Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Customer Versus Suppliers? - Namsurei Thomas Kamei, Head of Department of Economics, Tetso College




A satirical piece on customer services in Nagaland, this article brings to light certain shortcomings and the grimmer side of what the general public experience in the goods and services sector. While every consumer has a different experience and it is no easy feat keeping every individual happy, this article tickles one's thoughts about the real need to ensure all customers are treated fairly and equally. 







Consumer versus Suppliers?


We consume varieties of goods and services. Consumption is not confined to intake of foods and drinks. It also means deriving some utilities or usefulness from the goods or services we consume. While deriving this usefulness, we encounter many unpleasant experiences. Provider of goods and services may not always meet the expectations of the consumers. At present, because of the existence of numerous providers, quantity and quality may not necessarily go hand in hand. Let me give some accounts, from my own experience, of the expectations of the consumers and the realities of what is actually provided by the suppliers of goods and services.

Banks are one of the busiest places in our city, especially the public-sector banks. At any time of the day, your work is not done without the ‘wait'. Banks with their lofty and appealing slogans, such as ‘A tradition of Trust' (Allahabad bank); ‘Much more to do. With YOU in focus' (Andhra bank); ‘Relationship beyond banking' (Bank of India); ‘together we prosper' (Bank of Rajasthan); ‘banker to every Indian' (SBI), ‘we understand your world' (HDFC bank) etc., have much to do in terms of customers' satisfaction. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the bank staffs are desperately in need of soft skills or customer service training. In case they have forgotten, they must go for the refresher courses. They must realize that, instead of having ‘I know it all' attitude or looking busy when customers are around, their businesses thrive because of customers. Perhaps, I'd suggest changing their slogans to ‘rush hour', ‘exclusively for the rich', ‘no time for you' etc., in case they have no time for the average customers. 

Even when one goes for routine health check-ups, we nevertheless come across the infamous ‘wait' and that scornful, indifferent staffs of the clinics or hospitals. We are made to wait endlessly for consultation with doctors. Whenever we want clarifications, the staff looks at you as if you are asking for a lifetime favor. Can't we have a system where we are informed about the timing of our appointment? Can't we have staff trained in soft skills and are a bit more motivated and professional? Moreover, there also seems to be the parallel existence of pharmacies and doctors' clinics; in other words, a business deal where the medicines prescribed by doctors from one particular clinic are available only at the pharmacy attached to that aforesaid clinic. No doubt, it is convenient for patients but it is also possible that better and more appropriate prescriptions can be made (Am I speculating on this?).

The problems and inconveniences are not just restricted to the banks and health care services. We come across the same sort of problems with the telecommunication providers as well. We are all familiar with the kinds of services we are provided with. Sometimes, it makes me wonder why the telecom providers charge me even for the services I am not provided with. When I make telephone calls, and I am sure many of us have gone through such experiences, all I can hear is at best some indistinct voices, and at worse, a dreary inaudible silence. Can we ask the service providers not to arbitrarily cut our phone balance because we can't talk? You can talk or not, that's not a problem for them. You are charged, regardless. It's the same with television service providers too. They will give a number on the screen to call or message in times of technical difficulties or problems. So, you call or message them; and what you get is some weird instructions at a very high toll. Why do we have to pay when all we get from them are some weird instructions? 

Another example is the education sector. You can experience tedious processes here as well, especially during the admission season. I also know many heads of schools and colleges take extra care for the convenience of admission seekers. At the same time, many don't care. First is the ‘wait' to meet the in-charges, and second is the advice to ‘come later on'. It really takes a toll on parents when they have to come day after day seeking admissions to meet the heads of institutions. I understand admission times are busy times for educational institutions and I also understand that getting into the right institutions is also important for the parents as well. But, in my opinion, admissions can be granted or denied at the first meeting. Of course, terms and conditions apply. 

And lastly, the inconvenience we face from our landlords. Many of us have rented or are presently renting rooms or houses. We are paying rent for the facilities provided to us. However, staying in a rented place becomes an unpleasant experience when the landlord starts imposing unwarranted rules and regulations, restrict movements, visitors, and arbitrarily hiking the rent every New Year. I have not come across any authority regulating rents, at least in Dimapur or in Nagaland. At the same time, I would like to make it known that I am paying rent not for the landlords to impose rules and regulations on me and my family, but for the rooms or the house I have rented.

Given the numerous challenges in our State, maybe it is understandable for the suppliers to run a monopoly on the services provided to the consumers with less regard for consumers' interests. However, if greater regard could be given to all types of customers, it would definitely make everyone happier. 


Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognized Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Dr. Salikyu Sangtam, Nivibo Yiki, and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

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