Customer Service – What can one Expect?


Friday was a day of disparities. Truth be told, most days in Mumbai are days of disparities. However, this one stands out for me. I had all of two outings yesterday and in both cases, the customer service that I received was at opposite ends of the spectrum from each other. In the morning, I went to the local branch of my bank, a bank I have been a customer of for the last 15 years. This is a government owned bank that has been in operation for over a century. Yet, very little has changed about this bank, including its customer service.

I went into the bank at about 1 pm, 30 minutes before its closing time. There wasn’t a crowd and I thought to myself, ‘Great, I will get my job done and move on to the next task at hand so that I am home in time to let the maid in”. But, this was not in the stars for me. I approached the counter where one updates their passbook. Behind the counter were two idiotic looking men working on something on the computer. I waited a couple of minutes and then asked, “Is this the counter to update ones passbook?” (dropping them a not so subtle hint that there was a customer waiting). The response I got was – as usual – “Yes, give us 2 minutes”. This, by the way, is the standard response for most Indians who are preoccupied with something else and basically want the other person to shut their trap. So, the impatient woman that I am, my first instinct was to give them a piece of my mind. However, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, hoping that in “2 minutes” they will do the job they were paid to do: serve their bloody customers!!!

Ten minutes later, I am still standing at the counter, praying and hoping that these buffoons will at least look up at me. I could have said something and I could have had a fit, but I decided to play the “waiting game” and see what would happen, all the while observing how incompetent the 50 plus year old man, with thick glasses, greasy hair, and fat unattractive protruding lips, was trying to understand how to use the computer program he was working on. I revert to the descriptive word in my opening posts on India: Archaic…..right from the systems in place to the people employed by these systems.

In walks another customer with his passbook and joins me at the counter. I look at him and shake my head, expressing my frustration and disbelief at the lack of efficiency in this bank. A minute later, this man also inquires as to why he is made to wait for so long, to which he too receives the same response: 2 minutes. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with the man who is probably on his lunch break and has to get back to work. He starts telling the two goons off and throughout the display of his irritation, the two of them continue doing what they were doing, wrap up, and then one of them stretches out their hand and I give them my passbook. There was no apology for their lack of professionalism or no gratitude for my patience….Nothing! Back in San Francisco, this would not be acceptable or even tolerated. There is a semblance of decorum right from the way the employees are dressed, to their manner of speaking, to the ambiance of the bank, and to the way they treat their customers…..a government or private bank, it wouldn’t matter.

In any case, I got my other jobs done and barely made it in time for the maid. In the evening, my husband and I ventured out to Bandra – the queen of the suburbs, and rightly so, as some of the top restaurants, bars, and clubs of Mumbai have made Bandra their haven for good business. We were meeting up with an old college friend of mine and were delighted to step into a finely designed restaurant which had several buffet stations ranging from Chinese food to Sushi to Indian food. And this is where I saw some real good customer service. The waiters were well dressed, they came to our table enough times to see if we wanted refills or needed a drink, they checked in on us and asked if we wanted to order any food for our table, and there were enough of them at any given point in the night so that all we had to do was turn around and there would be someone there to take care of us. We had a great evening and it made up for the nonsense I had to put up with at the bank.

It was a real day of disparities, where I was initiated into the Indian ways of making someone feel schizophrenic, because nothing is ever consistent in India. And I know that there will be many more such days to come.

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