Special treatments

Last Friday I was flying from Delhi to Bombay on an IndiGo flight. Knowing that it is a low-cost carrier, I was not expecting anything apart from getting me from point A to B.

So it did come across as a surprise when one of the stewardesses selling the eatables addressed me by name (though I was not sitting on the seat my boarding pass mentioned), and offered me one food and one drink item free of cost, because I was a corporate customer. At a maximum cost of one fifty rupees they left a good impression on me.

But then I flew IndiGo again twice earlier this week. Again for official reasons. But this time I did not get such a ‘surprise’ (which it would hardly have been, come to think of it).

Later I find out from a colleague that there is a line mentioning this perk on these low cost airline tickets for corporate customers. And that you can ask the stewardesses for your free items.

The pleasant experience lost its pleasantness during the later journeys.

Sure I could ask them for it. But I don’t see how corporate fliers would say “I should get a freebie” when stewardesses are asking them if they would like to buy something, especially when the value of the freebie is not more than two hundred rupees.

It’s not the money I save in not having to buy something to eat. It’s nothing compared to the money we spend on the travel. It’s the gesture that says that the airline cares for me and remembers me.

Does not take too much effort, is not too costly. The keyword here is, consistency. If they cared enough to check their roster of passengers in every flight and make sure they did such things every time they flew, the experience will be pleasurable every time.

Why can’t I pay my bill?

I use Tata Indicom’s broadband as my home connection (plugged into a wifi router, to allow me complete freedom of movement in the apartment, but that’s a different story), and I love it. Last I checked at www.calcuttatelephones.com (their speed checking tool has been mentioned on BBC’s Click), the connection (marketed as a 512 mbps connection) competes well with T1 lines. Impressive! There have been a few outages – 2 to 3 maximum since I have subscribed, but the helpline is helpful and they get the connection up in less than half a day everytime.

What really bothers me is their online presence.

Simple task: I have been getting calls from their collection people asking me to pay the due bill. So I want to make an online payment.

The usual routine with most vendors for this is: sign in to the website, click on Pay Bill, log in, follow instructions, enter card/account information, get confirmation from account provider, and you are done.

But with Tata Indicom, it does not work that way. What I need to do is, click on Pay Your Bill Online Here, log in, they should show me my outstanding, I select payment mode, confirm, read terms, confirm, log in again, on which I am directed to the usual post-login screen (the welcome user screen), then I click Pay Bill again, on which I am asked to log in again, and then I go through either of the two routes again (see my outstanding or the welcome screen). So far I have “logged in” some twenty five times since morning, but I have not once reached the screen where I am supposed to enter my account/card information for the payment processing people.

And I’m sure I’ll keep getting those payment collection calls. When I’d tell them that the site is not working, they’d say “Yes sir, we know it can cause problems sometimes, should I send someone over to collect a cheque?”

India’s biggest business house. Internet service provider. They are in the business of technology – the internet. Their core service is fantastic. How much effort or money does it take to smoothen this part of the user experience – the one where the customer is willing to pay their bill, but is unable to do so with ease? It’s not that they can’t do it. So why the negligence, why the apathy?

Update to Cripple?

Today my Windows XP auto-update told me that there is an update ready for my system.

Windows Genuine Advantage Notification
The Windows Genuine Advantage Notification tool notifies you if your copy of Windows is not genuine. If your system is found to be non-genuine, the tool will help you obtain a licensed copy of Windows.

Now if I have read it correctly, what it means is that if I am using a pirated copy of Windows, I will be chided that I am doing something wrong, and would probably be given a link to an online store selling a legal copy of the operating system. On the other hand, if I am using a legal copy of Windows, nothing would happen – I would probably get a pat on the back from the update, probably.

I’m sorry, what was the purpose the auto-update was solving again? If I am a genuine Windows user, why would I bother to waste my bandwidth and download something, which… does nothing for me? And if I do not use a genuine copy of Windows, does Microsoft think I am a bumbling idiot that I would waste my bandwidth and download something that could potentially cripple my computer?

The only scenario in which the auto update would do something is when it finds a non-genuine copy of Windows, in which case the user does not bother with genuine software or Microsoft’s revenue in the first place. Why would they install that update then is beyond me. Can you figure?

Please provide a what???

A Calcuttan missing his hometown opens up the website belonging to the most read newspaper in that town. Pleased with what he saw, he clicked on one of the sections of the e-paper. The site tells him that he needs to be registered in order to go deeper into the contents. No problem. He is ready to register. So he clicks on register and fills up a form. Presses Submit. And see what he gets:

Email ID? The form does not mention email ID anywhere, let alone ask for it. Oh, the error page tells him that the “Username” field should have been populated with his email ID.

Who would have thought? 🙂

If you were that person, would you fill up that form again and continue to use the website? I didn’t. Who knows what other ‘mistake’ I would be chided for next? Is the phone number field actually supposed to contain my height?

Is it so difficult for web designers and companies that hire them to make websites that are free of inconsistencies and are helpful instead of carrying the old ’80-90s attitude of “I made this thing and it works at my end. You need to learn how to make it work for you if you want to use it.”?

It is all adding up to the user experience and thus the brand in the end.