The Essence of Great Customer Service

Written by on August 19, 2011

This is a real story that happened last week where I learnt a simple lesson on the essence of great customer service.

We were looking for a new office space for Freshdesk in Chennai, India as we have outgrown the current office and also wanted to move to a facility where we don’t have to worry about car-parking, power backup or water availability etc.

Now to many of you this may be a surprise but it is very difficult to find a small-size office space (say around 1500 sq feet) in Chennai in a proper commercial building with ample car parking. (Atleast we couldn’t find anything within a 45 minute commute from where we live and we know that we are not alone).

The irony is that there are millions of square feet of commercial space lying vacant in Chennai and we contacted many of these developers, but they were all looking to lease space in bigger chunks – say 5000 sq ft. or 8000 sq.ft. minimum. This is way beyond our means and we don’t need that much space for our current team of six people. In contrast Bangalore has hundreds of small office spaces in every location at different price points and they are mostly setup as plug and play units for small software companies like us.

Coming to the story, we had almost given up on Chennai, when last week we visited SP Infocity – a world class IT park built by a very reputed property developer in India. We loved the facility and we knew that all of teething problems will be solved if we move to this building. We are very excited.

We were shown two spaces (3000 sq ft and 5800 sq ft) and were told that was the minimum size that they lease was 3000 sq ft. Again these were too big and the cost of doing the fit-outs and the ten month security deposit etc. were prohibitively expensive.

We met the Head of marketing – a Mr. Jair Dsouza and he was a very nice guy and a thorough professional. He promptly sent us a proposal for the 3000 sq ft. with all the costs involved. Our entire team was hoping that we will be able to get something within our budget in this space and I was very disappointed and frustrated on that day as this would have been a great place to move but we could not afford it. I could not sleep that night.

 The next morning I wrote an email to Jair explaining our situation ( that we are a startup, and we don’t want to tie up the limited capital available into office space)

I got a prompt and short reply from Jair asking me if I could come and meet him later in the day.

I met him and explained our requirements and budget constraints. He quickly understood our situation and gave us a solution on the spot – 

He had a section of the building where an existing client was expanding from 6000 sq ft. to 8500 sq. ft. He found an extra 1150 sq feet of space that can be given to us adjacent to that. He also explained to me how this space will save us a lot of money

1. The flooring and the ceilings were finished. We don’t have to invest in them. 

2. The AC ducting had already been done so that saves us money. 

3. He also voluntarily reduced the security deposit from 10 months of rent to 6 months of rent and gave us two months of rent free during the fit-out period.

He spoke to his boss and explained why he was making an exception for us. Needless to say I was impressed and signed up on the spot.

What I learnt that day from Jair watching him work was that – the true essence of great customer service is to understand the customer problem and genuinely try to find a solution.  In fact during the course of our meetings he kept saying things like – “I will find a solution for you”, “We are here to give you a solution” etc. Now I realize that he really meant it and approached the problem with a genuine intent to find a workable solution. Needless to say our entire team in now very happy and I think SP Infocity has won a customer for life! (Thanks to Jair)

I think that this is a great lesson in customer service –  

Don’t use policies and guidelines as excuses on why something cannot be done. Understand the customer’s problem and work on finding an acceptable solution. That is the essence of great customer service.

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  • Nirmalkumar

    Congrats Girish on finding a new office space. Hope you out grow this space soon.Kudos to Mr.Jair Dsouza for excellent curtomer service. Cetainly a lesson to learn.

  • fosspune

    Same problem in Pune city you will not find a office a plug and start office. Happy for you .. Enjoy

  • Raj Rajasekar

    Yes.Absolutely true..True intent makes lot of difference.

  • Ruth Cheesley

    I had a similar problem when i was starting up here in the UK – many business centres here don’t have great parking and tend to be in the middle of town, with fairly lengthy contracts. At that point I didn’t know if my business was going to succeed at that early stage, and certainly didn’t have much capital to invest. My office had a special scheme for graduates at that point, where you paid a small deposit and you had six months rent free on their teeny tiny one person offices (still paying utilities and business rates).Without that I would definitely not have been able to grow the business in the way I have, and they have most definitely made their money back as I am still based there, and have moved from a 1-2 person office to a 3-4 person office!Glad to hear you found someone who listened to your problems and was creative enough to be able to solve them!

  • K Srikrishna

    Thanks for sharing your story. Isn’t it a shame, that such service is the exception that we are surprised when we get it. At least in sharing it you have taken the first step in propagating it. Bangalore hasn’t always been as good as you allude to – especially in the hey days of the real estate boom, when it was all “take it or leave it” – never mind who the customer was. Only the high end Taj, ITC hotels have consistent customer focused service – because they have consciously cultivated this as a culture. Many developers in Bangalore are still very much proprietor owned – and despite the seeming professionalism of the proprietor themselves, the organizational culture is one of dis-empowered employees with little or no reason to be creative as Mr. deSouza was. Good luck with the new space.

  • Satvesh Tari ( Goa)

    i happened to meet Mr. Jair Dsouza few days back in Goa and i was very lucky to meet Mr. Dsouza
    again (as i met him once before in manglore and that time i dint even know who was he). Every time i meet this person i find him amazing, i get inspiration from him. it happened like this, few days back Mr. D’souza came to Goa on a small vacation, at this time by my luck i got a chance to meet him for couple of times and i found that he he is a very nice person, very motivational person (motivates others in best ways), very good speaker, has vast knowledge on different topics,
    very energetic in nature, very simple person , very helpful person to those who really deserves to be helped and promoted, with very positive approach and i may not be wrong if i say a person who has solution in his mind for most of the problem on this earth, very positive towards his duties and he is very good human being too. i was surprised wen i came to know that he was a G.M. of an multinational co. and i was really amazed by his simplicity being he is on such an high post and of high status he was so simple and really down to earth, i am his fan now and he is an idol for me for my lifetime. as i can say humanity is alive on the earth till today only bcoz of people like Mr. D’souza. may god give him good health and all success in future.

  • neteffects

    I have to agree, a good customer service is finding a workable solution that you and your client can both benefit.  Sometimes policies and procedures are not going to work because they are restricted rules and definition.