I am a big fan of Airtel in many ways! They have a wonderful mobile network, probably the best in the country. They have also tried to provide good broadband services, which is commendable. One thing in which Airtel is really bad is ….. customer service.
- Initially it was the number of call center employees. Whenever you would call up Airtel you will enter a never ending queue where no one will ever answer your phone.
- To counter this, they removed the easy option to go to a customer service operator from the menu and placed it somewhere where hard to find. Thus you could get a lot of automated help (which was useless) but to speak to a customer care operative you had to hunt through all the menu choices.
- There was also a phase where an operator would promise you something but then the promise was never kept. Moreover there was no way to accuse Airtel when the promise was not kept. Thus Airtel started a wonderful concept of Transaction ID where every conversation with the customer service operator gets a Transaction ID for future reference.
I was really surprised with something which happened a couple of days ago while interaction with Airtel. I wanted to change the broadband plan in Delhi since there was not going to be too much usage on it. I wanted to get the Broadband top-up plan but the customer service agent said that it was not possible. After much debate I decided to just disconnect the Airtel Broadband plan as the customer agent was hell bent to sell me a plan which I did not want. When I finally asked for my broadband connection to be disconnected and keeping only a voice plan the magic happened! My call was forwarded to the Customer Retention Department! At the customer retention department I was offered a sort of custom made plan which catered to my needs, did not overcharge me, and was perfectly suited. I opted for it and stayed with Airtel. Please note the plan was not offered to me earlier, and only when I opted for disconnection did I get this plan.
What is Airtel actually achieving from this? To use the principal of Consumer surplus in this context, Airtel is trying to capture almost the entire consumer surplus. A user who does not like Airtel plans but does not want to switch will keep overpaying. When the user falls into the category where he wants to not use Airtel and will fall off their userlist they provide him an alternate thus avoiding losing him to competition. They still capture the consumer surplus with an alternate supply line which is not visible to all customers! Brilliant! The strategy is pretty good except that people in India tend to talk around 🙂
A good strategy by Airtel. When other competitors specially the Government owned companies are not even providing the basic details online or over the phone, Airtel has masterminded a technique to get a lot of customers.