Saturday, October 27, 2012

Moment of truth

Last night, a thought came across my mind. What is my expected quality of customer care services from my bank? I am not talking about "dream-come-true" service quality but a "bring-a-smile-post-call" kind of service quality. Again, this has nothing to do with bank's products or services or infrastructure etc., but only customer care services. So, here it is:
  1. 1 contact number (available 24 hrs across all 365 days; need not be toll free) which can be used across the country from any land line or mobile service provider,  to reach the customer care rep. for any service request / inquiry. This number will be available on the home page of bank's website. If updated, an sms will be send to all customers a week in advance. 
  2. In case a relationship manager is assigned to a client, a direct number (which doesn't change every 2 months) will be provided. While, a branch may have more than one such numbers, only one person will answer a specific number (unless it is totally impossible otherwise) to ensure progressive communication and little repetition & irritation to customers. Relationship managers will be always available to attend customer's call from 8.00am till 8.00pm. If no one, picks up this number, call will automatically go to CC reps.
  3. Branch Manager will call the customer the next day before 12.00am and give reason as to why no one answered the call, the previous day. Same shall be sent by email too.
  4. Human like greetings, being approachable (language, attitude etc) and willingness to help will be first rule for all CC reps or relationship managers. They will focus on understanding customer's problem and suggest the fastest feasible way to handle it and reasons thereof.
  5. CC reps / relationship managers will never give generic template responses. They will confirm if they don't know the answer. (Customer doesn't expect the world anymore and wants to understand reasons; He is ready to pay the price and invest time; just saying "not possible" several times doesn't solve anything).
  6. CC reps / relationship managers will be the single point contact between the bank & customer. Either they'll have a solution (they will explain specific steps to be followed, info /documents required for that and the expected time required) or they'll call back the customer within 4 hrs with a solution (again, specific steps to be followed, info /documents required for that and the expected time required)
  7. CC reps / relationship managers will be required to note down all discussions (key takeaways) with customers on its account / database with the bank. All new posting on the account shall be automatically emailed to customer post the call.
  8. Customer can reply to the mail with his/her queries, complaints or feedback. A email will be sent daily with updates on outstanding request till it is closed to the satisfaction of customer (like courier guys update you on their sites).
  9. Customer to give feedback on each communication. CC reps.' / relationship managers' appraisal will consider these feedback.
With role of physical presence or communication by phone reducing everyday in Indian banking industry because of  improving banking infrastructure over internet and mobiles and increasing knowledge and acceptance of the same among customers, banks (both public sector and private sector banks) have the bandwidth of ensuring that most of the above mentioned suggestions are implemented at virtually no extra cost.

    Index based Mutual funds - behavioral science at play!

    Last month, when the BSE squatted, I was, once again, tempted to invest in Index based Mutual Funds, just like in 2006, when the market dumped because of the global economic crisis.

    An Index Based Mutual Fund (IBMF) is a relatively straight forward variant of various mutual funds available in India, wherein the fund holds all stocks comprising an identified Index in the same proportion as that in the Index and changes it along with movements on the Index. Idea is to replicate Index returns. An ideal bet, when you are sure that market is grossly undervalued in general and is going to go up in foreseeable future. Which is why, I was, especially, tempted to invest into IBMFs in 2006 when market had hit sub 10,000 mark.

    However, to my surprise, it very difficult to even getting basic Qs answered about IBMFs. I approached the known agent who used to help me with my annual investments in Equity Linked Saving Scheme (ELSS) mutual funds for tax saving purposes. Typically, a brief analysis for NAVs of top 5 Mutual Funds (MFs) and their dividend history is sufficient for deciding the final bet for an ELSS investment. Plus, the agent will have sound information up his sleeve, about any forthcoming dividends etc. Just fill up the form and give him a cheque and you are sorted.

    But, when I asked him about Index based funds, it looked like, he was almost caught off-guard ! With a promise to get back to me, he continued to suggest me to invest in typical equity based MFs or gold etc. He had little information about the players, fund sizes, return history etc. Seemingly, not many people (read retail investors) know about Index based funds, nor do they want to know about them! While, all factual information is available online, it is not enough for taking the final investment decision. And that's because, typically, information about general performance of the funds and its fund manager/s, liquidity, ongoing problems being faced by fund houses etc. is never available online and that’s where agents play a very crucial role.

    While, I continue to wait for that agent to call me back even today (frankly with little hope), this feels like a classic case of a vicious circle, wherein, I will not invest into a product until I get comfort from a agent, who will not focus on selling it (and acquiring required information for the same) until a substantial number of retail investors ask for it !!!

    Pure behavioral science at play. :p

    Saturday, October 6, 2012

    Book Review: "The Secret of the Nagas" by Amish Tripathi

    Segment: Fiction - Indian Mythology

    Background: 2nd book of the "Shiva Trilogy", which consists of:
    1/ The immortals of Mehula (find review in my earlier posts)
    2/ The secret of the Nagas &
    3/ The oath of Vayuputras (expected to be released by Dec, 2012)

    In Shiva Trilogy, Amish takes a unique approach of looking at "Shiv Puran" or so to say, our entire belief about Hindu Mythology. Whether Gods are super-humans mentioned only in mythological stories or they were humans, known as Gods today, because of the decisions they took and role they played in human history?

    I would advise to pick this book up after you finish "The immortals of Mehula". This will help you to appreciate the plot & context better.

    Verdict & Feel: A good read and apt sequel to "The immortals of Mehula". As it normally happens in book series, this 2nd book is more intriguing as the story moves at a much faster pace with the plot taking a firm & interesting shape leaving us wanting for more. Again, there is no escape from buying the next (& final) book of the trilogy (this time, I am looking forward to it, though..!!).

    After the basic introduction of the concept of "duality" in his last book, Amish does a great job in explaining it in greater detail in this book along with delving deeper into complex phenomenons like "Good" & "Evil".

    As I had very little knowledge of Shiv Puran, I feel enriched after reading these 2 books. I feel even more strongly that all Indian scriptures tell us about the same things, by personifying the forces at play in our mind & heart, weaved in grand larger-than-life stories. Ironically, we have become too rigid in our reading of scriptures / mythology to look beyond words and consider them as a read for spiritual flight only to be pursued after we have lived our real life.

    Writing Style:
    - the language is simple and writing style is straight forward. Story flows on a linear plane at a constant pace. However, there is enough to be told in this book, to keep the reader engaged.

    - Amish's ability to go into details and create a visual of the scene in front of our eyes is phenomenal. I continue to believe that this is only a necessity of this series and Amish has more variety to offer in his future writings.

    - the key concepts of duality, good, evil etc are explained in decent detail across the book, unlike "Immortals of Mehula" where the story doesn't unfold beyond pure fiction until last few pages.

    Time: Took me about 4 days of average reading.

    Other observations:
    - Would like to emphasize at the cost of repetition (as mentioned in review of "The Immortals of Mehula" too) - the map of India in 1900 BC, provided inside front cover of the book is indispensable to understand the story better!

    - Amish has put no efforts (no mention in the preface; absence of any disclaimer/s) to relate the plots, events, locations and names mentioned in the book to today's knowledge of the same in history or mythology. It looks like Amish is capturing the key historical / mythological people, events & understanding, using fiction as a way of narration. I really hope Amish relate the story to present day belief in the last book of the Trilogy.

    My Rating: Shiva Trilogy - 7/10; The Secret of Nagas - 7/10