As a little boy growing up in Mumbai, India, I remember the joys of going to visit uncles and aunts who had recently returned from one of their frequent trips to the US. I used to spend hours with them upon their return not only eager to see what gifts they brought back for us . . . consumers partly deprived by a highly protected economy . . . but to listen, with wide-eyed amazement, at the stories they narrated about the wonders of the US.
Stories which made everything seem larger than life, about an evolved society, and about the pleasures of shopping. Many stories were told about shopping, about the range of choices, incredibly attractive in-store displays, surprise freebies, and more so about the overall Customer Experience. Stories of Customer Experience were marked with anecdotes of how friendly everyone was, how they cared about the Customer, how they went out of their way to understand Customer preferences and satisfy them, and how they would quickly correct themselves with profuse apologies, additionally compensating the Customer if they messed up.
Many years later, when I got here, things had changed. Airline personnel were not friendly any more. Representatives in stores smiled as if it were a chore for them. Resistance encountered while returning defective items. Adequate help was not easily available to answer questions about products. There was hardly a local flavor to anything, from food to merchandise, and no personal touch whatsoever. Commoditization was everywhere . . . including in the experience. A heavy price was paid due to changes in the socio-economic fabric of the Country. In my head, diamonds had ceased to sparkle, and gold had lost its luster.