Anil Thakraney’s Hard Knocks: What use IIM degree if you are Mr Crude?

21 Sep,2011

I recently shut my account with a well-known international bank. After nearly nine years of really poor experiences. And I took this long to pull the plug because, one, I used to think, well, at least this was a known devil… who knows what awaits elsewhere. Two, many of my clients directly remit funds to my account, so it’s painful to reinvent the wheel. And three, because I genuinely believe people should be given many opportunities before you hang them.


Anyway, guess I made a serious error of judgment. Not only was the account ill-serviced right through, the last straw that broke my back was when a few cheques I had issued bounced, leading to loss of face for me. And I knew I had more than sufficient funds in my account so this could not be happening. Panicked, I dumped urgent assignments, and rushed to the nearest branch of the bank. Where I was cheerfully told my account had been blocked. Because I had failed to submit some documents required for a business account, as prescribed by a new RBI guideline.


And I was like, “Whoa! No one told me!”


This is what happened: I was told my so-called “Relationship Manager”, whom I had never heard from in all these years, is based in Delhi, and that I should talk to him. And the reason they’ve allotted me a dude fromDelhiis because that’s where I opened my account in the year 2003. No matter that I left that city in the year 2004, and my Mumbai address has been in the bank’s records for all these years. And this gent very sweetly tells me he called myDelhimobile number (!) and wrote to myDelhiaddress (!), because at his bank they only use contact details that appear in the account opening documents! And that on getting no response, he blocked my account.


Er, chief, why didn’t you check the records carefully to see if my address had changed? The Mumbai address has been there in the bank’s records for years, they have been sending me monthly statements at that address. “Sorry, that’s not in our standard operating process,” he chirped. Half an hour later he magically accessed my e-mail address, and mailed me the notification which I should have received months ago. And despite speaking on the phone for 20 long minutes, the mail addressed me as “Dear Ma’am.” And not even a little word of apology to dear ma’am for all the inconvenience caused.


You might wonder why am I boring you with this sorry tale. Here’s why: There’s a lesson in this for all those senior managers who operate in the service industry. Advertising, banking, telephony, corporate communications, PR, etc.  Where direct customer interface is par for course, is full-on, is integral to the operations, and is critical to the survival of the business. That, when you hire young people, please don’t do so based purely on qualifications and experience. Those are important but secondary. The first quality interviewers must suss is the candidate’s people-handling skills, his response in the face of an upset client, his demeanour when his own organization is in the wrong. And most importantly, how he deals with a situation where the client has faced embarrassment for no fault of the latter.


Because when the employee behaves like a moron in such circumstances, it DIRECTLY hurts the company’s business. There is no point in fancy management degrees if you lack basic communication skills. It’s anathema to hire such people in an industry where communication is at the heart of the business.




PS: Was much intrigued to find Sachin Tendulkar in the children’s “Right to Education” ads. Our hero dropped out of school to pursue his passion, and then went on to make billions out of it. And the rest of the bachchas must sadao inside classrooms and become managers of post offices? Haila, not on, I say! 🙂

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