Thursday, March 02, 2006

Fly Indian

On reading media reports on the rebranding of ‘Indian Airlines’ as “Indian”, Plus Ultra caught up with the Civil Aviation Minister, Mr.Praful Patel, as he was just about to board a Jet Airways flight and sought more details. Excerpts from this exclusive interview :

Plus Ultra: Mr. Praful Patel, what was the inspiration behind the change of name to “Indian”? Is it meant to appeal to the sense of patriotism and therefore put some moral pressure on Indians to patronize the national carrier?

Praful Patel : Contrary to the general opinion that “Indian” is a shortened form of “Indian Airlines” or is meant to convey “something belonging to India”, the word Indian is actually derived from “ Incredibly dissatisfied avian”. Yes, that’s what it stands for and aims to achieve.

Plus Ultra: When the entire corporate world seeks to increase customer satisfaction, why is Indian harping on ‘dissatisfaction”?

Praful Patel: I need to give you some background. Some time back, we had appointed Mckinsey as our consultants to help us formulate our new business strategy. They brought with them a battery of suited, booted MBAs who studied the whole operations threadbare on their laptops and made the startling discovery that there was an inverse correlation between customer satisfaction and our own market share.

Above graph presented by Mckinsey clearly shows a downward trend in market share with drop in customer dissatisfaction.

From the graph, you will see that in 1986, when IA customer dissatisfaction was 100%, our market share was 100%. Today, the percentage of dissatisfied customers has dropped to 60% and our market share has slipped to 40%. So, the obvious thing to do is to target 100% dissatisfaction again, so that we get our 100% market share back.

Plus Ultra: Somehow, the idea of targeting customer dissatisfaction doesn’t sound right.

Praful Patel: Look, you have been brainwashed by the likes of Peter Drucker, Deming and Tom Peters into thinking that customer satisfaction is the sole mantra for success of an organization. But, Mckinsey presented an entire body of evidence to convince us that customer satisfaction is an elusive, unattainable goal as customers constantly revise their benchmarks. Take the punctuality of flights. Back in the 1970s, if a Monday morning 6 am flight took off before the evening of Friday the same week, it left the customer delighted, In the impatient 1980s, the Monday 6 am flight was expected to take off latest by Tuesday morning 6am. In the decadent 1990s, the 6 am flight had to take off by 7 am, to avoid customer satisfaction. In the restless first decade of the third millennium, flight delays are measured in minutes. By the next decade, a delay of a few seconds will invite the wrath of the greedy passenger. So, where’s the end?

Plus Ultra: Do all your employees feel that way?

Praful Patel: We asked Mckinsey to present them some gory stories. For instance, a train reached Tokyo station exactly 8 seconds after the scheduled time, The irate passengers pulled out the train driver and jumped on him samurai style and crushed him into pieces. So, we asked our employees, do they want to face a similar fate? No, they chorused, better to peg customer’s expectation down. We also showed them some medical reports of over-worked employees of competitor and this proved to be the clinching argument.

(Above) ECG of an IA employee responding to a customer complaint. Note the perfect P-Q-R-S rhythm reflecting his equanimity .
(Below) ECG of an harassed over-worked Jet Airways employee under constant stress in quest of customer satisfaction.

Plus Ultra: So, how do you go about ensuring dissatisfaction?

Praful Patel: Believe me, it is hard work. It requires teamwork and wholehearted cooperation of all the divisions, departments and employees. . Whether it is the ticketing person digging into her nose, or the check-in staff involved in a juicy gossip when a big queue is waiting, or the air-hostess maintaining a BMI > 50 and a waist size > 50”, or the handler of the luggage tossing the brown suitcase marked “fragile” on to the conveyor belt from a height of six feet – everyone must play his or her part to perfection. It just requires one bad employee – one weak link in the chain- to throw the spanner into the works. We had a case last week where two consecutive flights took off on time, which caused a slight drop in dissatisfaction levels. We suspended both the pilots for the misguided exuberance. You see, we need to quell this menace and crush the rebellion before it reaches dangerous levels.
Plus Ultra : What do dissatisfied passengers do ? How do they react?
Praful Patel : We have convenient exit options available for passengers who are about to blow their fuses
Photo above shows dissatisfied passengers exercising easy exit option. Note 'Indian' parachutes use national tricolour.

Plus Ultra: Do you have any back-up plans to be implemented, in case a passenger has managed to board the aircraft, without being suitably dissatisfied already?

Praful Patel: Sure, one can’t take any chances. We always have contingency plans. In January, a 7 am flight was taking off at 6 pm, when one of our alert flight attendants noticed that a passenger in seat no 17 A did not appear adequately dissatisfied. Discrete enquiries showed that he had not had anything to eat and was looking forward to the meal that was going to be served. We had to do some quick troubleshooting and bring matters under control

Photo above shows what hungry, salivating passenger was expecting to be served and was drooling for.
Photo below shows what he was actually served.


Plus Ultra: Would you like to share any other insights with our readers?

Praful Patel: Yes, we would be obliged if any of your readers brings to our attention any specific cases where they experienced satisfaction while flying Indian. We will act on this feedback immediately and correct the situation.

Plus Ultra: Thank you, Mr. Patel. Our best wishes on your journey of Total Customer Dissatisfaction.


Unknown said...

I have never flown air India, but I imagine if I ever did I would be completely and utterly dissatisfied. Please let them know that if they wish to keep me so unhappy with their services to send me two first-class tickets. That would really get me angry. thank you from Winnipeg Canada,
David Levasseur

Casement said...

LOL @ BMW of Air hostess. Now, after reading this post, I know why these AHs go freaking staring at the passengers. If they smile, perhaps, their job's in jeopardy!

Krish said...

Raj, good one. You can also see my humor post on this sometime back (sorry there are no permalinks on mine anymore and so if you can navigate down on that archive page, you should see it as an entry for December 09, 2005 - the comments are interesting too :-)).

Casement said...

Looks like my obsession for cars is visible in my type - *BMW in place of BMI*

Casement said...

in my typo* :))

Raj said...

Casement, I thought typo was intentional, to convey that the AHs outweigh the BMWs....

Thennavan : Thanks, I read your post of Dec 9. Good fun.

Mambalam Mani said...

Amazing post!! I was reading this in my workplace and struggled a lot to suppress my laughter...