Customer service done right (ACT Fibernet) Vs terribly wrong (Airtel Broadband)

act vs airtel

This month has been quite stressful with issues at work and at the new flat we finally managed to move in last week after India Builders locked us out of the flat. I was quite excited about getting an internet connection at home as I know that ACT was available. Positive reviews I have heard about ACT made me to take the jump to ACT though I have been a loyal Airtel customer for the last 12 years.

I took the ACT sales person number from my friend and after visiting the flat and discussing how to go about the line, applied for the connection. Was promised to complete installation within 4 days but for some reasons (getting it concealed, neighbor locking their place etc) it just got delayed and I was just too tired to fight (if you know the usual me) 🙂 and wrote them an email asking them not to deposit my cheque and cancel the connection or initiate refund.

Meanwhile, I called Airtel and they were happy to take the application without a feasibility check which later became an issue. After 2 days, I was told that some documents are missing and they are some delay. This after I called and asked what went wrong. They never gave a straight answer (not surprised) and they said it will be done in 3 days. I called Airtel customer support, but they do not have record of the application as it was outsourced. After 3 days, my application was logged and I got an SMS. I called customer care and tweeted and everyone just said they will get back with an update. No one ever came back. The engineer who was assigned to me never bothered to pick my calls (43 times to be specific) or return my calls. Ironically the Airtel engineer uses an Idea mobile. 🙂 Conference call after conference call after conference call, lies and more lies, the finally I met the engineer at the flat. The issue was straight forward. The builder has the concealed wire extended to the road at one entrance and the Airtel wire/box was available at the other gate. The issue now is to lay a cable between these two gates which is about 20 feet. I asked the Airtel engineer to lay a temporary cable who agreed and vanished. Few more days wasted. No one turns up. More calls and more lies. The most lethargic behaviour I have ever seen in the last 12 years from an Airtel engineer. This guy should 100% be fired. Sadly, he is the area engineer. Pity the Airtel customers in this area. I continue to use Airtel in my office and am very happy with their Kilpauk support team who always goes the extra mile to ensure that our work is not disrupted when we have any issues with connectivity.

Meanwhile, I got a call from ACT customer care executive Senthamizh. She knew the issue and apologised and requested a last chance. Likewise, the ACT team leader visited the flat and requested another chance and apologised for the mistake. I told both that we applied for Airtel and am sorry and that I look forward to use ACT soon. The team leader left his business card with me (which I left in my car) and the customer care girl wrote me an email and followed up with phone calls to refund my application fee I paid and in fact took my bank details to do a NEFT.

Fast forward from May 4 to May 12, I get a call from Airtel stating that it would take another 5 days for them to give the connection due to technical issues which he has no idea about. I was driving home when this call happened. I then decided to call the ACT team leader and Prema has his number on her phone. At 12:30pm she called ACT team leader Prem and check if they can give us the connection and how soon can they give. The team leader said he will check and revert ASAP. At 1:15pm I received a call from the sales guy who informed me that the whole team of Engineers, Supervisors etc are in my flat right now. I arrived at the flat in about 10 mins. At 3pm the connection was activated and these guys signed off.

In closing, my learning

  1. You can win a lost customer by been nice to them and sincerely accepting that there is an issue and taking all efforts to sort out the issue.
  2. Human to Human connection. In all this confusion, I just dealt with 3 persons with ACT (1 sales guy, 1 team leader and 1 Customer care executive) and all three knew exactly what was happening vs the seven guys at Airtel who had no clue what was happening.

For some reason, I felt that these ACT guys were genuinely concerned and took personal interest to complete the installation and set things right.

Now they have one happy customer trumpeting about their great services all over social media 🙂 unless they mess up something in the future which I hope never happens.

 

Note: Typed from phone (yah the same old iPhone). Please report any typos or errors and I will have it corrected. Thanks.

Our experience with India Builders

I will share here our experience of buying a flat/apartment with India Builders, Anna Nagar. I am working hard on this and will publish the complete post soon. Meanwhile if you are someone who is looking at buying a flat in Chennai or with India builders and would like to get some tips, feel free to write me an email at selvamraja at gmail.com

Malaysia Airline – Humiliation/Harassment & a Traumatic Experience

On August 19, 2016, I booked a return ticket from Chennai to Bali, Indonesia (with a transit in KL, Malaysia) for attending the Asian Patent Attorneys Association Annual Meeting.

