We live our lives thinking about better ways to communicate. We use every atom of creativity we have, to come up with a big idea that can effectively communicate a little thought. After all, it’s not as if every product or service is a major technological marvel, or a unique innovation or even a great adaptation. Yet, if we are able to dig deep and discover one little attribute or feature that could be culled out and then exposed to a ray of creative thinking, you could suddenly have communication magic.
In our daily effort to communicate better, we might do well to fall back on how we live our lives and see what little thoughts communicate emotions powerfully. In that moment of introspection we will, no doubt, realise and accept that sometimes a single little word spoken or written with emotion can do more that a what an entire library of cleverly crafted verse can.
Last month a fire broke out in a basement in central Mumbai. It might have become just another little report on the city pages of local newspapers, that are forgotten sooner than they are read. However, this fire resulted in a million conversations being interrupted. It was in the office of Airtel.
We live in an age where the cell phone could eventually evolve into an appendage of the human hand. We are actually convinced that we couldn’t pick up a friend if we didn’t call them and say we are on the way. And then call them and say we are five minutes away and then call again and say we are waiting outside their building. We are sure that our love stories would have a terrible ending if we did not spend hours whispering sweet nothings into our handsets. That they could very well end in marriage is not seen with such trepidation. We feel an almost unnatural urge to switch on our mobile phones even as our aircraft is rolling towards its parking bay and breathlessly inform someone that we have landed.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not belittling the wonderful things that are achieved on account of mobile telephony. I am just commenting on the most common uses that one observes.
The consumers of Airtel must have, no doubt, been put to great inconvenience because of the disruption to services caused by that fire. Yet, what warmed my cockles was an advertisement of Airtel that appeared in local newspapers a couple of days after the fire and the consequent disruption in its services.
The advertisement appeared in the form of a letter from the CEO of Bharti Airtel, Maharashtra. The first three words said it all. “We are sorry” were the first words I read, and quite frankly I couldn’t have cared less what Manu Talwar, the CEO, had to say in the four paragraphs that followed.
To me, here was a large corporate coming right out and telling me they were sorry for whatever inconvenience I had experienced. No frills, no fluff, no long-winded explanations or justifications. They could follow. What I saw first was a genuine apology.
Think about it. We do not live in a perfect world. We make mistakes and others make mistakes. Sometimes we do not make mistakes and others suffer for what they might perceive as our mistakes. Yet, a simple honest word “sorry” really takes the edge off all the irritation and even anger that one might feel.
More so when you know that Airtel is capable of elaborate communication. Their track record is formidable. They have shown consistent creativity in their communication. Now they have shown credible feeling.
Manu Talwar, we forgive you, and we will keep the conversation going.
Having said that this one word is so evocative, one wonders why it more often that not sticks in the gullet and refuses to come out.
While on the topic of telecommunications and effective communications I noticed an advertisement from MTNL, which used a caricature treatment to cut through clutter and showed a Mumbaikar gamely trudging through knee-deep water on his way to work. The headline referred to the fact that while it was uncommon to have heavy downpours, it was special to note the commitment of Mumbaikars that made them brave the odds and bash on regardless. They went on to equate the “khaas” Mumbaikar with their “khaas” telephone service. Referring to this advertisement, Mumbai’s Municipal Commissioner Jairaj Phatak was reported to have said, and I quote an Express Newsline story “we do not care about criticisms and we do not care if someone is taking potshots at us…”
Now that’s what I call a typical governmental response. In the first place the bureaucrat goes on to say he has not seen the advertisement. Even if he had, a sense of humour is not something we could probably credit government-types with. And of course, concern for criticism comes only with accountability. Something most public servants (or rather public bosses) have had to deal with. I personally felt that MTNL was trying to break away from the rut and come out with some advertising that was different. In any case Mr Jairaj Pathak would be well advised to read Airtel’s advertisement and more importantly understand the sentiment behind it. He could then begin every day of his term by saying he is sorry to Mumbaikars for all the things his department ought to be doing and isn’t. We might even excuse him.
6 months ago