The double fault of Indian Service
March 15, 2010 9 Comments
Last month the Economic Survey was tabled as the usual precursor to the Annual Budget presentation which reaffirmed the economic paradigm that India is witnessing. While Agriculture and Manufacturing sectors were registering poor growth, the GDP growth was held up by the Service sector. This note, however has nothing to do with an analysis of economy, but I am thinking aloud about the hidden irony of it all.
India is shining in Services, a sector which it is least equipped to. I have never left the Indian shores but despite my handicap, I think I can safely proclaim that Indians have the worst ‘service mindset’. As a country we are poor service providers and very poor service consumers.
Foreigners who visit India, I am sure have a harrowing time dealing with the taxi drivers, auto drivers, lift men, janitors, cab drivers, tourist guides….just about anyone they come across. The attitude of ‘fleecing’ is firmly inbuilt into the Indian mindset. The very sight of a white skin brings out the worst in us. And we don’t even need the excuse of five star comfort to dupe the hapless visitors. There was this famous story some time back about a ‘samosa’ vendor charging Rs. 10,000 from a foreign couple for a plate of samosas !
If the service providers indulge in massive fleecing of the foreigners, with fellow indians, they adopt an attitude of indifference, callousness or plain negligence.
We come across every day, conductors who don’t return the change, bank tellers who take enormous time, janitors who don’t clean the rest rooms properly, auto drivers who cheat on the fares and waiters who are plain rude.
But we have learnt to endure them and take them in our stride. Presumably helped by our ‘chalta hai’ attitude and the subconscious realization that we are such poor service consumers. So in effect we get what we deserve.
When was the last time we gave the correct change to buy our ticket ? When was the last time we used a public toilet conscious of the fact that it should be left usable for the person following us ? When was the last time we went to the Bank with the form filled up or at least with a pen ?
The days when I miss my company transport, I use public transport. One of my favourite pastimes is to see the percentage of passengers to tender exact fare. Over 90% of the passengers don’t carry any change at all and flash 100 Re notes to the hapless conductor. While the males are a tad better in flashing it as soon as they board the bus, the women folk go through an elaborate process.
First they would take time to balance themselves in the bus, usually stomping on a foot or two. Next they will wade into their handbag opening up every zipper before locating their wallet. Depending upon the size of the wallet, it may house a smaller wallet inside or if the conductor is lucky enough, a crumpled note will finally emerge. Phew !
The scene in the bank is much worse. Customers surround the teller or the executive with no regard for order or queue. They usually come without any basics – forms, documents and a pen. The bank executive is expected to provide the forms, the pen and then guide them in filling it up while the customer who is getting serviced uses up as much time as he wants totally oblivious to the holdup and the lengthening queue.
With such customers to attend to, it is no wonder that the service providers have so much indifference build into their mindset. Back to my favourite bus, recently a woman puked at the door while alighting from the bus and walked off without even bothering to say a sorry. The poor conductor had to request a nearby eatery for a few cups of water and clean up the entrance. Who wants to be a conductor eh ?
I am not here to suggest that the poor quality of service is only due to customer apathy as service consumers but it is my endeavour to look at the issue in complete perspective. I feel it is incumbent upon the service consumers to adopt a model code of service consumption and follow it.
Poor attitude to service consumption breeds poor service delivery. The barber would in all probability do a lousy job if we slip into the chair bathed in sweat and body odour. The cobbler would only do a cursory job of mending the shoes if they are unclean and worse still, smelly.
As service consumers, it is incumbent upon us to avoid ‘service abuse’. Whenever we indulge in abusing the concept of service, we lose our moral right to insist on service quality.
We are in a world of service partnership. Good attitude to service consumption would facilitate provision of good quality of service. As service consumers let us help others to help us.
Service is clearly the vehicle of growth for Indian economy. It would really be a stark irony that a nation whose GDP is prominently made up by the Service sector is rated very poor for it’s service mindset.
It is up to each one of us to ensure that Indian Service doesn’t become a laughable oxymoron.