Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New wine in an old bottle - redux

Kathy Sierra makes some smart observations on How to be an Expert. Lot of it makes sense. I agree with most of what she says about being able to become an expert by modifying how and what we practice.

Reading her last paragraph is what brought me back to my earlier post on learning to play the guitar. I agree that we can master activities that need the brain cells at any point in our life. But, where I differ is when other cells (muscles/organs) come into picture. Neurons can be created/linked at virtually any age. That is not so for other cells in our body. Human growth stops abruptly in our late teens to early 20s. So does our body's ability to be nimble and flexible. Anyone who started yoga at the age of 60 knows what I am talking about.

So, it is easy for one to learn new things and become experts at it as long as it just involves the brain (and maybe other organs that age well). It is not really true for things of physical nature.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Customer Service

When we visited India, we went to a local restaurant to have breakfast one day. We sat down and ordered a few items on the menu. The food comes to the table. I had also ordered bottled water (you should always carry your own bottle of water or order bottled water when you travel) to drink. We start to eat, and after a few mins, a small cockroach (yikes) emerges from the basket containing the nan. I immediately summon the waiter and before he arrives, the roach manages to run under the table. Thank god, no one at our table threw up.

Disgusted, we immediately get up to leave. I go to the manager to lodge a complaint and tell him how horrible the place is. And that we will never be setting foot in this restaurant. I was expecting a sincere apology, and an explanation for what happened.

Nope. I was grossly mistaken (I, like an idiot, expected a businessman to be managing the place).

He immediately calls our waiter and starts questioning him as to how much of each item we have eaten! I was about to raise a ruckus and make my anger known to all the customers (Not that they would have cared). But, I kept my cool to see what is going to unfold next. He proceeds to make some calculations and tells me that he is going to waive a percentage of the bill! At this point, I literally exploded and give him a piece of my mind. I told him to thank his stars that I was not going to complain to the food police (the main reason being, I didn't know where to find one). And, I paid him for only the bottle of water that I had bought (assuming it was not contaminated).

What would have happened if the manager had sincerely apologised, and offered to swallow the tab? Of course, this is an extreme situation (hygiene related) and nothing would have made me visit the place again. But, I would have left the place with a good opinion. The manager could have assured me that this was a freak case, and he will take care of the situation and clean things up. His attitude showed that he didn't care for his customers. He didn't want to build long term relations with his customers.

That was customer service in India. Not to generalize it, but I have seen this kind of behavior one too many times.

Reading Joel's blog on customer service, sparked my memory of this episode. Joel does a great job of listing what one needs to do to provide remarkable customer service. Most steps pertain to the software industry, but the gist of it applies to all things in general.