09 10 / 2012

Flipkart’s Flyte MP3 Download Woes

First things first, I am/was a Flipkart fan.

But then, I started using their Flyte service for MP3 purchases. Things went downhill fast. I thought the the service was great. Even bought some albums. The problem started when I tried downloading the songs. The service allows you to download the songs only 4 times. Even failed attempts count as an attempt! And it fails too often!! So I am now stuck, a couple of bucks short and stuck with some songs that wont download and give me a “static.manoramic.com” error.

What sucks even more is their “template form mail” attitude to customer service requests. So now here I am, no songs, no money and a template form. Flipkart is becoming a mainstream company.

Too bad, they were good for a while.

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29 1 / 2012

The TATA Circle of Love.

Every once in a while you come across an example of crazy branding and sub product marketing mayhem. I just found one. The TATA series of communication products. I have no clue of what they offer and how their customer service is done. So here is a partial listing of the products I can see on their site(s):

- Tata Indicom

- Tata Indicom broadband

- Tata Indicom Wifi

- Tata Indocom Wimax

- Tata Docomo

- Tata Photon

- Tata Photon Plus

- Tata Indicom Extra

- Tata Photon Max

- Tata Photon on Mobile

- Tata Photon Wifi Hub

- Tata Docomo Walky

Someone please tell me all of these products roll up to the brand somehow. This reminds me of organic chemistry classes in school. I don’t care how much you are paid as marketing managers, but this kind of product confusion is criminal and needs to be called out. Simplify this! Now!

Anyways, all of these seem to have different customer care numbers as well and I have been trying to reach one of them to try and figure out how to pay a bill. I also need to figure out how to login to the customer site. Call one number and you are redirected to another and so on, until you get fed up or forget why you are speaking to some equally bewildered customer service representative.

Never ending customer care is finally here. They love you.

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21 12 / 2011

Updated. Why Airtel should fail and why it needs a maths lesson.

I’ve been having an ongoing customer service nightmare with Airtel for the past week. I’ve done the back and forth with them on their customer service numbers and via twitter for at least a week. No resolution yet and I feel this company now needs to fail for the sake of all its customers and the pain they feel. Despite being clear, despite showing them whats wrong, despite taking them through the paces of resolving the issue I get no resolution.

It was an easy error for them to fix. I upgraded from a 10GB limit to a 30GB limit. Somewhere in the back end of this company, some systems aren’t getting updated. So, on the 19th I get capped. My connection speeds drop from 2Mbps to 256 Kbps. They tell me that I’ve exceeded my quota of 10 GB, even while they confirm I have a 30GB connection.

I ve done all I could. I’ve shown them my meter readings from their billing site (when it works and another story by itself.), and told them they have made a mistake. 80% of 30GB is not 10GB.

I have no hope. However, the bills arrive on time, with calls pestering one to pay. To hell with these companies. Airtel Sucks.

Airtel, please hire people after a basic IQ test.

Morons Morons Morons … is all I can mutter all day.

Update

So they finally managed to get their act together. But it took some pushing. Pushing them to acknowledge their side of the error via mail took some time. Then I wanted discounts, which they agreed to and I insisted on an email to state this.

And then I got the printed bill. Everything was wrong again and I was unable to loginto their billing and payment system as usual. Wait another 3 days and I login, the online bill was the correct amount. So there, I paid it off and I hope my woes with Airtel are done.

Key takeaways:

  • 1. Their twitter channel is staffed by slightly more intelligent staffers. Use it.
  • 2. Ask for email acknowledgements for everything, summarize your discussion regarding discounts etc and send it to them.
  • 3. Check your online bills rather than the printed ones. The printed ones suck, even for the trees.

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27 6 / 2011

The hobbyist coder and the wage scrounger.

