Gmail Vs Airtel. A Sorry Regret !

I spotted this on the Gmail Blog.

And that set me to contrast with a letter that i received some days back & set me on this post. To me the Gmail blog’s post was example of building brand promise. Step by step. Even when the warts show up. The essence is to stand up and say ‘ we goofed up, we are sorry and it wont happen again ‘ ! Thats adds to the bottom line.

Big time Here is the post on the blog.

Title : We feel your pain and we are sorry

Monday, August 11, 2008 6:05 PM
Posted by Todd Jackson, Gmail Product Manager

Many of you had trouble accessing Gmail for a couple of hours this afternoon, and we’re really sorry. The issue was caused by a temporary outage in our contacts system that was preventing Gmail from loading properly. Everything should be back to normal by the time you read this.

We heard loud and clear today how much people care about their Gmail accounts. We followed all the emails to our support team and user group, we fielded phone calls from Google Apps customers and friends, and we saw the many Twitter posts. (We also heard from plenty of Googlers, who use Gmail for company email.) We never take for granted the commitment we’ve made to running an email service that you can count on.

We’ve identified the source of this issue and fixed it. In addition, as with all issues that affect Gmail and our other services, we’re conducting a full review of what went wrong and moving quickly to update our internal systems and procedures accordingly. We don’t usually post about problems like this on our blog, but we wanted to make an exception in this case since so many people were impacted. In general, though, if you spot a problem with your Gmail account, please visit the Gmail Help Center and user group, where the Gmail Guides are your fastest source of updates.

Again, we’re sorry.

I felt an air of sincerity in this note. And he stands up and says : SORRY ! Explicitly.

Twice ! This endears customers to organisations. And all of this, when there has been a disruption for about 2-3 hours !

To stand up and say ‘sorry’ along with articulation of all whats being done to ensure non-recurrence ( including conducting a full review etc etc ) is reassuring. Thats building brand promise. OK they goofed up. But i know, the chances of a recurrence are far dimmer if not remote !

Contrast this with Airtel. I had written about Airtel & the atrocity they inflict in the name of service in Mumbai. There was a fire at the Airtel office and hence services were disrupted across Mumbai. You can read my views here. To rub salt into a wound, was a letter mass mailed to all subscribers signed by Manu Talwar, CEO of Airtel, Mumbai Circle.

Heres how it goes.

Dear Mr.___________ You being an integral part of the Bharti Airtel family, i would like to personally share with you the recent ‘fire incident’ at Penisula Chambers, Mumbai on Friday, 16th July.

As one of our offices is housed in the same complex, our servers were damaged which affected our network services in some parts of south & central Mumbai. The access to the building was blocked for a considerable period of time because of the fire blah blah blah

100 % of the affected part of our network services are now up and running thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our engineers and technological partners – Nokia Siemens …….. However, some of you in the affected areas could still face congestion in he network. A few value added services may also be impacted during this period.

Let me assure you that we are doing whatever it takes for you to enjoy flawless services at the earliest. We regret every inconvenience caused. We understand how difficult it is to go through a day without being connected and not being able to stay in touch with family and friends. Meanwhile we request you to continue the support you have shown through these times.

Thank you for your understanding. Yours is a relationship we cherish. “

Sd/- Ok !

a. Sh.Manu wants to ‘share with you the recent fire incident’ at his office. To what end ? To explain ? And who cares ? The moment i pay for a service, it better be played with a full hand including disaster recovery plans et al.

b. You will notice a whole lot of ‘blah blah’ about whats happened. And nothing on whats being done about whats happened. ‘doing everything that it takes’ is as vague as a weatherman’s prediction.

c. A line of particular intrigue “100 % of the affected part of our network services are now up and running ……………….However, some of you in the affected areas could still face congestion in the network. A few value added services may also be impacted during this period”. If 100 % is up and running, then why would we have difficulty ? Dont customers of the modern day know these things ?

d. You will also notice that in the entire four – five paragraphs, there is an apology of a regret, given the gravity of the drop in service. (2-3 days of loss of connectivity can wreck havoc)! To me that appears insincere !! And contrast it with the post on Gmail’s blog !

A customary line about ‘yours is a relationship we cherish’ does not connect to a customer, especially after he is being put through trouble. I wonder why there is such a great hesitancy is standing up and saying ‘sorry’ !! I would imagine it stems from a disdain for customers ( and not laying the blame on competence or something of that ilk) !

Will Airtel not charge rental for those dates on which the service was down ? Will Airtel pay compensation for the trouble they inflicted ( and continue to do so with impunity in Mumbai ) ? Atleast a token compensation ?

Am not sure if they will do any of those.

One thing that they sure need to do is to learn to apologise & write a decent note to that effect ! I havent seen a single decent apology. An earlier press note quotes them as, “We would like thank our customers for their understanding and support” ! What understanding ? What support ? They sure do have hopes !!

And of course, if they want to see how to draft a letter that shows that they genuinely are sorry, they sure can learn from Gmail !

And by the way, they can continue working on their connectivity!

12 thoughts on “Gmail Vs Airtel. A Sorry Regret !