On Oct 12, 2016, I completed my check-in at the Depansar Bali Airport at around 14:00 hrs and  was waiting at Gate 1 where the boarding was scheduled.  Around 15.30hrs an announcement was made that the boarding has been shifted to Gate 5. On reaching Gate 5, the ground staff informed us that due to some engine problem the departure time was changed to 16.20 hrs. I noticed the ground staff watching the plane and chatting with each other in the side corridor near the boarding gate. There was one ground staff at the gate and when enquired as to when they will announce boarding, he informed me that there was a delay. Then the display screens changed and the departure time was changed to 16.20hrs. I went back to the ground staff at the gate and he had no information as to the delay and informed me that there was some engine problem and that the engineers are evaluating the same.

After half-an-hour of waiting, the luggage was off-loaded from the plane and placed on the tarmac (a photograph of the same is attached herein as Exhibits), but the ground staff still had no idea about the issue or the period of delay. A passenger from London demanded to speak to the higher authorities and did so on the phone, but to no avail.

The departure was then rescheduled to 17:20hrs and we were assured that the ground staff in Kuala Lumpur would take care of our connecting flights. The ground staff ultimately informed us that there was an engine problem and spare parts were being awaited and the flight was rescheduled to 18.20hrs. The fatigued passengers were then provided with a can of coke/sprite, a candy bar and a snack. The flight was again rescheduled to 19.30hrs.

We boarded the flight at 19.30hrs and were informed by the pilot that the delay was due to some defect with the right engine but it had been rectified and we were only awaiting tower clearance. Meanwhile, the air conditioners and lights were dysfunctional and the crew were rushing about, and it was announced that another defect had been detected in the same engine and the pilot wanted to make sure it is safe to take off. We were at the gates at 19.50hrs. At 20.10hrs, the pilot announced that it was safe to take off. The crew informed us that many of us would be missing our connecting flights and our flights would be rebooked and we would be provided accommodation for the night at Kuala Lumpur.

The pilot then announced that there would be further delay due to air traffic congestion and finally, after receiving clearance, we took off for Kuala Lumpur and landed at 23:30hrs. By then many of us had missed our connecting flights. We were then directed to the Malaysia Airlines helpdesk. There, one of the staff took passengers travelling to India separately and informed us that those travelling to Hyderabad, Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai would all be put on the flight MH0182 to Chennai the next morning (Oct 13, 2016 at 09.35hrs) and reconnected through local flights to their destinations. He requested us to give him 20 minutes so that they could arrange for the hotel rooms. In the meantime, a woman with a child who enquired about the hotel rooms was yelled at for her apparent impatience, an inadmissible behavior from such trained staff, and when I enquired about my luggage, considering they were providing accommodation, the staff stated that access to luggage will take 2 hours as they had been sent to the storage, and did not seem to think that when a passenger has not been able to board, providing his/her luggage is essential, especially if he/she is travelling “alone”. Not providing us the luggage was utterly illogical from the point of view of hygiene. When I asked her “What do I wear at the room”, and to my surprise she replied, “You are alone”. I had nothing further to respond at that point. I am sure that I do not need to explain this any further.

To the astonishment of the passengers, around 01.00 hrs on Oct 13, 2016 we were informed that the rooms inside the immigration area were full. The staff were requesting the immigration authorities to allow the passengers to stay in hotels outside the immigration area, but they did not permit the passengers to exit, as is the usual conduct of the authorities and that it was unreasonable to expect the immigration authorities to allow people to exit the immigration area without proper documents. The Malaysia Airlines staff’s logic was that they were ready to provide us accommodation outside the immigration area but we would not be allowed to cross the immigration area which was absurd.

The ground staff then began complaining about how this was always a problem with Indian and Chinese passport-holders and got offended when I told them that they should stop talking racism of such passengers. One man from the staff, without any provocation, began shouting at me, which is a disgraceful behavior on the part of the staff of such a widely acclaimed service provider and I had to ask him not to raise his voice at the passengers. Around 02.00hrs of Oct 13 both children and the elderly were exhausted and famished. The passengers demanded access to the airport lounge, for which the staff agreed to check. They then came back and informed us that pest control had been done at the lounge and we were told that we might have to move around. We agreed to the same and were taken to the lounge.

As there were no refreshments in the lounge, we were given vouchers to eat at the Noodles shop or the Burger King near the lounge and assured that we would be given more vouchers if needed (Video Conversation with the staff is attached herewith as Exhibits). But once we went to the restaurants, we were informed that vouchers could not be clubbed and we could only be provided with chicken nuggets and a coke at 13RM (equivalent to Rs.209). The ground staff was perplexed at this response but advised us to adjust and have whatever was available, another instance of the ludicrous behaviour on the part of the staff. Three vegetarian passengers had to go to sleep without any food, as no credit cards were working at Burger King even if we wanted to buy food for ourselves.

