As I mentioned earlier in my previous post – I took a small summer break visiting the Silicon Valley of India- Bangalore. My experience is prompting me to make certain observations as I had several “moments of truth” in the short span of 4 days.
As always we try to look for the best for the family and I did the same given my means (my budget) and the desire to get the best value for money. I had booked in a nice hotel via a travel agent. For the purposes of privacy, I will use fictious names and real place names. My travel agent let me call them “master mind travel agency” and my hotel, let me call them “BMC Holiday Inn”.
The booking of tickets and rooms was fraught with tension as to get the right hotel at the right place at the right timing is a harrowing experience. However with some extended use of internet and a few phone calls, I thought I had all got it done to my satisfaction.
My expectation before my travel was simple –
a) To have a clean room
b) Near the commercial centre of the City
c) With a good travel desk
d) Decent food in the restaurant
Predominantly I can say that objectives a) and b) were met and I can give a score of 3.5 out of 5. Rooms were clean and were Ok and yes I was bang in Brigade road a very good commercial hub of the city and very close to a lot of sights in the city.
When you are new to a city, it is very hard to navigate and you need a good tour guide to take you around without ripping you off. That was the premise with which I approached the travel desk of BMC Inn. The BMC Inn front desk was helpful. I wanted to take an excursion to Mysore and see Melkote, Srirangapatna and then the Brindavan gardens at Mysore. They said I can take the hotel cab, start at 8:30 AM and then return the same day. The rates were communicated as Rs 2250/- for 250 KM and Rs 7/- per additional KM.
So we did start as per plan and completed 50% of the journey, we finished Melkote and Srirangapatna and on the way to Mysore – we hit a big, long and nasty traffic Jam. The cab driver was called karthick and he was a fairly Sr.person in terms of age – 50+.
So I gently asked him how long he thinks it will take to clear and he said he does not know and intends to wait it out. 10 minutes became 30 minutes. I asked again and the very same response. It was 3:00 PM and we still did not have lunch, the car engine was turned off to save petrol and hence no AC, it was sweating like hell. He still does not know and does not have a plan.
I got worried and asked him to turn back or find an alternate route. Still the same response- there is only one way and one route, and he is unwilling to turn back and he is asking me what is that he should do next. I suggested that we might consider turning back. But soon that was not to be an option as the traffic piled up behind also and we were completely grid locked.
So it was a sweaty and swanky 60 minutes of wait and a lot of cursing on my side on the traffic and the stupidity of the driver. Finally the traffic moved (only by Gods Grace) and we made it to our next stop. This was the first moment of truth for me.
If you are in a long traffic Jam, the hotel cab driver has no idea what to do.
Despite I being the tourist in an unfamiliar place, I was required to provide solutions to the situation.
Is this familiar? This is how sometimes big IT customers get stuck with offshore vendors. When you are in crucial project and you hit a roadblock – the vendor does not provide solutions but instead asks you in turn what to do next. Wherein the expectation from the customer is “You tell me you are the expert”
In my tourist situation, I simply could not fathom how a cab driver with so many years of experience and living in the same city and having done similar such trips hundreds of times not have an answer?
After we crossed this huddle, we stopped for lunch and then proceeded towards our next halt. Our experienced cab driver really does not seem to be so experienced. His driving is jerky and he hits the break really hard such that the passenger’s get thrown. I really did not notice this much earlier but this somehow became more obvious in this leg of the journey.
We were in a signal waiting for the color to change green and there was a tremendous noise in the back, our cab was hit in the back by a Mercedes Benz- thankfully not at full speed. He was trying to stop but somehow could not.
Out we all stepped out to inspect the damage, it was mild but still will cost a lot to fix. Our cab driver gets into a discussion with the Benz guy. We were left standing in the road for more than half an hour and I had to remind him several times that “ I was paying for this trip and meter is running on my money”. Finally he relented and got some details from the Benz guy.
By this time, I was pretty sure that what I wanted to see in the next halt would be closed by the time I reached there. So I told the cab driver to cut my trip and return back to the hotel.
Maybe a lengthy story however the moments of truth that I had in this trip as I reflected over the incident was enlightening.
So despite a high room rent (about 75 USD per night) all I had was a bitter experience with the hotel.
3 major incidents stand out for me
a) Cab driver not able to provide a solution before the traffic jam became a grid lock
b) Cab driver does not care about the tourist spots I want to see in the trip
c) Cab driver is not conscious that I am spending x bucks per hour of the cab rental
So most IT vendors are like this hotel. It is big and posh and charges a high rent in the name of brand, it is ultimately the cab driver that mattered for me the most. The cab driver is more or less the delivery manager that you get and if you are in luck you have a good driver if not a crappy driver and a bitter experience.
Suppose if the Hotel was ISO certified would it have given a better experience. I don’t think so, you could still end up with a crappy cab driver.
So if you are a business and want to outsource– it is essential that you do a proper due-diligence of the services you intend to purchase from the vendor and also ensure that you are comfortable with your cab driver as well before you sign the deal. While changing the cab driver is always an option but it is always a bit late and only after you have incurred some inconvenience or damage.
While I had expectations of a) b) c) & d) as listed above, Item c) was the most important for me a tourist and I failed to do a proper due-diligence which cost me a lot of money and agony as well.
So if I think about expected behavior of the cab driver- I would have wanted him to be proactive in thinking about traffic conditions, if we still got into a situation to use his local skills , language and knowledge and navigate us out of the problem, if not at least provide the right guidance / input to help me take an informed decision.
None of the above was forthcoming nor seemed to be the capability of the cab driver and this is what any customer would mean as “lacking in thought leadership”.
So how does it all fit into the quality bandwagon and my thought is “Measuring the Quality of Service”.
How many of us measure the quality of service? More often we are used to responding to a tailored questionnaire sent by the vendor with some ranking numbers. We answer the number and the vendor goes away not to come back for another 6 months. By the time the entire team on the ground would have changed as well.
See you in next post with some more thoughts around the QoS.