Our experience as Customers

What’s with the Air Fare?

The Price War

Air Fare is the most exciting aspect of Aviation (or may be whole of Travel) industry.  Deregulation of Industry (in 1978 in US) and entry LCCs the market with their competitive pricing, forced legacy carriers to question their existing COST PLUS pricing strategies and come up with Revenue / Yield optimization systems, which started and intensified the price war by introducing concepts like demand based pricing which let airlines charge more from inelastic segments while having differential pricing for elastic segments and capturing the excess demand…

War is still on… and the air fare is no less than stock price – as volatile and you never get to buy the stock at that “Fundamentally Right” price!!

Let’s talk about what’s happening in India…

No, I am not going to get deeper into these pricing concepts (will park it for some other day…), what made me write this post is the recent happenings in Indian aviation industry, which  is in news for reasons no other than Volatile, Irrational nature of Air Fares and Airlines charging exorbitant prices, if you haven’t read these so far it’s worth reading some of these articles which explain in detail the current state of

Flash back to August 2010

These news items last week reminded me of a news piece which I read in August 2010 when Air India announced reduction in fares…

…The national carrier will reduce fares on 48 domestic routes by 3-23% effective September 1. “This is a purely commercial decision, which aims at increasing the airline’s market share,” a senior ministry official told ET…  (Link)

Now, I have no idea if this reduction happened and what those 48 routes in question were (May be Air India can throw some light on that!!), what did happen was an exorbitant hike in Fares during Festive season in November 2010…

…While airfares across the domestic network are 15-25% higher this peak travel season, the Delhi-Mumbai sector has seen a 200-300% jump thanks to a number of factors plaguing the two airports that together account for almost 70% of all domestic flights… (Link)

Enter Regulators…

If these hikes were not enough Airlines were again proposing massive hike in fares…

… Domestic airlines have proposed a massive hike in air fares ignoring government’s calls not to resort to exorbitant fares after they were hauled up for abrupt rise in ticket costs even during non-peak season… (Link)

And thus intervened the biggies like Aviation Ministry, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Competition Commission of India (CCI)  talking of Cartel formation and the need for transparency in air fares and asking airlines to follow practices  like putting a price band to airfares every month and publish them in newspapers or their websites.

What Next?

This is just the beginning of the tussle between airlines and department and hopefully we will see some serious action in coming weeks.  Would also be interested to know

Is there any answer or a way to track the authenticity of fare reduction announcements, like the one highlighted above where Air India announced for cut in September?

How Indian consumer is going to react to this whole episode, it’s really sad to see how quiet they have been so far on this whole episode…

How ministry and DGCA will react and what steps will they take… will they take a step forward and provide this data of air fares on their websites?

This is also just a beginning for new topic on Factory …I will be closely watching this event and sharing more posts on this interesting topic of airline pricing… keep reading…

Bye ANZ, Hi Westpac

Account Opening with ANZ

When I came to Oz last year, my organization because of their existing relationship with ANZ got my personal account opened with ANZ bank. I was happy, for what i needed was a savings account, online transactions and good ATM network. ANZ was not bad on any of these, and i had not experienced any other bank to compare and wasnt aware of the fact that I can choose my salary bank… (as I could not in India)

Internet Explorer and ANZ loosing a customer

Early this year (2009) when I felt the need for credit card (I wasnt able to book my air tickets online using ANZ access card). I visited ANZ (as I was already banking with them) checked my options for visa debit and/ or credit card … there was nothing with Zero annual fees. And as Credit card will take long becuase of verficiation process, I decided to go with Visa Debit card.

I initiated the process, however LUCKILY guys internet explorer crahsed number of times and simply refused to register me and I was told that the whole process will take around 5-7 working days along with verification etc etc a. Anyways, thanks to internet explorer which crashed, guy asked me to come later in the day. I came out and just thought of visiting Westpac bank right across the road (one of my friend had credit card wtih no annual fees… thought of checking it out)

Hi Westpac

Friednly staff (at least i felt marked differecne between the treatment I got in these two banks … Westpac was more friednly, helpful environment, while ANZ was more business, formal and rule book environment). Discussed options in detail, really went ahead to understand why do I need credit card and yes they did have card with no annual fee for first year. Completed the verification process then and there online in 15 mins or so, opened the account and later card reached me in 5 working days. By the time ANZ was struggling with his Internet explorer, my account was up and running with Westpac. Later on I did informed ANZ guy about the same and he was amazed to know how could Westpac completed verification process online in 15 mins for a person on wokers permit and not a permanent resident of Australia. Well thats for him to figure out ..however who cares if one small customer goes !!

Finally Bye ANZ

Most of the banks are now waving off Account fee if you monthly deposit $2000. However I noticed that ANZ is still charging me $5 everymonth even when my salary is being credited to their account. I walked to the branch and enquired about the same …on asking why am I charged when all the banks have waived off fee? My friendly Bank rep told me .. sir, Not all the banks! ANZ is not waving it off .. however what we might be doing early next year is that we can give you Visa Debit card linked to your Bank account instead of this Access Card, however fees will still be there. Thank you! I said, I would like to close my account. Okie Sir, its simple you just have to fill up one form. I thanked him again told him will close the account in couple of days once I have opened the account with other Bank. Again! Seems like it doesnt matter if one small customer goes

Again …Hi Westpac!

