Doing business in Indian takes some getting used to. Indians have their own style of customer service and it’s quite different from western standards. In America, most companies will do anything to keep their customers happy. They even pride themselves, and often share stories, of going to absolute extremes to win a customer for life. We believe in leaving them with a sense of “wow”. Indian workers take a much different approach. They left me with a sense of “wow” many times, but it was the wrong kind of “wow”, as in “wow” how do they stay in business? Perhaps it’s because of their overpopulation, and that they try to provide jobs for everyone, that leads to their “it’s not my job” type of philosophy. For example, they have bathroom attendants and people whose only responsibility is to make coffee for the office. When I got my hair styled in a salon, one person held the hair dryer and another held the hair brush. So, quite often in India, if I asked someone to do something outside of their usual job duties, the response was generally the same. “Not possible”. The only exception I saw was at 5 star hotels and some other high-end resorts that catered to westerners.
Customer service styles
Can you imagine a customer service representative in the U.S. saying such a thing to a customer? Even if it’s truly not possible, we are trained to listen sympathetically, and then to make alternative suggestions of action in order to solve the problem and make the customer happy. If we responded with “Not possible”, we would probably get fired.
When I requested repairs done on my apartment in India I asked them to call me before they headed over. “Not possible,” the maintenance man said sternly in broken English. I really wanted to know why that wasn’t possible. He had a phone, I had a phone. Why wasn’t it possible? But I doubt that even if he had an explanation that he would be able to explain it to me in clear English. So, instead I worked at home for 3 days waiting for the repair man.
I asked the delivery company that was delivering furniture to our new office space to cover the furniture with plastic if it was going to be delivered in an open truck (which is common in India). That would prevent it from getting dusty. Guess what the response was? That’s right, “Not Possible.” Fortunately, it arrived dust free in an enclosed cube truck.
If you can’t beat ‘um join ‘um
Near the end of my stay in India I turned the tables and started using the phrase on them. Our cell phone bill was two days past due and they called me and asked for an immediate payment. My company’s process for payment to that vendor was to do a bank to bank transfer and everyone was asleep in the USA due to the time difference, so there was no way I could make a payment right then. Rather than try to explain our processes, I heard myself say, “Not possible”.
One day the front desk clerk at the place I was staying came up to my room and insisted I go down to reception to sign some papers right then. I was in the middle of working on a homework assignment with a very tight looming deadline. Annoyed with the untimely interruption, I looked him squarely in the eye and said, “Not possible.” He just nodded understandably and left. Sometimes if you can’t beat ‘um, join ‘um.