Be aware, alive and adaptive in life

May, 2013

The tender coconut in the picture looks refreshing and inviting, promising to be a reprieve in this oppressive summer weather. The coconut vendor didn’t aggressively market her stock to my friend a couple of weeks back. She didn’t claim any special quality nor offer lower price nor entice him with a ‘buy 1 get 2 free’ offer. Not even a warranty replacement against a claim. What this simple, uneducated woman did was beyond that, a lesson in customer service and business ethics. Is the suspense increasing ? Read on……..

A die-hard Bangalorean friend of mine who now lives in a different city was in Bangalore a couple of weeks back. As he was sipping from a tender coconut that he bought one hot afternoon, he noticed that the woman selling the coconuts started breaking open one more fruit without his asking for it. He was upset thinking she was trying to push one more to make money. He gestured her to stop and refused to buy the other fruit. But the poor woman kept insisting that he have one more. His temper shot up under the soaring sun but slowly he understood what she was trying to convey though he could manage only a smattering of her language. She was asking him to throw that fruit and drink from the new one instead since the first one didn’t seem of a good quality. She wanted him to enjoy coconut water from a better quality fruit. When my friend realized her intentions, he was touched and offered to pay for the 2nd coconut but the woman refused to touch money. She said she was in the business of selling good quality coconut-water and it would be against her principles to accept money for a rotten coconut. It is her duty to ensure that her customer is satisfied and happy. My friend who is in the top management of a multi-million dollar conglomerate felt small, really small and cursed himself at misjudging her initially. But he was touched and inspired nonetheless. He walked away ruminating on the service levels and business ethics of this nameless vendor. A lesson or two here for all of us ??
Contrast this with some reputed companies who sign SLAs (service level agreements) but do not care to listen to the customer, leave alone proactively ‘fixing the bugs’ or replacing the defective parts. It is a herculean task even to get to their helpdesk or customer care center and thereafter it becomes a nightmare. “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” Action speaks louder than words !

Friends, lessons are aplenty from our everyday lives. We need to be aware, alive and adaptive to things around us.

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