Saturday, November 20, 2004


Get service savvy

H. Kishie Singh

Illustration by Sandeep Joshi

SOME time ago oil companies had gone in for a mega facelift. Filling stations had new dispensing pumps, attractive roofs, lights and catchy slogans to improve their sales. Mechanical car washes were added. You could shop in air-conditioned comfort for daily needs, newspapers, magazines, auto accessories and more. The idea was to make the petrol station customer-friendly.

The attendants, quite a number of them young girls, were all smartly dressed up in T-shirts announcing their company slogans. It was really a step in the right direction.

This was, however, many moons ago. Now, the same attendants present a very shoddy appearance. Hair uncombed, they shuffle around in hawai chappals. No one can walk briskly with chappals. It presents a slovenly picture.

The Indian customer is used to such treatment so no one complains. What I donít like is to have attendants leaning against my car. They should hold the nozzle, stand upright and not lean against the customersí cars.

Some time ago, after a long dusty drive in Rajasthan, I stopped to refuel. After filling up, making the payment, I got into the car, awaiting the change. As I waited, I belted up and glanced into the rear-view mirror. Horror. "Ta-Ta from Raju" was written on the rear windscreen.

After locking the nozzle on to the auto, Raju had time to bid me farewell. He had written the message on my dusty windscreen with his finger. This is simply not done. The service needs to be improved. It is not enough to give a T-shirt to a person and make him or her an attendant.

The Japanese have a word kaizen. It means constant improvement of existing ability. The oil companies who deliver LPG gas cylinders to our homes continue to use the most primitive methods to make deliveries. They both load and unload manually.

The tractor-trailer that delivers cylinders to customersí houses usually has them all piled up really high. One man stands up on top and hurls the cylinder down.

This can damage the cylinder. Then the deliveryman drags and rolls the cylinder along your drive way and across the marble floor of your kitchen.

No thought is given to the way the cylinder can be delivered safely and efficiently.

A little bit of kaizen would improve the delivery schedule. To begin with I would like to see a man in company uniform. My wife is never pleased to have a smelly ragamuffin coming into the house.

The kaizen part. How about a specially designed low floor-board trailer to facilitate loading and unloading?

A low floor trailer would mean no bumps and bruises to the cylinder. It would also mean a longer life for the cylinder. This would result in saving time, money, effort and

How about a dolly with coaster wheels? It would move the cylinder quietly, and smoothly without scratching the floor. Dragging things reminds one of cave man tactics.

The road will also be saved from being damaged. It will be a service to the company and the nation.

Happy motoring.

This feature was published on October 30, 2004