HT Image
HT Image

Building customer trust

Customer service, part of maintaining and enhancing relationship with customers, especially after the completion of a sales transaction, is an area with immense opportunities for improvement in many businesses, writes Arindam Banerjee.
By Critical Factor | Arindam Banerjee | None
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2008 03:35 AM IST

On his last days in India after a successful corporate stint, an expatriate acquaintance was asked: what would be some of the things he would avoid doing in India, should he have a second stint. To the few obvious ones, he added a striking one: “…I will probably not buy an Annual Service Contract again….can’t trust anyone over here to honor a prepaid contract.” Somewhat overstated no doubt, but I had to agree that his experience with service standards in India was not an aberration.

Customer service, part of maintaining and enhancing relationship with customers, especially after the completion of a sales transaction, is an area with immense opportunities for improvement in many businesses. Not surprisingly, my audiences in the various corporate forums meet this observation with a fair degree of cynicism. While they admit that relationship management is important and has to be ongoing, many retort that organisations lack the stamina to look beyond the immediate horizon when it comes to managing customer satisfaction long term.

The usual suspects for such brittleness range from out-of-sync accountabilities among employees, to the organisation-wide cost efficiency drive that manifests itself in outsourcing of service functions to low(est) cost “partners”. Some even comment that the typical Indian consumer’s penchant to extract the most out of a business transaction makes many organisations wary of the extent of relationship they need to maintain. Unfortunately, the last remark is a stark reflection of the low level of trust that customers and organisations have on each other, often referred as an adversarial relationship in traditional marketing literature.

This “mistrust” is best exemplified in the insurance sector where, by the nature of the business dimensions, the “give” and “take” transactions are separated along the temporal dimensions, more in line with the concept of the long term-service contact. Consumer mistrust in the organisation’s willingness to honor a commitment (claims processing) is imminent. There is always a doubt whether the sales pitch used to clinch the sale of the insurance cover is in sync with the quality of service delivered when the claims are processed.

This suspicion is heightened because chances are that the customer may have to deal with different entities from the same organisation over different time periods to complete the entire exchange. Such “separated” transactions force many organisations to invest in building and managing trust with customers in the long term, in spite of the several hurdles mentioned earlier. However, trust cannot be built overnight, nor is it advisable to take giant strides all at once. Instead, it is best to crawl bit by bit towards a higher order relationship with the customer. This relationship thrives on reciprocity, something best managed if both parties show willingness to build it incrementally.

The difficult part in this process is the initiation of these confidence-building measures. A good way to start will be by recalibrating the selling function. Traditionally, selling has been synonymous to building customer expectations, unrealistic at times, just to ensure that the initial exchange process takes place. When the back-end service does not match the exaggerated claims made in the selling process, long term damage to brand equity is inevitable.

Harmonisation of the selling and service processes to ensure that customer expectations are “managed within reasonable bounds and satisfied comprehensively” is the key to maintaining viable long term business relationships. In a nutshell, can we effectively engineer a “human face” to our selling process and back it up with a “machine-like” efficiency in our service infrastructure? Maybe competitive forces over time will enforce such stricter regimen.

Professor, Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Actor Taapsee Pannu is currently shooting for her film Loop Lapeta.(HT_PRINT)
Actor Taapsee Pannu is currently shooting for her film Loop Lapeta.(HT_PRINT)

'According to our finance minister': What Taapse Pannu said on 2013 I-T raids

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 11:06 AM IST
The raids were also to search her memories of the 2013 raid that happened at her properties, Taapsee Pannu said on Saturday.
Close
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.(HT photo)
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.(HT photo)

Odisha: State govt to increase funds for MSMEs, says CM Patnaik

ANI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 10:45 AM IST
While inaugurating the MSME Trade fair 2021 through Video conferencing, the Chief Minister said "In the next financial year, the budget of MSME Department is being substantially increased.
Close
Visitors from Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala nd Maharashtra will need RT-PCR tests to enter Rajasthan.(Representational image/HT PHOTO)
Visitors from Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala nd Maharashtra will need RT-PCR tests to enter Rajasthan.(Representational image/HT PHOTO)

Rajasthan makes negative Covid report mandatory for visitors from 4 more states

By Jaykishan Sharma
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 10:37 AM IST
  • A statement form the Rajasthan Chief Minister's Office cited rising Covid-19 cases in the neighbouring states for the decision to insist on negative Covid reports for visitors.
Close
The accused allegedly took money from the woman under the pretext of his medical treatment on various occasions in last two years,(Representational Photo)
The accused allegedly took money from the woman under the pretext of his medical treatment on various occasions in last two years,(Representational Photo)

Nagpur man befriends nurse on matrimonial site, dupes her of 40 lakh

By Vijay Kumar Yadav
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 10:09 AM IST
  • The woman who suspected foul play, checked the accused's Facebook account and found out that he was regularly chatting with another woman, who turned out to be his wife.
Close
Indian army trucks drive near Pangong Tso lake near the India China border in Ladakh area.(AP file photo)
Indian army trucks drive near Pangong Tso lake near the India China border in Ladakh area.(AP file photo)

