Monday, 20 July 2015

How Mahindra created a WOW experience for us

Good service is good business.
Siebel Ad
A business keeps its customers by treating them Right every time!... has been the first lesson that I learnt in college, studying Hospitality and Hotel Administration. This is one aspect that I carry with me and pass on to every student or trainee that attends my training sessions.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said”. Action is all that matters! In today’s hyper competitive market, it’s just not enough to have a great product at a competitive price but it’s imperative to deliver great customer experience. That consistent superior experience cultivates customer loyalty, strengthens the brand value and of course gives better revenues. That delight experienced by the customer turns him into the advocate of the company. All companies say that customer satisfaction is their priority No. 1, but there are some who actually walk that extra mile for each one of their customers. Such companies have a fan following and they’ll always tread on an upward growth graph.

Customer delight!
In the early 90s customer satisfaction was the buzz word; another 5 years all the competitors did provide that. Then came customer delight, which is exceeding the customer expectations. Another five years went by and everyone spoke the same thing. The early 2000s coined the word customer dazzle or creating that ‘wow’ experience. That’s also the time when I started delivering customer care and service excellence training sessions, be it to the call centre employees or bank employees of the State Bank Of India. I always spoke about the Emotional Bank Account that we all open with each other and every customer we deal with. 

Finally I experienced an exceptional customer service that I wish to share with you all.
It was time for us to buy a bigger vehicle, an SUV. We, my husband and I were looking at various options. Now there are so many available in the market and many more in the pipeline. My mariner husband who sails for 4 months was home and within a week of that we started looking for vehicles and requesting test drive. We went to different brand showrooms. One of them was the Mahindra showroom, G3 Motors at Uran Phata, Belapur,Navi Mumbai. We were greeted warmly and shown both the SUVs, XUV 500 and Scropio. We liked both of them and test drove both.  Then we went back home thinking of zeroing on one of the many SUVs we had seen including Mahindra.

My husband started receiving follow up calls from G3 motors by both the SUV sales persons. When I got back home from work husband told me about the calls. I had met Mr. Sampat Khule,who works at the Nashik Plant of Scorpio two years ago at my institute  and I remembered how fondly he had spoken about the vehicle then.

That made us narrow down our choice to Mahindra and Scorpio top model S10 4WD.  Thankfully I found his visiting card and spoke to him. We booked the car that day 6th July 2015. We were told that it’d take us 3 -4 weeks to get the delivery.  My younger son’s birthday was on the 19th and we were wishing that it’d be  really nice if the car could come home for the occasion. These things have an emotional connect in my family as my husband misses such occasions due to the nature of his work. I happened to mention this to Mr. Khule and he said that he’d try his best to deliver the vehicle before that date. I was really thrilled and shared the same with my husband. They went out of their way to get the vehicle out as soon as it was possible for them  following up with Mr Attif Ansari, Area sales manager.
Team of G3 Motors and their sales executive Ms. Anjali Patil and Mr. Ravi Chilke ensured that they gave us our car on 17th itself so that we had the car on my son’s birthday. They expedited all the procedures including registration at the RTO. We took our Mahindra Scorpio home on 17th of July 2015. The 3-4 weeks actually shrunk to just 10 days. We really felt like VVIPs true to the fact that customer is the king! Along with the car keys they gave us a framed picture of Mata Vaishno Devi, my family is a devotee of Devi Maa. Son was given a remote control toy car that he was thrilled to receive. While we drove out of the showroom, he opened his gift and remarked that it was his best birthday gift. As a mother it gave me so much more than just taking a vehicle home. It was experiencing great hospitality and exceptional customer service and it certainly created the ‘wow’ that I always speak about. I am connected to the hospitality industry where we are taught to create such wow moments for the guests, at Mahindra they exceeded my expectations completely!

Thank you Mahindra for such a great experience, you have certainly created a brand ambassador in me.
from my column
You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.
Jerry Fritz

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Club Mahindra it a good holiday option?

