Listening to the "Voice of the Customer"

Shashank Patodia | December 20,2013 05:20 pm IST

It was within hours of walking into the doors of the organization that I realized the brand ethos when they say “ Power to You”. Working with a telecom company that empowers its customers and employees alike, power to communicate, power to work on innovative solutions , power to think independently and differently, has brought out the best of the manager in me.

As I walked into the circle headquarters of the company in the progressive state of Gujarat, I could not have ever thought that the HR head of the organization will welcome a summer trainee. Within 30 minutes of walking into the gates of the company, I had my project title and guidelines with me, well explained by the HR head himself. What was to follow was equally unexpected. A rigorous schedule of two days where each departmental head will indulge in a discussion with me about the working of his department. A series of field visits followed soon- visits to switching stations to understand how technology enabled people to communicate wirelessly, visits to distributors to delve into the details of supply chain of SIM cards and recharge vouchers and visits to call centre to understand the customer servicing. In one of the instances, I was even allowed to barge into few calls of the discontented customers to understand the consumer behavior.

Soon I realized that the project I had undertaken had no precedent in the Indian telecom industry. It was an initiative by the company that had the potential of soon becoming the standard practice for the industry. The introduction of Mobile Number Portability(MNP) had changed the dynamics of the industry and the unsatisfied customers now had the power to change the operator without changing their number. Thoroughly confused by the intricate details and the complex processes, I approached my mentor for help. My mentor suggested that I listen to the “Voice of the customer”.

The next one month was spent “out-of the bag”. Travelling across the state of Gujarat, every week I was in a new city, with the data of ported out customers. The motive was clear: Listen it from the horse’s mouth. Travelling in public transport, I spent the days meeting customers and the evenings were spent exploring the much famous street food of Gujarat. Four cities, four weeks. Hundreds of customer interactions and the picture was clear, the reasons for port outs known and process gaps identified. This one month into the field gave me new insights into the project. A strategy was chalked out to achieve the project objectives in consultation with my mentor.

It was the first week of the second month of my stint. I had barely left the office for home when I got a call from the CEO’s office. “ The Circle CEO wants to meet you now”, said a lady from the other side.“The CEO wanted to meet a summer intern?”, my mind wanted to disbelieve my ears. Within 15 minutes, I was sitting with the CEO, discussing my findings and improvising my strategy. “Take Charge” was his advice to me for the execution of the project. My project got a new dimension with this 50 minute interaction.

The next three weeks saw me shuttling from head office to branch offices to call centre setups. This was the time when I was supposed to implement the project. Working with a sample of thousand plus customers, this phase of the project tested my skills as a manager. Getting a work done from a team that does not report to me required utmost convincing skills. The advice of the CEO kept me motivated. It was my project and I had to take charge and propel it to successful completion.

Finally the day arrived when I had to present the ‘hits and misses’ to the circle CEO and the departmental heads. Armed with all the knowledge that I had gained during my one month long field visit, I presented the result of my project to the top management of the company. The veterans of the telecom industry engaged in a dialogue with me that lasted around one and a half hours. Most of the recommendations were accepted, some rejected.

As I write this summer saga, the words of CEO still resonate in my mind “This is the best summer project that I have seen in my career of 21 years.”  



Shashank is a Compute Science Engineering Graduate by education and a marketer by aspiration. He has a keen eye for the consumer insights and hence plan to make a career in consumer marketing.He has two passions in life: Travelling and Photography. Both of them well complement each other. He has already covered t...