'India-China border tensions reflect growing Chinese aggression': Kahl

PTI, Washington
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 09:43 AM IST
The past decade has seen promising trends in the US-India defence trade and technology relationship, Biden's pick for Pentagon said.
Close
Mumbai: Civic workers sanitize the premises CSTM amid coronavirus pandemic in Mumbai, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (PTI Photo)(PTI02_23_2021_000161B)(PTI)
Mumbai: Civic workers sanitize the premises CSTM amid coronavirus pandemic in Mumbai, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (PTI Photo)(PTI02_23_2021_000161B)(PTI)

Active Covid-19 cases above 1.8 lakh, with 18,327 new infections in 24 hours

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 09:55 AM IST
In the beginning of Februray, India's active cases dropped below 1.5 lakh. The gradual rise indicates a definite resurgence, as the vaccination programme is going on full swing.
Close
Rakbar and his friend Aslam were beaten up. While Aslam managed to escape, Rakbar succumbed to his injuries and died in an Alwar hospital.(HT file photo)
Rakbar and his friend Aslam were beaten up. While Aslam managed to escape, Rakbar succumbed to his injuries and died in an Alwar hospital.(HT file photo)

Final hearing of Alwar lynching case to be held today. Here's a recap

By hindustantimes.com | Written by Deepali Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 11:26 AM IST
Rakbar Khan was allegedly killed by people who claimed to be 'gau rakshaks' in suspicion of cow smuggling.
Close
"The PM would arrive here on Saturday morning to address the gathering. He is scheduled to leave on the same day," news agency PTI quotes a senior official as saying.(REUTERS)
"The PM would arrive here on Saturday morning to address the gathering. He is scheduled to leave on the same day," news agency PTI quotes a senior official as saying.(REUTERS)

News updates from HT: PM to address Combined Commanders' Conference today

PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 09:04 AM IST
Here are today’s top news, analysis and opinion. Know all about the latest news and other news updates from Hindustan Times.
Close
An Assistant Commandant of CRPF’s CoBRA was killed and seven others were injured in an IED blast in Chhattisgarh(PTI file photo)
An Assistant Commandant of CRPF’s CoBRA was killed and seven others were injured in an IED blast in Chhattisgarh(PTI file photo)

ITBP jawan killed in Maoist IED blast in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur

PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 08:33 AM IST
  • It was the second Maoist attack in the last two days in Chhattisgarh.
Close
The Supreme Court of India..(HT PHOTO)
The Supreme Court of India..(HT PHOTO)

SC seeks Centre’s response to trace Army captain in Pakistani jail since 1997

By Abraham Thomas
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 08:05 AM IST
  • A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) asked the petitioner's lawyer to compile a list of similarly placed officers of the Indian armed forces still languishing in Pakistani jails.
Close
Maulana KR Firangi Mahali of the Islamic Centre of India said the woman's video is a message to all Muslims to end the dowry system.(ANI Twitter)
Maulana KR Firangi Mahali of the Islamic Centre of India said the woman's video is a message to all Muslims to end the dowry system.(ANI Twitter)

End dowry system: Leaders speak up after Gujarat woman allegedly dies by suicide

Written by Prashasti Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 08:39 AM IST
The 23-year-old woman allegedly jumped into Ahmedabad's Sabarmati river soon after she shot the video in which she is seen troubled due to her relationship with her husband.
Close
Uddhav Thackeray is not in favour of imposing lockdown in the state.
Uddhav Thackeray is not in favour of imposing lockdown in the state.

Maharashtra adds over 50k new cases in 6 days: What ministers said on lockdown

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 07:50 AM IST
Going by Thackeray's deadline of 8 to 15 days to review the Covid-19 situation of the state, a decision on whether new restrictions will be imposed across the state is likely to be made after February 8.
Close
Former Karnataka Water Resources Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi wo resigned on Wednesday over allegations of sexual exploitation.
Former Karnataka Water Resources Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi wo resigned on Wednesday over allegations of sexual exploitation.

Court restrains media from airing Karnataka minister's alleged sex tape

PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 07:40 AM IST
  • The order was issued after hearing an injunction suit filed by Ramesh Jarkiholi’s lawyers on Wednesday. The suit had named 68 media houses, channels and others.
Close
Alex Ellis, British high commissioner to India.(MINT)
Alex Ellis, British high commissioner to India.(MINT)

British envoy says farmers' protest is India’s 'internal issue'

PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 07:16 AM IST
  • High Commissioner Alex Ellis also said more debates on the farmers' protest should be expected around the world as India takes on a greater role on the global stage
Close
Health worker in PPE kit collects swab sample at the market at Boring road for Covid 19 test, in Patna, Bihar.(HT photo)
Health worker in PPE kit collects swab sample at the market at Boring road for Covid 19 test, in Patna, Bihar.(HT photo)

LIVE: Jump in India's daily Covid-19 count, reports 18,327 new infections

By hindustantimes.com, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 11:25 AM IST
The global coronavirus tally is over the 116 million-mark with the death toll crossing 2.5 million, as per the John Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP