles of cucumber juice. Cucumber juice? I'd never tried it.  I took a bottle with 2 micro mini bananas, and as I sat down, a waiter rushed over to open and pour the green juice into my glass.  I told him I could handle it, and he poured it anyways, filling my 6 ounce glass, and taking the rest of the bottle to the waiter's station so he could return later and pour more.  Not necessary, as the taste was not agreeable, and I left 4 ounces unconsumed.

I requested another cup of tea. "Right away sir!" another waiter leapt into action.   I told him "no sugar, no cream, just black please".  All I needed was a cup of tea.  10 minutes later, a well frothed, cup of tea arrived creamy covered.  It appeared to have cream in it.  the waiter had prepared it at the espresso machine, frothing the tea, under the assumption that is what I wanted.   I didn't.  I wanted just what I said, "no sugar, no cream, just black please."

I have to remember this week to be very very specific in any request, knowing that the person to whom I inquire is going to bend over backwards, go bonkers, to exceed my expectations.  I recalled this when I worked with my local co-workers to arrange my 1:30am airport pick up.  I SPECIFICALLY told them "please, just arrange a car, you don't need to come to the airport at 1:30am, no flowers needed, no welcoming committee, just a hotel car with a guy holding a sign with my name on it is fine."   ...since in 2009 when I arrived, that unexpected over-the-top welcoming occurred with the previous colleagues who have moved on to other jobs.  When I met with my colleague on  Sunday at lunch, he told me directly, "Joe, I really wanted to come to the airport to pick you up and welcome you, but you asked us not so, so I respected your wishes".

I think it is better to concentrate on quality, and substance, work on what matters, than to expend SO MUCH effort on window dressing, on appearances, overly polite nuances and demonstrations, fluff that doesn't matter to a pragmatic non-politician like myself.  Maybe it's a residual effect of being a former British colony?  I don't know...

It's going to be a longggggg week.

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