Friday, May 28, 2010


one of the side effects of long air travel is an 'opportunity' to watch movies - some which one may not have watched otherwise.
last week, i watched this movie called Exam.
very interesting and absorbing. a simple theme. simple setting - all of the story is enacted in a windowless room.
it is about 8 candidates who come to the final stage of a selection process - without knowing much about the organization or its business, except that one winner would be the assistant to the CEO.

i was reminded of the 12 angry men.

not sure if I would have noticed this movie when released in theaters. maybe it already had its run.
on the topic of movies, i noticed during my recent trip to the US, that the pre-release promotions such as actor / producer interviews in the media, 'creating' some news about some of the characters or the movie itself - is not uncommon in hollywood also.
with so much money at stake, such promotion as well as in-place branding for products in movie scenes are becoming more common.

currently, i am also eagerly waiting for a positive result in another area. the top kill exercise being undertaken off the gulf of mexico. this has to succeed to not only limit and stop further damage to the environment, but also restore confidence in technology and engineering.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

splitting hairs

as i was at my monthly haircut session, i noticed some news stories [in the old newspapers and magazines that are a part of the salon visit experience] in the last week about some innovative solutions for the gulf of Mexico oil spill.

the most interesting one - which was contextual to where i was, was about using human hair to absorb the oil.
it sounded very logical.
i have heard of the tonsured hair from Tirupati being exported for making wigs, but this seemed to open up another market.

that set me thinking if my habit of keeping my hair short [full-short, in the language of the hair dresser] was not very social. if i grew my hair long, surely it would help the shampoo industry also. but then, would it mean consumption of more water that would only be polluted by washing the hair - as i am used to having head baths twice a day? also, with less frequent visits to the hairdresser, how would that industry survive? with a high level of attrition or shuffle among the technicians, and the growing costs, they already operate on hair-thin margins - mankind cannot afford to make them an endangered profession.

that is why, when some of my follicular-challenged friends say that they are charged more on their visits to the hairdresser, i can understand the reasons they are given ranging from an MBA-like answer such as since their visits are less frequent, and the annual RPC [revenue per customer] need to be at their industry norms, that have to charge higher, to a more frivolous reason that the hairdresser needs to spend more time searching for the hairs to be cut!

before i could get more confused, another report resolved the dilemma. with about 210,000 gallons of oil spilling every day, this was not a practical solution.

it was time for my turn and i decided to let this global problem be solved by the experts, while i relaxed and got my monthly 'full short'.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

very different customer experiences

yesterday, i had two very different customer experiences.

the first was very pleasant - and something that i was not expecting - or rather was expecting it to be much more gruelling. this was about a college admission.

going through the admission formalities, i was prepared for a 4 hour process, as the communication mentioned. the set up was very structured, and well coordinated. right from the security guard, who was very courteous, was aware of the process and proudly explained that there were 4 steps and the as we move from one stage to another, we would not have to retrace our steps.
it turned out that way - well documented steps, with the staff involved knowing not only what they were to do, but also the previous and next steps.
in fact, we were taken on a slight detour of the stages for the counselling step, and were taken to the department instead of the generic institution overview - as, we  were told that there could be overlaps and the time would be more effectively spent if we had that discussion only at the department.

the last step also included a feedback seeking session, where the feedback from the parents and the students was sought - even if only informally.

compare that to a less than overwhelming  experience from an institution that ought to be extremely customer focused - a bank.
getting an account converted from a junior account to a major account exposed the inadequate training to the staff on the process, the documentation required, the next steps etc.
having already made 2 trips to the bank on this activity, i found that even the branch manager was not very well equipped in terms of the wordings of declarations to be provided..
the TV ads from this bank talk about being sensitive to small things - such as wishing the customer who comes to the bank on his birthday - i found that the staff were more preoccupied with their promotion letters than customers waiting for more than half an hour to make deposits.

my hope is that the educational institutions like this one would turn out more customer focussed or customer-responsive graduates that would make a significant difference to the service industry.