Friday, September 25, 2009

Differentiated Ear Buds: Quality Propotional to Price?

Despite numerous advice from doctors and warnings from Savitha, the habit of using ear buds soon after bath does not seem to go.

Am so addicted, if I do not use it, I would get withdrawal symptoms. I have to use ear buds and soak away the water from the passage. I keep doing to the point that water flows from my eyes and then I feel heaviness in my ears.

Who said people get addicted on drugs?

I have always used Johnson's ear buds. In between I did use the local stuff which is a very "cheap" option, both cost and quality wise. Then there were these emails floating around saying that unbranded ear buds are made of recycled cotton from hospital wastes. It named an unheard infection that could be fatal. After reading one of the early forwards, I stopped purchasing that Rs. 10 for 100 pack.

Have you noticed that there is no other brand other than Johnson's visible in market? A week back I went to Apollo Pharmacy and asked for Johnson's. The pharmacist introduced me to Apollo's own branded ear buds. I was excited thinking finally there is an option. Considering Apollo Hospitals is a big brand, the product must be safe.

The ear buds, basically, has two parts - the stem and the cotton buds on the two sides. In terms of quality, Johnson's stem and the amount of cotton and the firmness with which it rolled is far superior than both unbranded and Apollo's. Apollo's stem is better than unbranded. Unbranded stems can bend with little pressure.

The most important aspect is the amount of cotton available for us. Again, Johnson's buds are safe to use and soaks more water. When the buds soak water, the cotton is compressed. If there is not enough amount of cotton, the stem can hurt the sides and the drum. To my surprise, Apollo's performance was as "good" (read bad) as unbranded products'.

In terms of packaging, Johnson's is available in the small plastic container (with about 100 sticks, I think), a large refill pack (with 60 sticks) and then small refill pack (30 sticks). Apollo was available in the small plastic container. Unbranded are available in 100s in a small polythene cover.

No guesses on price! But clearly, Johnson and Johnson rules!

That leads me to think if the quality of product or service is directly proportional to the price a consumer pays?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Customer Service: Learnings from the barbershop

It is probably because of my father's Air Force life that habituated me to visit barbershop regularly.

Today, after my daily game of tennis, I visited my barber (hair stylists, as they are referred to nowadays). I, usually, pay a paltry sum of Rs. 50 plus a decent tip of Rs. 10.

As I went in today, the barber asked if I had walked or visited the gym as my T-shirt was wet with sweat.

After instructing him that I needed a short haircut, I left it to the capable hands of the man and his tools to do the art work on my scalp. When the job was finished, I was satisfied and was going to happily give him the usual tip. But then he stopped me, asking me to relax in the seat. For the next 5 minutes, he drummed, pressed, and massaged my head. Phew, I was ready to go for a sleep. Refreshing! Oh no, I was not planning to increase the tip, though certainly tempted.

I thought it was over but then he brought a dry towel, placed it on my shoulders. Next 10 minutes were a period of relief. Relief from the tension that had built in into my shoulder and back muscles due to tennis. I so much wanted to let Mr. Barber continue but, alas, I was getting late for office.

Without hesitation, I pulled out Rs. 30 along with the hair cutting charges of Rs. 50. More than 50% of the actual cost of “actual” service rendered. Both Mr. Barber and I were smiling. I was because of the service. He probably because of the tip and making a customer satisfied.

I thought to myself, on a normal day, I would have stopped with the haircut. On a normal day, Mr. Barber would have stopped probably after the head massage. But the anticipation of what customer might require, though unstated, changed the experience.