Saturday, February 27, 2010

Customer Service Or Great Product

Sundaram Motors Petrol Bunk at Whites Road in Chennai has always been regarded as the bunk that delivers pure fuel. Well, I believe it is an open secret that 'all' petrol bunks usually make an additional margin by mixing petrol with 'cheaper additives'. As we know it is a regulated market, the bunks usually make very little margins per liter over a lock-in of expensive realty.

Many would have heard of Manjunath, the IIM Graduate who was murdered by bunk owners indulged in such unscrupulous practice. Pity! But that makes a completely different topic for discussion.

Back to Sundaram Motors. Well there is always a huge line at the bunk. While earlier it were those who wanted to preserve their engines, today, I think it is simply because processes haven't kept pace with the changes in technology and the customer-focused initiatives of the oil marketing companies. One has to park the vehicle in line, walk down to a counter, make the payment and bring the bill to fill in their tanks!

With every fuel marketing company having their own quality and quantity assurance program, the competitive advantage gap of ‘pure fuel’ may have been a lot narrowed. The petrol bunk, in general, have started taking customer experience very seriously. Right from billing to a check up of your vehicle. Almost everything is offered to you. Filling, billing and collections happen at one point.

Now as for the customer, what does he do? Does he go through a bit of inconvenience to get the best product or he doesn't mind a 'slightly compromised' product for better customer service. My guess, from a bit of understanding of how I act and people around behave, we prefer comfort. Yes, we do desire for the best but often do not go the extra mile, if we have to, to make purchase. A look at the opportunity cost clearly tilts the favor for us to make compromised purchase decisions, most of the time.

What is more interesting to note about Sundaram Motors petrol bunk is that they have strict operating time. They have a proper one hour lunch break! If you go on a national holiday, be surprised to find it closed. I somehow get a feeling that Revenues may not on top of the mind for the Sundaram Motors. Surprises me!

Does this mean that the bunk will close down? No. On the contrary, it will always be crowded. If not for loyal customers, then for the legacy customer unfriendly processes.

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