Good product, bad service
Pushpa Girimaji

Today, the products that we get in the market may have improved but not the after-sales service, which in fact continues to be dismal, particularly during summer months. Consumers get a taste of the poor after-sales service, right after purchase.

The shopkeeper collects the money, promises to deliver the goods immediately but never does. Having paid the money, the consumer is forced to wait for the delivery and sometimes that happens only after several angry telephone calls and personal visits to the dealer. And then there could also be a huge time lag between the time the product is delivered and installed.

In most cases, the dealer delivers the goods and says that a representative of the manufacturer will install it and explain the functioning of the product. But the representative takes his own time to come. There have been cases where this has taken a couple of days to several weeks. The experience can be very frustrating, particularly when you have bought a home product and are eagerly waiting to use it. And if that product happens to be an air-conditioner and the mercury level is hovering between 40-44 degree Celsius, then the frustration turns to anger.

Now, why canít a representative of the manufacturer accompany the delivery man or arrive when the product is delivered, install it, explain the procedure for using and maintaining the machine and go? Why should consumers have to waste precious time waiting for the manufacturerís representative? In todayís busy schedules, nobody has the time to keep waiting indefinitely for a product to be delivered or for a service engineer to arrive. But obviously, this fact has not been understood by manufacturers and dealers. You buy a home appliance and you are told that the product will be delivered at 10 am the next day. You put aside all your work or take leave from your workplace and wait for the delivery man, who however, does not turn up at all. After repeated calls, he may not come at all that day or may come leisurely at 5 pm.

This attitude is deplorable. It is the same when it comes to a product repair. You call the companyís mechanic home and he promises to come at a particular time, but that time is never kept. The person does not even bother to inform you if there is a delay on his part. That is because there is no professionalism in the after-sales service work being done in the country. This kind of attitude also shows the scant respect that manufacturers and dealers have for consumers.

Itís time consumers and consumer groups forced shopkeepers as well as manufacturers to develop a healthy respect for consumers. The only way to do it is for residents associations or even groups of consumers to critically examine the quality of service rendered by shopkeepers or dealers in their locality and rate them accordingly. In fact in every locality, town and city, consumers should form small groups to evaluate the shopkeepers that they frequent. And this is not difficult. What one needs is a set of set of standards on the basis of which different categories of dealers and manufacturers are rated. The members of the group can even undertake small surveys. They can also invite consumers to share their experiences.Record them all in a book and at the end of a six-month or 12-month period, evaluate the dealer/manufacturer/service provider.Put out this information for the benefit of all consumers so that they choose only those who have good grades in the evaluation process. Different local groups can meet, exchange information and extend this work to the entire city.

You will have a record of each shopkeeper in your area and, maybe in the entire city. Believe me, this will prove to be invaluable and help you make a choice when it comes to shops and maybe even products. You can have such evaluation done on a range of shopkeepers and even manufacturers, taking into consideration factors like quality of the product, quality of service, behaviour, honesty, response time, attitude to complaints, redressal of complaints and the time taken for delivery of services. Once the shopkeepers get to know about it, they will be on their best behaviour. And eventually, this will bring about a change in their attitude towards the consumer. So begin the process right away.