January 23, 2011

A 360° customer experience at Sunayan Optics

In today's world, Customer Relationship Management (also: CRM) is becoming more and more important in light of  the n number of options a customer has today, customer satisfaction and competition. I came across one such incident which highlights the importance of a good service. It may seem a little long but read for a practical account of a 360° customer experience.

Our eyes are our window to the world and one would do everything to keep the window clean so that one can get the best view. Right? Well, I'm talking about my spectacles which is amongst the very few articles that I am possessive about. I love my specs! It's a part of my identity. Whenever I've bought a new spec, it's been an experience for me. The eyesight check, reading out A, B, C, L, M, N, O (now this happens rarely), frame selection, color, sleekness, trying it out and looking at the oval mirror - it's so much fun! It's not like choosing some chocolate that you'll eat at night but it's something that you'll use for a relatively longer period of time and hence you do want to get the best. In 2008, the year I started working I went to nearly 6 shops - big and small at different locations just to get the right frame for my corporate beginning. It was tedious but I managed to find one fine shop - Sunayan Optics from where I got the right match for my eyes. When the store owner showed it to me, I knew this is the one! It was light, grey, rimless with anti-glare lens (recommended by the shop owner) When I went to office the next day, my colleagues did notice the new eye gear and complemented. It became a part of my life. I keep it clean more than my laptop, beat that!

One night I forgot to keep my specs on the shelf and by mistake I slept on it too. 'Crash' came a silent noise and I woke up to see my pair of second eyes die. I was speechless for a moment, not because it broke but because I had an important presentation the day after tomorrow and I had to use the projector which means showing things on a screen far away. My mind paused, I didn't know what to do. I got up early and left for Sunayan Optics instead of my office. I told them the whole thing, they said 'Don't worry. We'll get it done by 6pm today'. I was so relieved, can't really tell here. Usually it takes 2 days for them to change as they order their lens from some outside vendor. By this time, I was no more living at this place but I still developed some association for this store that I admired. I felt some warmth whenever I dropped by at Sunayan Optics, the warm smiles, the fish tank and the glowing lights. It was a perfect setting to make spectacle buying an experience.

Another day, a small stone came flying from a speeding trucks' tyre and hit my specs when I was going in an Auto (auto-rickshaws don't have the concept of closed doors). My eyes were saved because of my specs and from that day I've treasured it so very much. I'm really thankful to God for making me put my specs on that day, otherwise it could have been ugly. My specs got some minor cracks which I couldn't notice yet I went to Sunayan Optics and they gladly changed it. By this time, they started to recognize me as a 'regular customer'.

As if the earlier two incidents weren't enough my specs broke for the third time while attending Friday prayers at a mosque. I kept my specs in my pocket while doing wudu (a process of cleaning yourself before praying). While getting up, it must have fallen but I didn't notice. By the time I noticed and inquired, a little boy came with a broken specs in his hand and asked 'Is this yours?' I paused, smiled and said 'Well, if it has broken in the house of God, then something good might happen!'. I took it to Sunayan Optics that evening and got it fixed. And this time, Mr. Jayesh, the owner upon recognizing me pulled out a cool T-shirt and gave it to me. Although this was no where in my expectation, it was quiet nice of him to do so. I was impressed by his CRM!

If you've read this this far, then thanks. What I was essentially was trying to convey till this point is that sometimes the various intangibles - the service that comes along with the product makes it a worthwhile experience and you just don't feel like giving it up. As a store owner, a Marketer if you are able to achieve that, then you have actually to some extent - built your brand. For me, Sunayan Optics was a brand! I recommended this store to a few colleagues, talked praise and what not. I just had this happy association with them. Somewhere deep inside, it was the trust that connected me with their service.

Till now you read about the good 180° customer experience I had at Sunayan Optics. Now, I will share the other 180° - the side which sent a chill down my spine of customer trust. Two days back, the left clamp of the lens loosened a bit. I could have pushed it in hard to fix it but I thought if it breaks again, another headache. So, I decided to go to Sunayan Optics and get it fixed. I went to the store yesterday and asked them to fix it up. Like always, they took it and said 'Have a seat, it'll be done'. I noticed a new worker-boy and he took my specs. He was in some other thoughts but I thought it's OK, he will do it. The other worker-boy recognized me as he had fixed my specs last time. He asked a little and said 'Sit Sir, it'll be done'. I sat, waiting for it to get fixed. The other guy did it (although I felt he did it in a hurry) and gave me the specs. The owner came by and asked 'What happened?' and was also looking at the specs. Suddenly , he himself spotted a crack near the clamp and silently whispered And then the following conversation happened:

Owner: There seems to be a minor crack.
Me: Where? Show me please.
Owner: Here, this one. But, it's OK.
Me: (Paused for a minute) And, if I tell you that this crack happened after I entered your store right now?
Owner: It's OK, it's minor.
Me: Excuse me, what does that mean?
Owner: (Looks at his worker-boy) Did you break this?
Worker: I did not notice anything.
Owner: See, if he would have broken he would have told me?
Me: (In my mind: Yeah, right! As if he would have by looking at him) I can vouch and guarantee that this crack happened right now after he worked on it!
Owner: (Trying to diffuse the situation) Well, even it has. Such things happen in repairing.
Me: So what does that mean?
Owner: When we do repairing such minor things can happen and it doesn't matter.
Me: It doesn't matter??
Owner: Yes. You should consider that we are not even charging you for this service, so it shouldn't matter.
Me: (In my mind: Grrrreat! Pause). Give me the specs and tell me how much for a full change of lens?
Owner: (Surprised, paused) Rs. 375/- for each one.
Me: I'm coming back. (Left the store)

I walked out and I thought for a moment - Was it the same Sunayan Optics that I had always known? Was it? Forget the money which didn't even cross my mind, I was shocked by this response. And to whom? A regular customer? I have no words for my disappointment and went straight back home. I immediately opened the shelf and took out the Tshirt that they came me during my last visit. I thought for a while and then decided that the only was I will find peace is by going back, returning their so called 'free' gift with a note to make them realize that 'It does matter!' And after that, finding a new Optic store near my residence for a new set of lens.

I took out four post-it notes and wrote the following message to make my point simple, straight and clear:

Dear Sunayan Optics,
Your guy breaks my specs' glass and you tell me 'It doesn't matter?' Let me tell you, it's not the glass which you've broken. It's the trust you've broken coz of which I used to come here. And Yes! Any good Marketer would know that... 'IT DOES MATTER!' Trust me, it does. Thank you very much!
- An ex-customer.

PS - You're up on the web tonight, I invite you to read.
I wrapped it the way it was given to me.

After an hour, I went back to Sunayan Optic. Let me add that the traffic from Powai to J.B. Nagar is horrible and yet I decided to step out in the heat. I reached the store, took out the Tshirt and gave it to the owner and the following conversation happened:

Me: Here, I've got something to return to you.
Owner: (Looks surprised) What happened?
Me: I'm here to give you your 'free' Tshirt that you gave me!
Owner: But, what happened?
Me: (Puzzled as to why he's asking me) I was here a while back and you... (looked to realize he was not the same guy, he was the owners' elder brother - Jayesh). Was it you a while back when I had come?
Owner: No. But, I can see something isn't right. Please tell me what happened.
Me: (Calmed down) I want to tell you that I had come a while back to get a minor fixture and your guy broke it which is still fine. But what disappointed me was your brothers' response that such things happen and it doesn't matter. To top it, he tells me to be considerate as it's a free service.
Owner: (Listening carefully)
Me: Now, you tell me. If someone leaves a scratch on your cars' windshield and tells you it doesn't matter, will it matter or not to you? It will, right? So first of all I failed to understand why I was given such an explanation. You can give to school children and giving it to me, was he serious?
Owner: And then what happened? Tell me all.
Me: What really blew me within was he telling me it's free service and I should be considerate. Every time I've come to your store, I've always asked how much for this service despite knowing it's free. I fail to understand that from where does this 'free' logic fit in? I've been coming to your store from far for the good service and impression you have on me and this is what I get as a reply? Forget an apology, I get such kiddish explanation? I'm sorry, this is not correct and I want to tell you that I don't crave for your 'free' service. 
Owner: (Looks at me)
Me: My nature is not to shout and argue like any other would have done on the spot. I decided to go back and get your Tshirt first and then convey my point. Here's your Tshirt and trust me I've never come here for your 'free' services. It's always been the name - Sunayan, it's been the trust that I had in you which has been broken today. I as a customer am disappointed.
Owner: (Immediately) No, no, no. Tell me your name please, we'll get this fixed and delivered to your residence. I am sorry on behalf of him, please allow me.
Me: (Didn't know what to say) I really don't know whether I should.
Owner: Yes, I have understood that you have been 'hurt' as you had trusted 'Sunayan', right?
Me: (Silently) Yes. (Pause) If it was broken from my end, I would have never given it for clamp fixture. Instead I would have asked you to replace the whole set and you know I've done it in the past. I mean, you expect me to wear a cracked spec when I'm giving presentations to senior corporate fellows. Have some thought at least.
Owner: He might have been in a different mood but I'm sorry. Let me personally do this for you. And I will keep this Tshirt to show it to my brother. I'll send you the specs and Tshirt by courier.
Me: If I have been able to convey my message, then it's OK. Thank you. (Left for home).