I am from the hospitality industry, A hotelier for almost 2 decades now. When I was in college in the mid 90s we learnt about the concept of timeshare. In fact a very good friend of mine and a classmate at IHM Mumbai did his research project on the subject. Suman Motels was the pioneer in this concept, bringing it into the Indian market which was warming up to the idea of holidaying. Otherwise holidays would mean travelling to one’s native place or ‘gaon’ as the people of my generation would call it.
I loved the concept of timeshare then and the idea as brought in by Suman Motels but I also felt that they arrived ‘before time’ here and it never took off.  Almost a decade later, in 1996 it was Club Mahindra that utilized the idea of timeshare and launched Club Mahindra Holidays. Having done a bit of research on it and teaching my students I had a fairly good understanding of the subject. But I also knew the loop holes, drawbacks and the problems that the customers or members could face. I will not use the word guest here as generally used by hotels on purpose as Club mahindra doesn’t really treat its members as that. I say this from experience as they can’t handle customer queries forget considering any of their requests or concerns.

The background of how we became members of Club Mahindra
One evening in February 2009, when I got home from office hubby asked me to go along with him to the Palm Beach Galleria, a Mall at Vashi, Navi Mumbai. I wondered why on a weekday, he told me that he wanted us to visit the Club Mahindra holiday world, he had had talks with one of the executives. The executive must have done some hardcore selling is all I thought of.  I being from the industry and understanding the product wasn’t too keen on taking up a membership. Went along, with hubby and my little son anyway. On reaching the office the executive made us go through a presentation meant for the customers. Hubby was impressed but I found it to be just okay.
I was expecting our second child then and I knew it wouldn’t be possible for us to go on a holiday at least in the next 2-3 years. But my protests were in vain as hubby said that we’ll have a reason to go on a holiday and as kids grow up we’ll be able to have a family vacation every year. I gave in; we registered for a 1 bedroom apartment. We got a 2N/ 3D complimentary holiday voucher, which we haven’t yet utilized, even till date.

We received our welcome kit and it sat in the cupboard comfortably as husband Capt. Rajesh Todiwan went sailing and I got busy with work and the arrival of our second son. Holiday wasn’t in the scene as yet. First time that I thought of booking a holiday was in June 2011 when our younger son Abhinav was touching 2 years. Made reservations and hoped that Capt. Todiwan was home during that time, can’t be very sure of the sign off as it can get delayed at times. As true to my fears, he couldn’t be home till mid June and I had to cancel the holiday.
Then booked one for December when its vacation time for me and the elder son.  But we didn’t get the requested dates so had to agree with the suggestions made my Club Mahindra Reservations, for Safari Resort, Corbett.  Once this was communicated to hubby, he agreed and I planned our travel and booked the tickets.We finally started looking forward to our first holiday, hubby was excited and so were the kids.  And I was also looking for a nice break from routine.

The story continues to be the same, we never get the booking at the resort that we look for. Doesn’t matter how much in advance we try to book. The concern is the same for us, Husband sails 4-5 months at a time and is away from home. When he is here we don’t get what we request for. I keep talking to the holiday advisors but they are only advisors and won’t do anything beyond that. Till date we have been able to utilise only 3 holidays and 4 resorts of theirs. It’s absolutely no value for money. In fact we end up taking other holiday packages and booking at other resorts so we end up spending much more. As a family we love to travel so take at least two vacations a year. Saving grace for me is my company's holiday plan.

While selling the membership they make a lot of nice sounding promises but once you are a member they take you for granted. Not only that you keep begging for something that’s your right but your holiday advisors will have a very standard reply, “I apologize”. I am sure each one of them uses the phrase at least a 1000 times during one work shift.

I am amazed at how I can’t even get a weekend booking in a close by resort at Tungi in Lonavla. I have been trying for more than a month or two. They give me only weekday offers. Who gets the weekends? And how is questionable.
Anyone who is looking at taking up Club Mahindra membership please don’t fall prey to their incentives for sign ups. They give TV, smart phones etc on registration. It’s better to buy those things rather than repenting all along for a bad decision made.

