Handling customer grievances

My posts ‘Is this how a bank should treat a customer?’ on September 03, 2013 and ‘Axis Bank apologises’ on September 19, 2013 received excellent response. Apart from the few comments on the blog itself, I received feedback through Facebook and by email. I am following up the matter with Axis Bank Limited to improve the way customers grievances are handled, in Axis Bank Limited, in all banks operating in India, and in all business organisations operating in India. I will share the progress in the near future on this blog.

How should customer grievances be handled? I will share one of my own experiences.

About 15 years back, my company had introduced a foreign manufacturer’s brand in India by displaying the manufacturer’s machines at an international trade show at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. Most of the exhibitors at such trade shows try to ensure that their exhibited machines sport ‘SOLD’ boards. Despite our brand being new to India, we had managed to secure confirmed orders for all 3 displayed machines from one customer well before the trade show had started.

Immediately after the completion of such trade shows, the customs clearance of machines sold during or before the trade show is done at the venue, with the venue being treated as the point of entry into India. Machines that remain unsold are ‘re-exported’ to the manufacturers.

After this particular trade show, the customs clearance of all sold machines was delayed by almost one month for some reason.

Immediately after our customer’s machines reached his factory, our service team started the installation and commissioning work. Our Service Manager reported to me that, on a couple of occasions, the customer had remarked bitterly that he had incurred a loss of about Rs. 150,000 due to the delay in customs clearance.

The customer had not spoken about this matter to me. Neither the customer nor we were responsible in any way for the delay in customs clearance. However, I felt that it was not fair that our customer had to suffer this loss for no fault of his. I reported the matter to my Managing Director and suggested that we should pay the customer Rs. 75,000 as a gesture of solidarity. My MD accepted my suggestion without any question.

The day after the machines had been commissioned, my MD and I visited the customer. After ascertaining that the customer was completely satisfied with the installation and commissioning, my MD handed over a cheque for Rs. 75,000 to the customer and explained that this was our way of sharing our customer’s anguish.

The customer was pleasantly shocked!

Did we do this as a ‘sales strategy’? No. We did this because we felt this was the right thing to do. (15 years back, when this incident took place, Rs. 75,000 was a much more substantial amount than it is today!)

What do you, as an observer, have to say about how we handled this customer grievance?

How would you have felt if you were the customer?

What would you have done if you were the supplier?

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5 thoughts on “Handling customer grievances

  1. What an absolutely decent thing to do! If I were the customer, I would have been glad to refer you to other potential customers and have given a glowing testimonial about your integrity without mentioning the 75K of course. If I were the supplier, I would have certainly compensated the customer. In fact, I’ve faced a similar situation while delivering a product, except, instead of cash, we compensated in kind, much to the satisfaction of the customer. I did not opt for cash because the process was very long to actually get the check out. Instead, I preferred the other way as it would tackle the situation in a timely way.

    Thanks for sharing. I look forward to your updates 🙂

  2. Pingback: Handling customer grievances | Proactive Indian

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