Much debate happened this month. It’s not a regular thing for a magazine to use a cuss word on its cover, and certainly not something Digit has ever done.
We honestly tried to find an alternative to this headline, with multiple suggestions from everyone in Team Digit. Yet none of them put the message across in the same way. There’s just something about the slang that just fits – it’s not sexual, or pornographic, yet is perhaps the most succinct way of getting across a lack of emotion, a lack of caring, almost dismissive of your very existence.
This is how we feel some companies treat us consumers – as a mass of money waiting to be tapped, and then forgotten. Taken for granted, almost. The beauty is, that you don’t even know it. In fact, we’re told the opposite – we’re “kings”, and “always right”, and more such nonsense.
It’s not surprising we feel special, because of the amount of ads that seem targeted at us, the sweet ways in which companies will pander to our questions – all before we buy, of course. After we’ve bought, well then we go from a prospective consumer to part of a customer base. Market share is the name of the game in emerging markets, and that means targeting people who don’t already use your product is much more important than looking after those who already do.
Also, it’s not always about evil men in boardrooms plotting to take over the world... Sometimes it’s a very geographical problem. Those of you who have been abroad to Europe or the US, will immediately understand the great divide in customer service here, and there. As a magazine, we’re reputed to have one of the best customer service experiences available in India, and yet there are certainly a couple of hundred of you that will immediately disagree with the statement. As hard as we try, the problems intrinsic to India always rear their ugly heads.
Transport is a common problem, and the vast numbers to deal with are another. For example, as much as we’d like to, we can’t always find a courier company to deliver this copy to a reader in some very remote location of a state. However, you’d expect us to find a way if we were a multi-billion dollar global giant, right? Wrong.
See there are these people called shareholders. They’re customers too, because if enough of them get pissed at you, they’re going to start dumping your shares, and the value of your company falls, no new investors come on board, the capital dries up, the markets lose faith in your products, and your business goes down the toilet. To prevent this, you have to make healthy profits, and making profits is inversely proportional to how nice you can be to your consumers. That’s not to say companies are not nice to you at all. Some will give you amazing customer service, some will keep their rates at rock bottom, some will give you more bang for your buck... but not all of the above. They can’t.
Let’s face it, every single one of us has felt cheated by a big brand at some point or the other. Only in the West, where penetration of technology is almost saturated, and there are options galore, do companies truly focus on customer service. Here, we’re a few thousand disgruntled customers in a market of hundreds of millions of potentials consumers. Who would you choose to focus on if you ran a business?
As we approach the Indian shopping season, next month’s issue will focus on helping you buy smart, how to spot a good deal, where you can get those deals online, and will generally be in the upbeat celebratory spirit of Diwali. This month though, is the reality check we all need in order to ensure that you, the consumers, know that you are being taken for granted. Some of the problems you can avoid, some are absolutely unsolvable, but all of them you should be aware of.
After all, no one likes it when they’re being flipped off behind their backs. This way, you’re facing them when they’re telling you in no uncertain terms...