  1. HOBO says:

    I always say :
    Blame us not them.
    We select them again & again so we cant complain.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Kavi,

    I think you need to cut Airtel some slack here. I mean they’ve had their office burned down and all you can think about is a disruption of your services. What i am trying to get across is this: Do not judge every company by the standards Google sets. Such standards are insane and can be maintained only by Google and thats why at least 85% of the world’s population has heard of Google. But for what its’ worth i must say that the apology mail from Airtel is very decent. I mean i would have been just as pissed if i didn’t have net but wouldn’t be so harsh as to say that i pay them monthly-wise and expect connection 24*7 come what may. That’s being a bit too…well, stupid or American if you like to call it that!

    I mean grow up…what did you expect from Airtel? We’re sorry because we had a fire and our buildings are burned down??? Have a heart and please learn to adjust just that much!

  3. Priya says:

    Even I had problems for an hour unable to pen my gmail and then it worked on well. Glad u got an email with a sorry and thaz a way to keep the customers to comeout and be cool.

    Airtel- No clue. Tho’ I live in Canada, I hardly use cell phone here. May be when u have so much cellphone companies thaz the way it works. Here we have very few competitors and prices are quite high , we think before we go.

  4. SunRace says:

    I agree with you 100%….I had faxed similar letter to their nodal officer and head office, emailed it to them, made 10 calls to blackberry support…I heard nothing from AirTel other than this mass mailer…. I felt so useless even after paying for the worst service…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Nice post.. i completely agree.. i think its more because of how people react to situations based on how they think the people they serve will react to it.

    In India, even though most people tend to raise a ruckus, they still accept the fact that its difficult to get the service provider to listen to their qualms and get a nice enough response.. Hence, sometimes, the people concerned blatantly ignore the first principle of ‘customer is king’.. But thankfully, a lot is changing nowadays, and better days are ahead! (hope so!)

  6. Kavi,

    I am sorry and apologise for not being regular to your blog. Though I have been reading all your posts, I apologise for not commenting. As you are aware, I was tied up with so many personal matters and hence this gap. Once again, I apologise and feel sorry for whatever has happened. LOL… Kavi, I agree with you totally regarding usage of ‘Sorry’. It is the attitude and culture that prevails among many executives of our Desi companies.

  7. januM says:

    i have got such instances too. particularly the way responses come out of these extra hyper customer care execs of such big telecom firms.. way too disgusting!!
    well said balaji – attitude of Desi companies!

  8. Kavi says:

    Hobo : I guess you are right ! Buyer beware !

    Anon :
    I read your comment with a degree of amusement ! I respond here to a few points. (And by the way, i have been an Airtel loyal customers for a long while ! And it pains me to see this level of shoddy service. Just to let you know !)

    If Google sets the standards, why cant Airtel ( market leader in India ) do so too ? Why cant consumers like me have those expectations ? For me, these are two services that i use.

    And expecting high quality service & setting the standard, IMHO, is neither a function of stupidity nor being American!!

    And my friend, i am going to be as livid if i pay for a brand and that brand doesnt live upto its promise. Be it the internet or any other service.

    If expecting best in class customer connect ( in this case : in the form of disaster recovery plans, customer communication, compensation etc etc ) & benchmarking with the world means that i have to ‘grow up to living an ‘adjusted life’, i’d much rather remain stunted.

    The objective of my post was to show a benchmark ! Do share it with the folks that you know of in Airtel.

    Priya : I am glad that you do not use a phone there ! It sure does help i guess

    Sunrace : Exactly ! And thats a feeling that a whole host of friends and colleagues had too

    Anon : Oh yes i agree. I guess, it also boils down to how ‘adjustment’ oriented we as Indian consumers are ! Companies do get away ! We can oly hope better days are ahead

    Balaji : Not at all Balaji. I was missing reading your thought provoking posts and on a couple of occassions getting a little worried that there were no updates. Glad to have you back

    Janum : Airtel’s customer support execs that i have dealt with have been good. But yes, when the infrastructure is bad, everything else falls apart !

  9. Kavi

    look where expecting more gets you!

    American citizenship!


    I think Google was great for customer service even when it was not so famous.

    Same goes for Youtube.. when they were fledgling, they would still have great service.. little wonder then that they got to where they are!

    Glad you are pushing the envelope when it comes to customer expectation..


  10. Pearl says:

    Ah! You think as I do, and so nice to find a kindred spirit!


  11. Hi Kavi,

    It wouldnt matter, neither should you bother if you get a personalized letter or mail saying how sorry AIRTEL was…

    Beleive me – I never had any challenges on this particular day you have mentioned…seriously I never had a challenge that day – because its not ONLY that day…

    Just to make things a bit easier for all to understand, you can vouch you are with AIRTEL if you keep wondering

    1.HOW come mobile signal is always available for the person standing next to you
    2. You are thrilled when you have continious connectivity for a stretch of 5 Kms without a break
    3. You wonder whether you had by mistake carried someone elses mobile from you office – as you have full coverage
    4. You console yourself when a person next to you says – Network in India is absolutely dismal…(He would obviously be an AIRTEL subscriber)

    & no jokes I have been an Airtel subscriber for 7 years (A VIP CUSTOMER) – no prizes for guessing that its a corporate compulsive connection !!!

  12. Shiva says:

    All the operators in India have this issue. Atleast through email you ghet a decent response. When you call 121, it’s a real crap…

    Tata Indicome and Reliance is even worse. I have used both their service too…

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