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October 30, 2011

Excellence in Customer service - A Network Experience - Part I

The year was 1988 and I was a sales executive with Indian Communications network Limited. Network was the market leader in the Electronic Typewriter Industry and it was famed for its ace sales people. Way back in 1988 we were marketing successfully typewriters worth more than Rs 50,000/-.  Even our cheapest typewriter was over Rs 10,000/- rupees.

On that eventful day I was the office sales executive. Office sales executive is the backup sales executive. The city had many sales executives and the office sales person takes the place of the sales executive who is on leave or if all the sales executives are present then he is stationed in the office to take care of the walk in prospects (walk in prospects are customers who might walk into the office to buy a product).

At around 1600 hours a prospect did walk in. He was a strapping man who had ripping muscles. He appeared to be quite knowledgeable. He asked us many intelligent questions. It was crystal clear that he not a window shopper. We had to tread more carefully. May be this man meant business!

The prospect asked for a demonstration. I along with our stores in charge R.C.Raju demonstrated the typewriter. We were still very skeptical. In those days a sale could not be transacted so very easily. We had to struggle and make many sales calls and slog for many months before we could get the dream document - the purchase order.

We had come to know that by that time that our prospect was a Superintendent of Police (SP) from a district in Andhra Pradesh. He was fond of technology and wanted a electronic typewriter to make his correspondence more professional and appealing. The SP quietly watched the demonstration and said “I will take it. How much does it cost?”

My heart skipped a beat. It was like struggling to see Sachin Tendulkar for a second and suddenly coming to know that Sachin would be staying in your house for a week. We have been struggling to get order and here was a prospect who was dropping a order literally into my lap.

I gave out the financials and he quietly listened. He never asked for any discount. We watched with a open mouth as he took out the entire amount in cash (usually customers paid us 10% in advance and the rest 90% after lot of persuasion). We quickly made out a purchase order and got it signed by him. We gave him a receipt.

Things took an interesting turn. Our customer asked us as when we could deliver the electronic typewriter. “Minimum 21 days are needed” I added. Why 21 days?” I had to explain to him that the AP sales tax was 13.77% and the central sales tax was 4%. All our orders were booked directly to our factory at Noida.  The machines were delivered directly from our Noida factory to the customers. Of course the consignment was taken by us (with authorization from the customers) from the airport and delivered to the customer. 

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