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I love my country in an honest patriotic way. Ae mere watan ke logo or kar chalein hum fida, almost always take me back to the era of freedom struggle, with an emotionally charged me crusading against the opponents (in my imagination). The national anthem inspires unfathomable emotions of pride and love for the motherland in this loyal daughter. The sight of the unfurled tricolour evokes feelings of deep respect and honour. I am hoping this little self-talk about my patriotic zeal would relieve me of the guilt in the sentences and paras to follow .
Among the most positive experiences gathered during my sojourn in another continent is their dedication towards customer service/satisfaction. I observed the maxim “customer is king” diligently practised in the years that i stayed there. Infact, initially , i was a bit startled to witness the grand welcome offered to customers by the sales teams in stores, the chitter-chatter of friendly hairdressers/beauticians in salons and the terrific hospitality in clinics and restaurants As a novice in a foreign land , i was overwhelmed with the warm welcome , the radiant smiles and the small talk. Whether it was returning a product back at the store or a visit to the dentist’s chamber or simply ordering food at my favourite restaurant, i was always made to feel that my concerns as a customer were of utmost importance to them. In one of their superstore chains, the customers were referred to as guests, illustrating the supreme importance of customers. They were successful professionals who knew how to take care of their customers and leave a favourable impact, helping the business grow, in the process. Their infinite patience and vast reserve of good cheer would astonish me. The 6.5 years of positive experience as a valued customer in the foreign land had totally spoilt me. The new me was so accustomed to the super polite and 5 star customer service that i was destined to be disillusioned with another change of geographical location. This time, back to my motherland.
The gynaecologist’s chamber was my very first experience with victimisation, post the big geographical shift.Unlike developed countries with sparse population,each childbirth is just one more addition to our country of 1 billion + population . The pampering and the royal treatment was clearly a thing of the past. The gynaecologist usually smiled, more out of compulsion , i believe, because i never forgot to smile and greet that very important person in my life. However, their expressions and body language(the ob-gyn's and the assistant's) explicitly indicated an ASAP exit for the poor patient. She would casually jot down the routine wight and blood pressure and prescribe some calcium and iron supplements etc and send me home… No internal exams on or after 37th week's check-up. After hospitalisation on my due date, a few hours before delivery, the junior doctor on duty intimates me that my pelvic floor area was too narrow for a normal delivery, as planned earlier. There i lay suffering in pain and the gynaecologist who was already late was undecided about the safer delivery option for me. It was horrific, to say the least. Finally,i had an abnormally “normal” episiotomy with 10 stitches.My baby was unable to establish normal respiration at birth due to the inordinate delay in delivery, requiring them to put my little girl on ventilator .It was a ghastly feeling seeing my baby suffer so much because of the doctor’s negligence /callousness . When i look back, the whole episode of my delivery and the suffering of my newborn seems like a nightmare. How i wished i could sue the gynaecologist for her casual carelessness! Sadly, in most parts of our country, customers are nothing but powerless victims rather than valued “guests “.
Though the frightening "delivery experience" as a helpless customer (patient) in a fancy hospital has been the worst ever for me , poor and hostile service rendered to customers is an everyday experience for most people in most parts of this country of a billion, (except for a few chosen metropolitan cities). I remember of the time that i had to unfortunately pay a visit to a store for exchanging a product. Soon as i entered the store, i was charged with a serious “why are you here?”. Come on. "why does anyone visit a store?”, i thought to myself. Only later , when i showed them the product that i wanted to exchange, the realisation dawned on me that their “why are you here?” meant whether i wanted to buy fresh products or to exchange one. Their accusatory glances made me feel like a guilty criminal. A million questions followed ... charging the “ suspect” about the reasons for committing that terrible crime. Frustrated with the interrogation and humiliation , my seething nerves spelt out “ I wish you knew how to treat your customers. You would have had many more customers in the near-empty store." That was my first and last trip to that annoying store. However, a chain of similar experiences, (varying only in degrees ) in other stores and different establishments with a customer interface,indubitably established the bitter fact that boycotting businesses would do me more harm than good. They would have no dearth of customers in our beloved country with a super strong population. I decided to desensitise myself to unimportant or annoying questions and comments by customer service representatives, shopkeepers, receptionists, beauticians , nurses, doctors etc.. At the same time, i also pledged to exercise my fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression granted by the constitution of my beloved motherland, whenever confronted with instances of customer (dis)service.
The woes of the unappreciated customer continues in salons where the beautician “mistakes" their feet for the cement floor,in the movie theatre where the cashier boasts of a huge favour while slapping down the tickets , in their own house where the domestic help literally threatens to leave work every year without a pretty hike, in the shop where the salesman feigns a know-it-all attitude or where the shopkeeper chooses to enter into a squabble despite the poor products on the store shelves. The customer is essentially treated as a a powerless victim - - - under-appreciated, under-valued , randomly cheated upon, totally trapped and at the mercy of the customer service providers/representatives at different points of business transactions. An assertive NO to poor customer service is probably the first baby step towards restoring our respect and dignity as valued customers (Guests).