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We often hear the words 'customer is god'  from a few many people who percieve to be serving customers with dedication and commitment. But a lot more think selling or delivering the product/good/service is the end of customer service, but it's then that is the start of customer relationship.  A few years ago I flew from Hyderabad to Chennai for an early morning meeting followed by a series of additional meetings, all in the same office. It was one of those 'down-and-back-in-one-day-trips,' so fortunately I only needed to carry my brief case so I could go direct to the express check in, saving myself up to half an hour in a queue.

Upon arriving in Chennai at just after 7.15 a.m., I headed straight for the taxi rank to pick up a cab. As I walked out into the morning light I was greeted with a skyline filled with dense smoke, the product of the most recent horrific bushfires across the road on the Trishoolam Hill. As I gazed in amazement at this scene and compared it in my mind to my visit to the UAE, where there was an oil well burn-out, a voice broke my preoccupation.

"Good morning sir, do you need a cab," came from a Yellow/Black cab parked at a slight angle to the curb just in front of me, the window was wound down and a bright smiling face looked out at me. I said yes in a flash and jumped into the cab.

When I told the driver where I wanted to go – and I said, "A little beyond Mahabalipuram and a little before Pondicherry." His eyes seemed to brighten even more and he asked, "Sir, what time do you need to be there?" I replied by 9.00 a.m. for a series of meetings and he nodded, turned on the meter and off we drove. Within minutes he said that it was a very long drive, probably an hour and half and he would do his very best to get me there before 9.00 a.m.

I knew my destination was a long way from the airport and had opted for a cab, because I was not sure that if I hired a car I would be able to navigate my way to the destination and still get there on time at 9.00 a.m. As I settled in for the long trip, the driver and I began to talk about the stehcn Coovam, bush fire on Trishoolam, the political environment, the business environment, his family, his love of Chennai plus a whole host of topics and issues. Needless to say he also got to know a lot about me, including the fact that I was in once upon a time in chennai and now at Hyderabad, and that I was going to be in chennai just for the day and would be returning to Hydnerabad on a 7.30 p.m. flight. As you could expect by the end of the trip we were speaking very freely and easily.

We arrived at my destination at 8.55 a.m. I plucked my purse from the pocket tp pay him an agreed sum Rs. 500/- , which was big enough for
me to think that Kartik may not have change to return for a Rs. 1000/- I handed to him. He immediately rushed to the nearby ATM Centre for the change. As I was about to get out of the cab, Kartik handed me a Yellow cab card. He indicated that his mobile number was written on the back and that if I gave him a call half an hour before I needed to leave to catch my flight, he would come and pick me up. I thanked him and headed off for my meeting.

My day was a busy one and by 4.15 p.m. I had completed most of my meetings and was ready to make the long trip back to the airport. So I gave Kartik a call on his mobile and he said, "thank you Sir, I will pick you up in 30 minutes", and guess what - he did.

On the way back to the airport I spent the first half-hour picking up a number of phone messages and returning calls. When I had finished Kartik and I talked about his day working in that area. He told me that after he had dropped me off, he had decided to spend the day in the area, knowing that at around 4.00 he could well have a fare back to the airport. He mentioned that it had been a good day for him with a lot of short fares to Mahabalipuram keep him busy.

As we got closer to the airport, Kartik said to me, "you seem to know a lot about business, can you suggest how I can be a better cab driver?"
I looked at him for a moment, and then said, "Kartik, just keep doing what you are doing."

He looked back at me as if to ask for further explanation of what I had said. I went on to say, "handing me your card and offering to come and pick me up, tells me that you already know how be a better cab driver and you are doing it." We chatted for the next forty minutes and then it was time for me to sign him off as we were getting closer to Guindy, and in a few minutes we were on the GST Road, then on it was the last lap of our drive to Meenambakkam.

As I was about to get out of the cab on the departures at Chennai airport, two ladies came rushing up and asked if Kartik could take them to Mahabalipuram, as they were in a hurry to get there. Kartik said yes and they jumped in. Now I knew from my discussions with Kartik that I had been his first fare for the day and that he was due to finish his shift at 7.00 p.m. He had also told me that he lived very close Muttukkadu. So this fare would take him close to home and he could finish the day at 7.00 p.m. and get home early enough to spend some quality time with his wife and six children.

Before embarking on his fare to the city, Kartik got out of his cab and said, "Thank you Sir –  the next time you are coming to Chennai, give me a call the day before and I will come and pick you up."

He smiled as he jumped in his cab, then he was on his way in the still smoke filled Chennai atmosphere.

The moral in this real life experience:

The more time you spend with your customer, get to know them personally, talk and listen to them and treat them with genuine courtesy and respect; the more business they will give you. Very often that same customer will also lead you to even more business of similar quality.

I still have Kartik's card and the next time I am traveling to Chennai, you can be sure that I will give him a call.

That is the second part of the moral in this story - satisfied, happy customers become return customers and they tell a lot of other people about their experience . . .

And I just did.


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