Another amusing fact about them is that when you speak to a holiday advisor the automated message tells you that your call may be recorded for training purposes. But believe me there isn’t any training happening and no one will ever respond to your agonies that were expressed. It’s just a farce! As hoteliers we go out of our way to accommodate guest requests and do whatever possible at times what seems impossible also, for them so that they enjoy their stay with us or are delighted with our products. Club Mahindra certainly doesn’t do so, its too much to expect from them. For instance when I was expressing this to their customer care this morning the reply I got was that they were not a hotel but that they were a resort…. Resorts are not hotels I guess according to the friendly Club Mahindra and the members will always be at their mercy inspite of paying a hefty membership fee. We bought the highest season the Red season when we registered later they  introduced a season higher than that the purple season and now they force us to upgrade. When we don't get the bookings how would we even consider that... it is but natural.
There are many options available these days the hotel deals and packages are very attractive and the best part being that they are available online.

I happen to come across a great write up and a very correct analysis of Club Mahindra by Mr. Hemant Beniwal and I wish to share the link here, giving due credits to him.Had to use this write up to add value and support the facts given by me with his data.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

I Chose Hope: Book Review

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Vinita Mathew, MD has shared her story in an engaging way, the book kept me going from one page to the other. The book is amazing, an honest and compelling story of hope and inspiration following a cancer diagnosis. It’s about how a young doctor and a mother of two boys manages the diagnoses, the treatment and then getting her life back on track so beautifully, in her own words. This book provides great insight into the emotions of the author as well as the day to day physical changes, challenges, anxiety, expectations and the impact that cancer can have on a family battling it out. The amount of detail was impressive and I can’t imagine how much thought has gone into writing this book.  As I was reading it, I could clearly visualize the events as told by her.  I would recommend this book to anyone who has a family member going through the battle of fighting the cancer, or any other ailment. This book gives you the hope and inspires you to fight all odds. Believe me, "it’s all in the mind and it’s all in the will power”. If you have that, there’s nothing that cannot be done or achieved. Vinita is a testimony to this. I give this book a definite five out of five stars. In fact would love to give another 5 to her and her family for their undying spirit and the zeal for positivity and hope.

Through this book Vinita gives us the message that it’s important to have a positive attitude and have something to strive for even amidst the most trying times. She showed tremendous courage through her trials; that was also possible because of her family’s support. Each word of this book touched my heart. It is truly an inspiring story; it’ll inspire anyone who is facing a difficult situation. We often take our lives for granted and complain about trivial things, we are lost when times test us. It is such times that we should read books like this, that shake us up and make us look at the silver lining behind the dark clouds.

This can be a guide that people who are battling ailments can refer to as she touches upon aspects as simple as what to tell and what not to speak to a person undergoing the treatment, in this case fighting cancer. Sometimes people don’t really know what to speak and thus can’t be a part of the support system for something fighting adversity. Cancer treatment is actually referred to as a battle as it requires a lot of will power and the support of family and friends.

My association with Vinita goes a long way we were in school at Kochi in the state of Kerala, India, right through grade 1 to grade 12. In fact we looked so much similar then, I remember we doing a play in the 11th standard where we played twin sisters. We've been a part of many events where we represented our school and won many prizes. She was always bright, caring, generous, enthusiastic and had an amazing sense of humor.
We lost touch after I left the city for higher education and she moved to New Zealand. Drawbacks of not having cell phones and the social media! After many years got in touch again all thanks to Orkut. That's when I learnt about her serious, near fatal accident that left her in a coma for almost 3 months but then the fighter she was, she got back to life and changed her area of specialization to physical medicine and rehabilitation so that she could help people who needed that . She had her two sons and then as a young mother had another setback being diagnosed with cancer. She being the lady she is, it was another battle she fought and emerged triumphant. She has certainly overcome so much adversity with such amazing courage and strength of character. She organises the event "Relay for Life" in Naperville,USA, her home after marriage, every year that brings the survivors together and also creates awareness about cancer. The event provides support to individuals fighting the battle and also to their families that form an integral part of the support system.

She really inspires me and also am sure many other people whose lives she has touched. I particularly respect her for displaying such maturity, dignity and grace. Through her life she teaches us never to take anything for granted and live each day to the fullest. Life is truly beautiful…. 'Something Wonderful', the words that I have always loved and used many times. Salute to her untiring spirit and salute to the woman that she is.

The eBook is available on at the moment, the print version will be available soon.