Over and above all this, the lounge staff behaved very inhospitably – they were reluctant to provide water bottles, the blankets we asked for came at 04 00 hrs and they kept cleaning the lounge with vacuum cleaners while people were trying to sleep – and we were shocked at such unprecedented behavior. At around 04 00 hrs., when breakfast services started in the lounge, the staff informed us that we must use vouchers as the food service was not for us. When we refused the vouchers, we were asked to be at the gate at 07 00 hrs, but we argued that the flight being at 09:35hrs, there was no need to arrive at the gate before 0835hrs, at which the staff on duty told us that her shift was over and she was leaving, meaning that she could not care less. We then ate some food in the lounge and went to board the flight at 0835hrs. Being trained by such a renowned Airlines, how could the staff mete out such an obnoxious treatment to passengers who were being inconvenienced not due to their own fault was shocking to us

It is pertinent to note that as per international convention; passengers possess some rights globally in case of flight cancellations and delays.

  • The regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the European Council of 11 February, 2004 establishes common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights. Not only do the Articles 7, 8 and 9 of the regulation provide for the rights of the passengers to compensation, reimbursement and rerouting, and care, respectively, but the Article 14 also provides that the airlines has the obligation to inform the passengers of such rights. The passenger’s right to care entitles them to meals and refreshments as well as two telephone calls, telex messages, emails, etc. and hotel accommodation in case of overnight delay along with transportation from the place of accommodation to the airport. They are further entitled to compensation or reimbursement or re-routing or alternative transportation in certain cases and under certain circumstances.
  • In the international arena, EU is not the only one to provide for such passenger rights. The International Air Transport Association, 2013 also supports the view of the EU regulation regarding air passenger rights.
  • The Montreal Convention of 1999 (MC99) to which India is a signatory, is another international treaty which creates an exclusive and uniform framework of liability in the international air carriage of passengers and cargo.
  • Moreover, in the ICAO Sixth World Air Transport Conference, ICAO (a specialised organ of the UN) received support from its member states to develop high-level principles on consumer protection.
  • The Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (Aviation Consumer Protection Division) of the USA even produces a monthly Air Travel Consumer Report for ensuring compliance with such international norms.
  • The office of the Director General of Civil Aviation in India has issued Civil Aviation Requirements, wherein the Series M, Part IV, issued on 6thAugust 2010 and in force from 15 August 2010, provides for facilities that air passengers are entitled to due to denied boarding, cancellation of flights and delays in flights. In case of delays in flights, these rules provide that the passenger shall be entitled to meals and refreshments with regards to the time of delay as well as hotel accommodation.

Thus, it is evident from the legal frameworks cited that passenger rights are universally accepted concept, and every passenger of flight MH850, including myself faced the infringement of these rights due to the deficient and callous service of the Malaysia Airlines and the irresponsible, reckless behavior of the staff, without minding the mental trauma undergone by the passengers for no fault of their own. Due to the unacceptable behavior of the Airlines authorities, not only was our travelling experience spoilt, but we also had to undergo unnecessary harassment, humiliation, stress and mental trauma.

It took several days to get out of the trauma created by the airline. It also led to me cancelling my US trip which came up thereafter.

Today I managed to write to Malaysia Airline with the following demands:

  1. Provide a written apology and an undertaking to train and equip your staff to deal with unexpected situations to prevent any future passengers from facing any such harassment;
  2. Pay a sum of Rs. 50,000 towards compensation for causing harassment, humiliation and mental trauma and for infringing the prescribed international aviation right to care of passengers by impermissible behavior of your staff;
  • Pay a sum of Rs. 15,000 towards the costs of this legal notice.

While the Malaysia Airline social media team did not bother to even address one of the several tweets I sent them, let us hope that they understand the seriousness of the issue at hand and respond.

Accord Metropolitan, It takes a lifetime to build a brand and seconds to lose it.

In June 2015, I was offered a club membership with the Accord Metropolitan Hotel, T-Nagar with several privileges (a mix of food, beverages and stay). It was more or less identical to the one I had with Hilton the previous year. Being a Chennaite, you would know that travelling all the way from Kilpauk to Guindy could be frustratingly insane at times and because T-Nagar was closer, I decided to move from Hilton to Accord. Though it now seems like a very bad move!

