I have been a loyal IFB Appliances customer for many years. My washing machine, clothes dryer and dishwasher are all from IFB. A while ago my dishwasher displayed an error and stopped working. IFB sent their authorized technician to fix it and they charged me 5,000 rupees. In the middle of the first wash after repair, the dishwasher went completely dead. The technician came again after a couple of days and diagnosed the problem as a fried motherboard.
After a few days, the technician showed up with a new motherboard. He opened the machine and after a while said, “Sir, they sent the wrong part“. I replied, “No problem. It happens“.
After a few days, the technician again showed up with a motherboard and proceeded to open up the machine. After struggling for an hour, he declared, “Sir they sent the wrong part“. I was losing my patience but calmly replied, “Next time before you come, please open the package in your office, confirm that it’s the right part number and only then come and fix it“.
After a week the technician came home with another motherboard, opened up the machine and spent another hour on it. To my amazement, he said to me, “Sir, they sent the wrong part“. It became pretty obvious to me that the poor chap didn’t know how to fix the machine and needed to find another excuse. The “wrong part” excuse wasn’t cutting it anymore. The dishwasher was almost five years old and I knew that it was past its prime. So I decided to put it out of its misery and buy a new one. We had been washing our dishes by hand for a couple of weeks now and this saga had dragged on long enough. I said to the technician, “I think you have tried your best. Let it be. This machine is old. I will scrap it and buy a new one“. He was taken aback by my suggestion. He pleaded with me to give him one more chance. I finally agreed under the condition that the next time he visits he should bring along someone else with him to fix the dishwasher. He agreed and left.
After another week the technician showed up with another motherboard and another technician. Both of them worked on the machine for an hour. When I came to check them they had already closed up the dishwasher and were getting ready to leave. When I asked for an update, the technician sheepishly said, “Sir, they sent the wrong part“. I burst out laughing. I really did. I was hysterical. I shook hands with both technicians still laughing and showed them the way out.
In the meantime, my wife had called the IFB call center multiple times and had explained the saga to multiple people. On her last call, she expressed her interest to exchange the dishwasher and inquired about the 5,000 rupees that we had initially spent for no benefit. She was told that the money would be deducted from the exchange price. So we went to the IFB Point in Porvorim and selected a new dishwasher. The exchange price seemed reasonable. However, the 5,000 rupees deduction would need to be approved by someone in IFB and we were asked to wait for a day.
Four days passed. Nothing happened.
Today we went to IFB Point to inquire. We were told that the approval had not yet come from the concerned person at IFB. I asked to speak to the person on the phone. I wanted to close the matter one way or another. I was ok to proceed with the exchange without the 5,000 rupees reduction. I just wanted a damn dishwasher. But I wasn’t prepared for what would happen next.
Me: The approval for the 5,000 rupees adjustment is pending with you for a few days. Why the delay?
IFB Employee: Sir, the reduction of 5,000 rupees is difficult. I can reduce only 1,700 rupees.
Me: Why is that?
IFB Employee: Sir, it’s not right for the company.
Me: What do you mean by it’s not right for the company? You are already aware of the pathetic level of service I received over the last few weeks. You should be thankful that I’m still sticking with IFB and choosing to exchange my dishwasher for another IFB dishwasher.
IFB Employee: I understand Sir. But it’s not right.
I was beginning to lose my cool. I had been immensely patient throughout this entire saga. This person was really starting to piss me off. But I wanted to end the conversation and just pay the regular exchange price and be done with it. So I decided to give him a way out of the conversation.
Me: Do you mean to say that you do not have the authority to reduce the entire 5,000 rupees? You can reduce only 1,700 rupees, correct?
IFB Employee: No Sir, I have the authority to reduce the entire 5,000 rupees. But I don’t think it’s the right thing to do for the company.
I could hear a fuse blow in my head. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. Here was a person who claimed to have the authority and the means to make up for a horrible experience of a loyal customer who had been extremely patient for nearly a month of pathetic service, and was just refusing to oblige.
Me: Let me see if I have understood this right. IFB has charged me 5,000 rupees to fix my dishwasher which hasn’t worked. Then IFB sent technicians multiple times with wrong parts for weeks and they still couldn’t fix my dishwasher. In spite of all this, I still want to stick to the IFB brand and now you are telling me that you have the authority to reduce the entire 5,000 rupees from the exchange price but you think it’s not right for the company. Have I understood this right?
IFB Employee: Yes Sir. I believe it’s not right for the company to reduce the entire 5,000 rupees.
I disconnected the call, stood up and walked out of the IFB Point showroom with the intention of never setting foot in it again. I went home, did some research and ordered an AmazonBasics dishwasher. It suited my purpose and turned out to be a few thousand rupees cheaper than the IFB exchange price even after reducing it by 5,000 rupees.
The only explanation I can offer is this IFB employee is measured on how much money he has saved for the company and whether he has met his target. Customer satisfaction is a completely alien concept to him. He doesn’t even know what to say to a customer and what not to say. IFB needs to do a better job training its employees on how to deal with customers. What you say to a customer and how you say it is very important in the consumer business.
In my line of work, I need to deal with customers all the time. The reason why I was so patient with the technicians is that I understand the issues and complications involved in troubleshooting and fixing complex electronic equipment. Technicians can’t always get things right. They may not be adequately trained or experienced. Parts can be faulty. I understand all that. But the least that employees of a company can do is give the customer a patient hearing, apologize for the inconvenience and do their best to rectify the situation. Most importantly, whenever the opportunity presents itself to make up for a bad experience, seize it and do whatever they can to delight the customer, even if it’s something small.
Brand building isn’t an easy job. But ruining a brand is extremely easy.