Many years ago, I got booted out of a computer center at my university. It didn’t feel good. The reasoning the university staff gave me wasn’t satisfactory either. Apparently I wasn’t allowed to use the computers if it wasn’t on my course syllabus. That didn’t stop me though, I went at night. Institutional attitudes towards learning have not changed one bit in all those years. Now, I see laments by HR teams all over that say only x% of graduates are employable.

I call bullshit. It’s because you don’t know what you want or that you overlook the types that might help you change. The hiring types in many firms are horrendous at identifying the right types today. You should read though a couple of job requirements online and tell me if you are inspired by the insipid job descriptions.

Makes me think how I go about hiring people. I know everybody has a method and one man’s method is another’s madness. My method? I check for passion. I always speak to candidates to figure out if they have any hobbies that were not part of the syllabus. If yes, I go ahead and listen to check for passion. The types that didn’t work out for me have been the too-studious types, the donation payers, the ones with degrees they accumulated because it paid well, and the ones that didn’t do a thing beyond their prescribed text books. They are good at impressing the boss with their PPTs but faced with an innovative problem, have failed.

I’ve been able to split coder applicants into two types as well: the hobbyist coder and the wage scrounger — and I can tell you these distinct attitudes make a difference. Manging the hobbyists has been difficult especially if you are a largish company with expansive bureaucracies, documentation, repeated testing and process overloads. Hobbyists thrived on problems, looked to optimize obsessively, cracked silly gripes, created new workflows, and generated new ideas. The downside always has been retaining them. I’ve always understood why they quit.

The wage scroungers are the guys who get your mundane work done, but it’s difficult to get them to innovate. Don’t expect doodles of bulbs on the white board. If you have a transactional process, hire them. They crave the mundane, and irritating politics and credit whoring seems to be their only respite. They tend to rise fast and they aren’t the types that quit easily. Consequently, you will find them warming chairs at decision making levels in companies. Companies that don’t innovate. I sometimes think that the reason why Indian firms aren’t known to create products are for the same reason that you have the hobby/wage divide — a lack of passion.

Even worse, firms tend to push out the mould breakers, problem solvers, and the thinkers more often than not. Organizational structures do not support these personality types well. In a monoculture of ideas it is easy to end up being weed.

Anyways, assuming you are working in a monoculture someplace, I hope you are writing down your ideas, and working on it in the meanwhile. Scrounge for now while you ideate. Jump someday, but dump those PPTs.

For anyone in HR reading this, give those outlier candidates a chance, you might discover a thing or two about how simple creative ideas can transform a workplace. Also, write better job descriptions.

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25 6 / 2011

ISP crapspeak

I’ve had to deal with a couple of ISPs lately. Here are a couple of pointers for cutting through the stuff ISPs try to sell you and a couple of words you need to be aware of.

Red words:

Upto: This usually means that the ISP can get away with providing vastly inferior service as long as they can show you that they can theoretically send you data from one of their in-house servers at the “upto” speed. Why does it suck, you want to know. Well, most connections start off good, but slowly deteriorate until you get the theoretical minimum under the plan which is 0Mbps.

Capital B vs Small b: 2 MBps is not the same as 2Mbps. Repeat that after me; 2 MBps is not the same as 2Mbps. Can’t say more. Most ISPs are careful about claims on their websites, but their marketing and field agents do not have a clue if it’s byte or bit and will sell you a MBps plan while the company will give you a Mbps plan. Strangely, they don’t like it when you pay the Bill/1024.

Bad billing: Ask for SLAs upfront and don’t be afraid to call up and ask for discounts once you put in a complaint for no service. An ISP I used sent me a bill for 6 more months after I stopped service and gave their equipment back. I even got a final all clear receipt. Despite that, I got collection calls 8 months later for the 6 months of service I didn’t use.

Coverage area:Do not buy a 3G dongle without asking the ISP to show that it works in your area at the advertised speeds. Showroom speeds don’t matter. A month of no service later, you will be stuck with the spectrum’s license fees.

I find most ISPs in India terrible, even the big names. They do seem to be trying to improve, but continue to fail on the field. Any other tips?

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