Dear Sunil Mittal

Dear Sunil Mittal,

You may not know me! When I signed on with Airtel during early 2007, I became part of your( and Shah Rukh’s and Madhavan’s and Vidya’s and now Saifeena’s) family.

On Valentine’s day, when members of Sri Rama Sene was unpacking pink chaddi’s and Nisha Susan was overseeing the final packages to Mutalik, I walked into our office in Koramangala with my daughter.

This was not part of a field trip! In fact, I wanted to mix business with pleasure. In other words, I took a detour while spending quality time with my daughter to cancel my old Airtel number (Gurgaon number). In these trying times, paying for my old and new numbers at the same time is going to affect the “quality time” with my daughter!

When I walked into our office, I saw a microcosm of India in the 500 sq ft office. I was bought up in a joint family culture and so, I was very excited to see other family members.

There were around 8 customer service representatives at the counter. There were fancy plates hanging from the roof announcing the areas of expertise namely Post-paid, Pre-Paid and Billing.

The queues in front of these counter were reminiscent to traffic in Bangalore. You have 2 lanes on the road. But if you look at the vehicles, they manage to squeeze another 2 lanes magically; thereby giving an illusion of a four lane road.

After examining the three post-paid counters, I chose the shortest one. The shortest one turned into the longest one in no time. I spent an hour and a half in the queue before I got near a Customer Service Representative (CSR).

The CSR provided me with a blank sheet and asked me to fill in an application. I did so. The CSR started keying in details into the computer and started consulting with other CSRs. I broke a cold sweat! In those moments, I believed I was an outlaw and I have amnesia.

My daughter broke the ice. She started asking about updates. Following this, a lot more CSRs joined in to complete the process. My daughter is very persistent and also tireless. She started asking for an update every few seconds. As a result, the CSRs displayed embarrassment, annoyance and anger in a matter of minutes. If I and some of our family members were not there to support my daughter, the CSRs would have pounced on her!

After a few minutes, they announced that my application is complete and my number will be disconnected in another 10 business days. I thanked them and stepped out. The CSRs were also apologetic. As part of the infrastructure upgrade, there are newer computer application in place. But, they are confused on how to use them.

Later, when I recalled the events of the day, I remember seeing a lot of disgruntled faces. Everyone was protesting in different ways – silently, cautiously and angrily. I could not see a single happy face in the 500 sq ft office – neither behind the counter nor before the counter.

Isn’t it time to stop on your feet and think of the following aspects?

  • Growing subscriber base without having the right number of customer service representatives.
  • Reducing the dependency on the offices when there are alternatives available – web, phone and fax!
  • Cross training the support staff (Pre-paid person would not even touch the post paid customer even with a very long pole).
  • Train the support staff when there is an infrastructure upgrade

I’m still hopeful. I am not going to defect yet. I love your “Barriers break when people talk” ad. Please continue to break the barriers. But please do not break my trust!

Your sincerely,

Airtel subscriber.


  1. Dear Nona,

    Some very pertinent points you make in here.

    Especially about growing subscriber base without having adequate CSR's, Talking about this it’s not just with CSR's, it’s also with the customer service centers which are blatantly short across Bangalore. If not short they are definitely not concentrated at the right places. I find it is arguably ridiculous to travel 5 kms to find an Airtel Shop (atleast in my case), to a place which seems smaller than a pigeon hole, with space not even enough to stand still without getting the touch and feel of others, let alone sitting down to wait for your turn.

    Secondly, the whole point of using information systems is lost with the CSRs asking the customers, to do more and more paperwork. Personally, I think even if it’s to just cancel a connection, the process should have an online alternative.

    Here’s where I think Vodafone or the erstwhile Hutch scored over AIRTEL, if you leave alone network connectivity 

    To end my comment on a ironical note, I think it’s not without anything that they say “You can’t have a cake and eat it too”.


  2. @ Sanju
    Even I have to travel a distance of 5 kms on a working day and almost 10 kms on a non-working day to find an Airtel shop.

    I have not lost hope on Airtel yet. ;) But they need to focus on customer retention while shifting their focus a little away from expansion of subscriber base.

  3. I must say we have had different experiences with our relatives.I had a nice time at our Gurgaaon aunty's place(Sahara Mall).They are more organised with machines generating counter number(depending on the service-landline no./change of address etc.)and a token number.So,no question of queue barge in.And not to forget I was at der place at 10 on a sunday morning.Yeah otherwise,I have had a distasteful experience with the customer care for landline,broadband and mobile connections.Thank God,v dont have the DIsh connection from them..yet! Nice write up ,anyway.Summary-We need to teach our relatives to act more responsibily!

  4. @ Rakhee
    They need a face-lift in Bangalore. :)

  5. Nice and witty. I am arguing with Reliance on why I should not be paying them charges for last one year especially given the fact that I terminated my account in Dec of 2007. Yes Sir, I continue to receive bills, court summons and once even a threat to pay up or else the line will be disconnected.

    Hee haw!

  6. @ Sagar
    LOL. Thanks.
    I believe you are having a ball of a time with Reliance chaps - shouting at them and confusing them with your arguments. :)


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