THE NEW GLOBAL WE.

Bank of America Customer Service Issue – Update

Posted in Big Thought, Business, New, People, Reviews by Harsha on September 4, 2008

Someone has been listening at the Bank of America corporation.

Last night, I got a call from Tara ***** (last name blanked out to protect identity), from the Executive Relations and Office of the Chairman. She read my blog after receiving the email from the PR/Communications team and called me to profusely apologize for the issue. She said that the 0% APR reinstatement and the $39 fee are unrelated, i.e., just because the 0% was reinstated, it doesn’t mean that the $39 fee cannot be refunded. She also said that the representatives (the one that threw me off the line and the other who would only give me 1/2 fee off because he was not “authorized” to refund the whole fee) AND the manager who never called me back, will be coached. Apparently, representatives are permitted to refund this fee.

Not only did Bank of America refund the other half of the fee, but it also has extended a $50 Amazon gift card as an apology for the inconvenience. Of course, Tara also made sure that I understood that I will need to make payments after the 22nd, which believe me, I will not forget! And if I do forget and end up committing the same mistake, then shame on me.

Here are some take-aways from this situation and I think it applies to both small and large businesses:

1. People generally at the top (either as pure managers or as owner/managers) care about what others say.

2. Everything is radically transparent: Information on LinkedIn helped me contact Bank’s Communications team

3. Don’t be a brat when trying to solve a problem – remember the person at the other end is just like you.

4. The web is POWERFUL!

I say the take-aways are similar for large and small companies because I faced a similar situation a month ago. A client of my employer’s wanted us to make good on a consulting engagement that was not completed as promised. While they had approved the work after it was done, they soon realized that it was actually incomplete. Now, I could have hemmed and hawed like a colleague of mine did when she heard this news, but my focus was crystal clear – we have to do what it takes to satisfy this client because it is about the overall relationship. It is never about this one transaction so while in the short run we lost some money, in the mid to long term, we have generated extremely positive brand recognition.

So, thank you Tara for the pleasant call last night and acknowledging that there was no logic behind what transpired. You are the right person to call in such situations because you could have been nonchalant about it, but you were not. You said the right things and hopefully learned a little from this situation as well. Please feel free to send in a comment on the issue.

A hearty thank you for everyone who commented on the previous posts – I believe in the power of us.

The Power of Blogging

Posted in Business, People by Harsha on August 29, 2008

I am touched by all the supportive comments and the email messages I have received from all of you. You can’t buy this type of unity with all the money in the world and it speaks directly to the power of blogging in connecting us all.

Thank you!

Indians

Posted in Big Thought, Pulpit by Harsha on November 29, 2007

An oft-repeated question is “When will India become a superpower like the US or now like China?”

There are visions abound in India that forecast it’s supremacy in the next decade. The dream is that India will finally harness it’s economic horsepower and acquire a commanding stature in the world. Since 2000/2001, the economic and cultural climate in India has changed tremendously. Goods that were once luxuries are now commodities. Foreign nationals now are common sight in the city streets. Foreign Direct Investment is at an all time high. India is the leading outsourcing destination since a large chunk of it’s populace speaks fluent English (it is one of the official languages in India and a uniting factor in a country where every state speaks its own unique language). Over 400,000 engineering and business graduates come out of educational institutions yearly and Indians are adaptable. The top 10 Forbes richest include multiple Indians. The largest steel company is Indian-owned. Hotmail was an Indian’s creation. Bentley sold more cars in 15 days than what it planned for 1.5 years. You have diamonds encrusted million dollar cell phones. The list is endless.

All these are commonly known things in the world and often trumpeted by Indian politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists to show you that India is the next major force to contend with in the world. Next major force – that is an interesting phrase, kind of almost like setting up a constant expectant goal in the distance that is never reached. I am skeptical because I have suffered at the hands of Indian organizations that purport international awareness only to be backed up by ultra-poor Indian quality standards.

Try purchasing and using a calling card or a credit card or use an Indian website like www.sify.com or www.chennaionline.com. How lousy is your experience?

So, in order not to be skeptical or sound bitter, I spent sometime thinking about these problems and the two questions that go hand-in-hand. One – how is India going to become the next superpower and two – how did China become a superpower in ~10 years?

You think you know the answer for China: their non-democracy (what else can you call a capitalistic looking communist-dictatorial state?) is probably why they are leaders in today’s world as they are able to develop slave labor, charge nothing for resources and send their citizens to the US to improve their English and learn international/American customs. And India still seems to be stuck in a rut. True, there has been a lot of economic development but do you know that it is a tiny % of this largely agrarian based economy?

But the truth of the matter is, you need to look into history. Both countries were marauded by the British and America herself is a former colony. This is the common factor that binds these three diverse nations. Yet even though they are cousins in their legacy, America has been the world leader for 300+ years and now China is reaching up for the stars. India remains a distant last. Why?

Everyone jokes about how the world lives it’s life one way and America is pointed in the opposite direction (light switches, driving on the road .. you get the point). The fundamental reason is that America cast off it’s colonial shackles and the very basis of this country’s founding takes it away from colonial pressures and lifestyle. I believe that the only reason that China is where it is today, is because it is slowly doing the same – casting away the aspersions of it’s British legacy and going in the opposite direction.

India, dear India, on the other hand is firmly set in it’s British ways. It’s people, like me, are set in their approach and thought. We are still our British-servile selves because it gives us a “solid” foundation to base our preferences and lives on. It is deep rooted in our psyche. But it is not about preference for tea or old country clubs.

Until such time that Indians figure it out, we are going no where. I am not talking about the technological and economical development we see in India today – it is just a small piece of the pie. If you want to sum up the outsourcing industry in one word, then I believe it is “parasitic” – depending on others to feed you when your own infrastructure reeks.

No, I don’t hate the developments at home nor am I jealous of it. I am just frustrated at our ability to adapt so well and yet remain as a parasite, and be so reactionary to the whole situation. The variables for outsourcing presented themselves and we jumped on it. When are Indians going to create those variables for ideas and industries that the world has not yet seen? Nassim Taleb writes in his book and I paraphrase that despite all the ridicule, people around the world can’t seem to live without their iPods and their email and Internet – all American inventions. That is what I am referring to when I say that outsourcing and India itself is a parasite parasitic in today’s world.

China found it’s niche by employing it’s super-cheap natural resources, slave labor, lack of copyright protection, iron curtains and took it, no, embraced it.

So, what is India’s niche?

Nita Kulkarni, a freelance journalist in India writes about this topic.