The first bummer experience with Accord was while I took the kids and Prema to Pondy. We made a reservation for two days and were to use two vouchers for it, one which offered a night’s free stay and the other which gave 50% off on second night’s stay. Disappointingly, on reaching we realized that the rooms were very small and the additional bed they provided was a basic one. Having kids aged 2 years & 5 years along we felt that it is going to be a night mare and so we informed the front desk that we will shorten our trip to one night. The next noon while we checked out, the hotel wanted to bill us at 50% off rather than using free stay voucher. On top of this, the brilliant plan suggested by the hotel was that we use the free voucher on our next stay. Being a lawyer who drafts contracts, agreements and terms & conditions for my clients’ day in and day out, I failed to understand this interpretation. I was then basically offered a series of upgrades, one to the next category of room, and then to a Presidential Suite, but unfortunately none of them worked out. So finally I requested him to give it in writing on their letter head that they cannot use the free stay voucher and rather will bill me on the 50% off one, and Bingo! It worked. Our stay was free, thanks to the free stay voucher and we were at liberty to go. Not surprising, Prema & Kids were not impressed with the lawyering skills I put to use. The only saving grace was that the guys at the back office or the guys who sold me the membership were very helpful coordinating the whole thing with the hotel, though there was nothing much they could do sitting somewhere else.

The second unpleasant incident was when I wanted to meet a friend of mine and ultimately we decided to catch up for a buffet lunch at the Seasons restaurant at the Accord Metropolitan. Both of us being utter carnivorous, decided to embark upon our journey of tasting some really great food. But on landing there, we encounter a rather disappointing surprise that the Seasons restaurant was closed for renovations. And so we moved into a nearby restaurant and enjoyed the buffet there. Being a club member the least I expected was an email from the hotel.

The third, and most probably my last visit to the Accord hotel was on December 26, 2015. Like the earlier year we decided to have a small get together of friends over dinner and since a majority of the guests preferred vegetarian, I decided to go for the Royal Indianaa restaurant at the Accord Metropolitan, which is a veg restaurant offering Veg Buffet. Earlier that week I had called them twice to check if the Seasons restaurant was open and was informed that they are not expecting to open it until the New Year, so I made a reservation at the Royal Indianaa. I have been to this restaurant and the food is just awesome and my friends who came in from Malaysia liked the interiors and the traditional set up as well. If I am not wrong, the restaurant is managed by celebrity chef “Venkatesh Bhatt”. More so I had several food vouchers unused of which one was “HALF PRICE LAVISH BUFFET” which entitles a 50% discount on buffet meals for a table of 10 guests at any restaurant at Accord Hotel.

Accord Metropolitan Voucher

As always the food was great and the guys enjoyed the food, though some cribbed that they miss the chicken/mutton and the drinks and being a pure non vegetarian myself, I can relate to it. In fact, I’d say that the only place I don’t mind paying for veg food is at the Royal Indianaa. After the food came billing time and I gave across the voucher and was informed that I cannot use the Voucher as the Royal Indianaa is a specialty restaurant.

indianaa-voucherThen I had to run him through the conditions on the voucher that says “buffet at any restaurant at the hotel” but he seems to be under the impression that this restaurant does not fall under the definition of “buffet at any restaurant at the hotel”. Probably I need to check the new version of the Oxford Dictionary for the new meanings. Then the ‘tamasha’ began.

Hotel Staff: I can give you only 20% off as per the card.

Me: Sorry, but you have to give me 50% off as per the voucher.

Hotel Staff: This voucher you can use only at the Season’s.

Me: There are 5 restaurants in the hotel of which 3 do not serve buffet. In the remaining two, one is closed for the last few months for renovation. The voucher clearly says “buffet at any restaurant at the hotel”. The only other restaurant that has buffet is this.

Hotel Staff: No. They serve buffet at the Seasons restaurant which is now closed.

Me: Right. How do I eat in a closed restaurant? I have nothing more to say. I have to leave without paying.

Hotel Staff: You cannot leave the hotel without paying.

Me: Great. No issues. We’ll use the stay voucher then. 😉

Hotel Staff goes back, makes a couple of calls and then comes back and talks sense finally: There are 11 guests, but this voucher will only cover 10.

Me: Makes sense, but you tried playing the fool with me first so I am going to play it back to you. I don’t even know who the 11th guy is and I am not going to pay for 11. We are only 10, so use the voucher.

Hotel Staff: We never issued the Voucher. I cannot use it as you are 11 now.

Me: So now you take a different stand. Brilliant. And you did not issue the voucher.

Hotel Staff: Gives me a smile.

Knowing that this conversation is heading nowhere and with three lawyers and 7 CEO’s staring, he finally decides to go ahead and agrees to use the 50% off voucher. He gave me his card and wanted me to forward the email that was sent by the membership team. While I informed him that the email will be forwarded, I am just curious on his understanding of similar language used in the email.

Growing up with my grand dad, I have heard him say more than once “It takes a lifetime to build your reputation and a bad case to lose it”.