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Customer Care- Beware

March 21, 2018

'May I speak to the sucker of the house?'

Every medical representative will have at least one story on how he had been shabbily treated. The most common being, to be made to wait for hours, till the last patient, the one with a rasping cough, has coughed up his fee and left, to be called inside the doctor’s cabin and to be told by the doctor that he remembers all of your products and that you need not have to remind him anything; just leave the samples and yes, could he have a few more bottles of the vitamin supplements, for his brother-in-law, please. Worse still after all the waiting to be told by his attendant that the doctor has to go to an urgent meeting and wouldn’t be able to meet you. There is no other go except to grin and bear it. Of course there are notable exceptions. There was this highly qualified physician, who would come to the door to take you into his cabin and apologize for the delay, even though he would have spent the time with the patients. There was another doctor who had fixed a time for meeting medical reps and stuck to it zealously; and the only time he was late, as far as I know, it turned out that the clock in his cabin had stopped.

And so years of being a pharma salesman has taught me one thing- how to treat sales people or rather how not to treat sales people. Every door-to-door salesmenperson (there are a few lady readers who would stomp on me unladylike for being a misogynist) would be invited in, offered a glass of water or a cup of coffee (depending on the time of the day and the mood of the wife), his/her sales pitch heard (after having made it abundantly clear that I wouldn’t be interested in buying the product), a few usual doubts asked for him to showcase his product knowledge, a few questions asked to showcase my knowledge and ta-da the sales call would be over with both of us feeling happy. I remember the time when a Eureka Forbes salesman trying to sell me a water purifier. In his usual sales pitch of trying to establish a need, explained about the water borne diseases, the children missing out school due to typhoid, cholera and dysentery. What about Legionella, would it also take care of it too? I asked softly. He batted his eyelids a couple of times and answered in the affirmative. Are you sure? I asked him smiling. He got flustered. Where do you work? he asked me. I told him that I worked as a pharma salesman. He smiled sheepishly. I gave him 3 important lessons that day: one, a salesman has to learn as much as possible about his product, two, it is okay to not know something but not okay to pretend to know what he does not and be forthright about his ignorance to the customer and three, promise the customer that he could get back to the customer with the details that he seeks and get back as promised. He left without making a sale but happy. There have been times when I have bought things that I didn’t need, purely impressed by the salesmanship. Many times, my wife and I have gone shopping, to buy a certain brand of appliance, but have ended up buying a different brand merely based on the product knowledge of the salesperson or the lack of it, whichever way you look at it. My wife is capable of asking doubts which would appear ludicrous but would be brilliant if you gave it a thought. And the guy or gal who could give a satisfactory response would get the sale. Sadly the days of door-to-door salespeople are over. I don’t see them anymore. They have been replaced by telemarketers.

Telemarketers are less fun and impersonal than in the flesh salespeople. And thanks to the caller identifying apps are easier to get rid of than the persistent real salespeople. One swipe and they are out of your way. But there are some persistent calls from call centers and this happened to my colleague. He was hounded by a bank asking if he needed a Personal Loan. He told them he didn’t want any loan and to remove his number from their data base. The next day he got a call again from the same bank, he got really pissed off ad told them that he would complain to the banking ombudsman, but the next day when the call center called again he pretended to be a top police officer and wanted to know how they got his number. The rattled caller cut the call. We all had a good laugh and thought that was the end of it. But the next day, they called again. My colleague was at his wits end. He picked the phone and told the caller that this was his brother’s phone and that he had gone abroad and would be back only after a couple of years. In that case, the caller asked, would you be interested in getting the loan. Yes my colleague replied, how much will you give? Where are you working and what is your take home salary? the caller asked. I do not have a job and that is why I need the money, my colleague replied. They disconnected and didn’t call him ever since.

I do once in a while attend to some of these calls. The rules are the same. Treat them with respect and tell them I wouldn’t be needing what they are trying to sell. Once a girl had called selling medical insurance and also accident policy. She was explaining what I (or my family, if it came to that) would get if there was an unfortunate happening meaning an accident, resulted in an unfortunate event meaning my death and what was in it for me if I was lucky to survive but have the misfortune of losing both my legs or both my hands or if I was permanently handicapped by two of my internal organs like liver or kidneys going kaput. I stopped her at that point and asked her what I would get if I happen to lose just one limb and one organ. There was a silence at the other end and then she burst out laughing. Nobody had asked me such questions so far, she told in between her laughing bouts. We spoke for a few more minutes, she asked me where I was working and I told her that I worked for a pharma company, she enquired if there would be any openings for her, I asked her if there would be any openings for me at the call center. I didn’t buy any policy that day, but I think at the end of the day she would have had a smile on her face, thinking about the whacko who asked some really stupid questions, without shouting at her or cutting off the call mid-way.

Picture credit: CartoonStock.com

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2018 19:29

    Now, I have got a broad smile on my face, after reading your post! Actually, we are going through a tough time with Outlook magazine subscription callers/spammers! Our 5 year subscription ends today, the 23rd March but we had been getting calls from the magazine to renew our subscription for the past 4 months:) Call centre calls and spam mails every day. If I ask her/him since the subscription is till March end, will I get double issues if I renew now itself…nobody knew the answer!! My son asked me to wait and so we didn’t get the current issue on Tuesday (the issues come to the stands on Saturdays but we get it on Tuesdays in our box). Mails are continuing. Will they learn a lesson because of missing one subscription, I asked my son. They will continue to pester their subscribers like they did to us, in the future!

    You triggered this looong comment, Govind! Thank you!

    • March 26, 2018 16:23

      Thanks Sandhya. Glad that you liked it. I find these customer care executives are not trained properly or they don’t show any inclination to learn by themselves.

  2. April 14, 2018 14:47

    In spite of coming in late
    I will not hesitate
    To rate this call
    10 out of 10 in all
    As i, on your patience and politeness, ruminate!

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