Of late, the words 'customer centricity', 'customer focus' etc have gained enormous traction in corporate life. For example, Asian Paints, where I work, has adopted customer centricity as their main focus and key result area on which all employees, not just the ones facing the end-consumer, will be judged on (which, of course, means that a large part of our variable pay would be basis the scores on the customer centricity parameter). Such initiatives notwithstanding, when it comes to actual on-the-ground customer service, many of our service companies are light years behind. And as is to be expected, the worst performers on that score are our great government institutions, who almost seem to have a rule of thumb that a customer needs to make atleast 3 trips to the office (if not pay money under the table) before his/her work can be done. Besides this, there are other ways in which government organizations never fail to inconvenience the customer, like having inconvenient timings (closed on weekdays for example). Below is an instance which I experienced today:
I had to get my MTNL landline transferred from my father's name to mine (since my company only reimburses telephone expenses wherein the bills are in the employee's name). After going through the MTNL website, I found a link to download the form for the same. I downloaded it, filled it, my father and me signed at the appropriate places. Next I called up their customer care no. (1500) to ask where to submit the form. I was told to submit the form at the exchange to which my landline belongs to. So today morning, I went there and submitted the same. The lady at the counter tells me that a no-objection certificate from my father is also needed, along with ID proofs of both of us. I replied that my father had already signed an undertaking to transfer the line to my name in the main form. But, no, she said, a NOC is still needed !!! Thus ended my first trip to the exchange. On reaching home, I checked the downloaded form and found there was a Pg 2 which had a NoC form. But on closely looking at it, I realized that the form is only to be filled in case the existing customer has expired. So I called back the local exchange and explained the situation. Ok, they said on realization, a NOC is not required. But then came another twist. The guy on the line told me that I also needed to bring my electricity bill (which is in my name) to prove that the address genuinely belongs to me. Then I again went with all this and finally got my work done in the second attempt.
Now just consider. When I call up 1500, I am neither told to take the NOC nor to carry any ID proofs or other documents. Then the lady at the counter, without even looking at the filled form which is signed by my father (clearly proving he is alive) tells me to get the NoC. But she does not tell me to get a copy of electricity bill. Had I not called the exchange, I would have had to make a third trip just for the electicity bill. Looking back now, all this could have been avoided just by detailing the procedure to be followed for getting a landline transferred on the downloaded form itself !! Is that too much to ask for ? But then, documenting and releasing procedures have their drawback: the clerk at the desk facing the customer would no longer be able to show off his 'power' by subjecting the customer to his random whims and fancies and make him run around.
This is not an isolated incident. I have endured this on several occasions earlier, wherein a seemingly trivial job has taken multiple trips to the government office and several days (thankfully, have not had to grease any palms so far !!). Thus, for anyone, who has no choice but to approach a government official to get his work (quite a few services are online now-a-days, and god bless us all !), I can only offer two pieces of advice:
a. Carry along as many documents as you can (originals and photocopies), however irrelevant they may seem
b. Mentally prepare to spend a long time there, or make 2-3 trips atleast
I will soon be having my next run-in with government officialdom when I get my passport renewed later this year !! May God be on my side then !!