A visit to a post-office or a bank was as close to Chinese torture as it could get, even just the other day. Babus, either acting like boulders or proffering dry palms waiting to be greased, and red tape extending from entrance to exit and back... The revulsion wave rode higher because of the ambience, the horror look and the hostile feel.
A half-opened collapsible gate would greet you on arrival, beyond which sat some of the laziest people possible, parked in coop-like cabins and quarrelling over endless khullars of tea.
But things are changing, and how. With companies realising the worth of consumer comfort, everything from the waiting area to the business floor is being spruced up. Here's spending some time in office spaces where the comfort factor rules both waiting and working.
Visiting a foreign bank or a multinational company's office is anything but a nightmare. From entry to exit and back, the comfort content is well taken care of. The doors are flung open by hospitable security guards rather than hostile fourth-class staff members.
Inside, the walls are done up in bright colours rather than beetle juice designs. No-smoking rules have changed gas chambers into clean-air counters. Proper lighting arrangements ensure there are no dark corners in office. The cool atmosphere and the well-kept lounges, coffee kiosks, piped music, proper seating arrangements and lifestyle magazines ensure the wait is a pleasurable one ' okay, almost.
Consumer is king. So all multinationals and large private concerns are adopting a customer-centric approach. Long gone are the days when queries were met by bloodshot eyes and polite requests for normal work pace were shot down. Attitude ' of the purely positive kind ' now is everything.
'Ten years ago if I would go to a post-office, a railway reservation centre or a bank I would never like to go back again. But things have started looking up now,' says Shanker Kaul, a businessman waiting to get some work done at a multinational bank. According to Kaul, it is the professional approach and the co-operative attitude that keep customers comfortable.
But why should a company or a bank spend so much just to please an existing customer' 'It's always the repeat customers who give you the maximum business so it's necessary to give them special treatment. The key components in marketing and business growth is to spend the majority of your time and effort nurturing customer relationships,' says a spokesperson for ABN Amro Bank.
According to him, such an exercise increases the business a lot without increasing the budget by much. So if it is imperative to get new customers for the business, it is mandatory to maintain the customers you already have. 'If a customer comes and stands in front of you, it helps to welcome him with a warm smile. That gives him the confidence to open up to you,' says the spokesperson.
The smile, followed up by service that makes the customer feel almost at home, is a small thing with a big impact.