The Reincarnation Of A PSU

August 23, 2006
Shantanu Dutta

Some time ago I wrote about the agony of dealing with call centres used by VSNL to deal with customer "care". There is a certain kind of humiliation in knowing that while dealing with call centre staff, you are just a customer and a complaint number or a customer ID number or a user id - no more a person. You deal with impersonal people, canned and irrelevant messages, indifferent and mechanical service. There is over all apathy knowing that in faceless universe accountability is difficult to fix and blame difficult to apportion and for a long, long time things can just go on as they are.

This experience taught me relook at the value of personal relationships with all their limitations. Shortly after finishing my dealings with VSNL, I after studying all the options available turned with some anxiety to the public sector MTNL for my internet needs. The anxiety was because of past experiences of dealing with MTNL staff- memories of filling forma in duplicate and triplicate, of the line man asking for Diwali baksheesh, Holi sweets and what not. But weighing the options and deciding that the cost of a kilo of sweets was cheaper any day than the cost of the phone bills that I was piling up month after month, I took the plunge.

I was in for several surprises. The MTNL customer care centre wasn't a room with peeling paint and rickety wooden chairs. There was an air conditioner humming, a couple of sofas for waiting customers and staff at the counter weren't knitting sweaters or reading the newspaper. I was told that the new phone connection would be provided in a week and the broadband connection a week later from there. Mentally as I left the counter with my computerized receipt (another surprise!), I added in another week to the promised week.

At the end of the third day, when I came home, I was handed over a slip of paper with a note. It said in brief that the MTNL line man had visited to install the phone and finding the house locked were leaving their phone numbers on the paper so that I could contact them and tell them when they could come. I couldn't believe what was happening. After all these months of dealing with anonymous executives , here was MTNL sending their staff in 3 days against the promised 5 or 7 and actually leaving their number , so that I could contact an actual person who would be involved in the task.

The voice at the other end of the phone wasn't as well groomed as the sleek call centre folks. It was gruff and hoarse but direct and to the point. The line man wanted to know the date and time when I would be there so that he could come and fix up the phone and having got the information, he assured me that he would turn up. He came and did his job, and all he asked for was a glass of water. As he left, he assured me that his supervisor would be around the next week with the modem to fix up the broadband.

And so he did. The MTNL supervisor was a bit apologetic that he was basically a telephone man who had picked up the basics as MTNL increased its business beyond basic telephony. But he was knowledgeable enough to do the job successfully and more importantly, he turned up unannounced a few days later to ask if every thing was going well. He also left his number so that I could call him any time if there was a problem. That was just amazing

Since then I am thinking about a couple of things. That dowdy and stodgy organizations that we think most PSUs to be, can and do change. That there is customer care outside of slick call centres and that there is a place for the line man who knows your street and lane to come calling rather than mercenary Direct Sales Agents and out sourced maintenance contractors. And the line men aren't always asking for Baksheesh. Then, the final miracle, the PSU broad band connection seems to be working better than the VSNL, though of course, it is still early days yet. And if there is some day there is a fault, although MTNL has its call centres too, it feels good that there are other numbers with actual field people who can be contacted. It appears to be a transformed world!

Shantanu Dutta is a medical doctor by training and a development professional by vocation. His writings mostly deal with change, complexity and conversion and tries to look at a changing world through heaven's eyes.
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Lazy Libertarian
August 23, 2006
04:41 AM

I have heartening news for you.
I have been a customer of BSNL's DataOne service for a little over 18 months (since its inception ) and *gasp* , never had a problem even once with the service.Most of the people I know too share similar experiences abt DataOne .
If that is anything to go by , U are in for a treat shantanu.

ps : Most probs occur due to the telephone line having little cuts and bruises , thereby increasing noise.Check that first if anything shud go wrong.

August 23, 2006
01:45 PM

Lazy Lib, Me too :)

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