So after reading this far what did you observe? Now, don't tell something on me as I'm here talking from a Marketing perspective! ;) Well, in Marketing there's a saying 'Customer is King' and I would like to add 'One good customers' loss is more than 10 new flocking in'. As a Marketer, store owner (if you're considering to become a brand, of course) always focus on your service. A good CRM service translates into many tangible and intangible benefits like:
  1. An association is always mutual. If your customer wins, so do you.
  2. Customer will be willing to continue despite having to pay more, staying far, etc.
  3. A strong word-of-mouth from loyal customers attract prospect customers.
  4. A referred customer may buy your product consulting with the existing users.
  5. You get noticed, get differentiated from other similar stores.
  6. You essentially transform into a brand - which is not easy.
  7. If you are a brand, be careful. One mistake is enough to bring you down.
I came back home, though not excited this time. Through this post there is no intention of showing Sunayan Optics in bad light as I continuously learn from my day to day experiences and I believe this was a good case study to share with you. Being a Six Sigma Green Belt (for a 'Client Satisfaction' project), I do observe, analyze with detail and discuss such incidents for adding to my learning quotient. It might have taken you 10-15 minutes to read but if you've picked up some leanings, my objective is achieved.

Update: Thursday, January 27, 2011

It feels great to tell you all that today I received a courier from Sunayan Optics in which I not only received my spec's lens replaced but I also got two cool Tshirts! I am elated, just can't express my happiness. I want to sincerely thank the owner - Mr. Jayesh for living upto my expectations. Sunayan Optics has once again reinforced the faith that good service is a prerequisite for being a trusted brand.

I recommend Sunayan Optics to anyone living near by as they offer you lots of choices, give very good service and besides they are trustworthy. For me Sunayan is now a brand!

So, this was my 360° customer experience at Sunayan Optics. This is a real life experience and it serves as a very good case study for budding Marketers. I have discussed with some of my friends and they couldn't believe all this happened. It was nothing less than a magical moment as I felt two strongly opposite emotions - sadness and elation as a customer. Do share your thoughts on this entire episode by posting a comment below.  Till then, have faith in your trusted shops/brands.

I have submitted this post as an entry to Indiblogger's Close Up "Fire-Freeze" Contest. It would be great if you too share your story at Close Up's Facebook page and as a comment below as your comment increases my chances of winning!


  1. Great post. For clients it is realy important that you can trust from who you buy/get services. Hope they realized that from your note.
    It is realy very very difficult to build a brand, but one single mistake that is not fixed at first and creates another mistakes can break a brand down as you pointed on your case.(I realy thing that they did at least 3. Breaking, not admiting the falt and not hearing the regular customer on the right way).

    And for sure customer is king, you have to hear them, analyse and improve when they complaind or show you some oportunities, you have do deliver them value and they will come back.

    Gabriel Casals

  2. @Gabriel. Preicsely, that's what my point here is - Customer is King! If establishments (corporate or single stores) understand this well, half the battle is won. In India, the problem is that many stores are operating in the 'push-mode', i.e. just sell your product anyhow and then forget the customer. This phenomenon certainly wont help if you're looking to establish yourself as a trusted brand, be it a product or service.

  3. Arif, know how that feels. Here in Brazil the establishments act just the same.

    Of course there are execptions, but it is hard to find and even them you have some issues.
    Contrary to number i've seen in US -that 85%customer when not treated proparly they won't come back, in Brazil customer gives too many chances for the establishments(I don't think clients here respect themselves much).

    It is "push-mode" here too when it should be a "pulled" one - I show intention on buying and them establishment treats me well and as I pull more they treat me better and create a better bond with me, as I was the one "asking for it".

    Hope that changes for the better in both our countries.

  4. True! But in this case study, I clearly respected myself and hence the effort to go back get their 'free' gift and return and that too in the most subtle manner. It eventually did work in making them realize.

    Let's hope we BRIC do come up in our buying experiences. I do see change in some bigger shops, malls, etc but the mass shops are still the same, operating on push mode!

  5. WOW! Arif what a GREAT post. You have nailed the very heart of customer loyalty and this is an excellent case study. My two passions (professionally) are process and customer service and they go hand in hand. After 10 years teaching stellar customer service to (what is now) AT&T and Verizon Wireless in Seattle, I left the field because, management threw Customer Loyalty out the window & replaced with the concept of temporary labor and call volume...now it was how soon can you get them off the phone, not how can you make them a happy loyal customer - disgusting! They knew we now rely on cell phones so why bother .. It gives me hope to read your article showing the concept is still alive..Good customer service is part of what makes a more loving world.. XXOO Paula

  6. @Paula - Thanks. I do understand competition engulfs an establishment and forces it to take 'quick' measures to maintain its Market Share (if not decline) but a good customer service will always give one the upper edge, especially if they're aiming to play long term. Irrespective of the nature of the establishment (big or small), the ones who realize this today will definitely see their curve going up in future.

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