I again crossed the road to visit the Red Bank .. completed formalities and my new account is up and running. Meanwhile I also closed my Credit card account with Westpac as they are offering Master Debit with personal account. So I have finally made a transition and hopefully will not be paying any monthly fees whole process took around 20 mins. Will soon transfer everything to Westpac and shut down ANZ.

I will miss…

Visa: Only thing i am not very happy about is that Westpac has Master Debit and not Visa Debit … will miss Visa….In past in India i had bad experience with Master Credit and Debit cards…and somehow i have this perception that Visa is a better Brand than Master (Dunno why).

Website: I loved the simple neat and friedly website of ANZ … will take some time to get used to basic and archaic looking Westpac website

Read the role of Technology in this story

ICICI UPdate 4

Track the complete story here

Finally …. Resolved

This mail took real long time….However it finally happened that Standard Charted and ICICI bank could talk and sort the issue. Appreciate the fact that ICICI has accepted their fault and have decided to credit the money to my account.
————–
Dear Mr Sharma ,
We wish to inform you that we have received the necessary NEFT details from Standard Chartered Bank. Based on the details, it is identified  that the remittance has been returned by us for the reason ” Beneficiary Name differs “. This reason was provided as your account was not activated and there was no name reflecting for the account.

We have initiated to credit of INR xxxx your account for the charges levied by Standard Chartered Bank for the return and will update you once the account is credited.
Sincerely,
xxxxxxx
Manager – Service Quality
—————
Overall – Alls well that ends well,  in spite of minor hiccups which I think cannot have been ignored the case and issue rests in peace with satisfied customer …
Finally
  • Hope ICICI will take due action and put necessary info on the pre activated account kits .. and inform front end staff whats the difference between pre activated kit and actual activation of accounts.
  • Finally an email alert would really be helpful when account is activated from back office. ICICI does have excellent email / sms alerts, not too sure why there was no alert this time…

Track the complete story here

Updates on ICICI 3

Track the complete story here

No resolution yet … Sad and disappointing ….

As requested in my last post and a mail to HiFx I had requested them to connect me with the relevant people in Standard Charted Bank in India. I should really appreciate their prompt responses so far and they did send me the name and contact number of Relevant person in Standard Charted bank India.

Post that I had detailed discussion with Standard Charted representative in India who provided me brief details about the transaction and also validated the fact that funds were returned by ICICI bank.  I had also provided these details to ICICI person to directly get in touch with Standard Charted Bank and get the issue resolved, to this they responded with such a curt one liner –

——————–
Dear Mr Sharma ,
We are also co-ordinating with them will update you on the same.
Sincerely,
xxxxxxxxxx (Name removed)
Manager – Service Quality
——————-

Now, am not sure if this was curt or not. But it did give me such feeling. So far  they were telling me that they are not able to get necessary details from Standard Charted Bank  to track the returned transaction and would need help from HiFx in this regard to close the issue. Now when I have provided them with all the details … they could not even care to acknowledge it with a THANKS!!

Further, its been two working days since I provided ICICI the details of contact person from Standard Charted I haven’t yet heard from ICICI on anything …  With every passing day they are testing my patience and loosing all the good words i had so far for them…..

Track the complete story here

With reference to this issue what I could gather till now is that parties involved in the transaction are –

  • HiFx (visible to me and I can interact with)
  • ICICI bank (Visible to me and I can interact with)
  • Australian Bank of HiFx  (Not too sure which Bank is this)
  • Intermediary Bank in India (Transaction cannot complete without them in this case it is Standard Charted Bank in India)

Request to HiFx and Standard Charted Bank

HiFx has asked me to keep them updated about the case as they would be interested to know who is at fault and if Standard Charted is making up the story they would like to ask their Australian Bank to take action against them.

I have again requested them to check if it possible for them to provide me with the details of NEFT transaction that happened in India between Standard Charted and ICICI. Or may be connect me with the right person in Standard Charted with whom I can take up the matter. If anybody from Standard Charted reading this whole case, would really like them to come up and help me out.

Regarding NEFT process,  FAQ on RBI website clarifies in this question that details can be arranged from remitting bank (Standard Charted in this case), however it is not clear if Beneficiary Bank keeps the record of returned transactions or it is there in NEFT system

Q.24. Is there any way a remitting customer can track the remittance transaction?

Ans : The remitting customer can track the remitting transaction through the remitting branch only, as the remitting branch is informed about the status of the remitted transactions.

Further my dear banks can also reach out to RBI help desk to get it resolved, hope ICICI is doing this, no I don’t have the energy left to add another party in the scene …

Q.13. Whom I can contact, in case of non-credit or delay in credit to the beneficiary account?

Ans : Contact your bank / branch. If the issue is not resolved satisfactorily, the Customer Service Department of RBI may be contacted on nefthelpdeskncc@rbi.org.in or write to –

The General Manager,
Reserve Bank of India,
National Clearing Centre
First Floor, Free Press House
Nariman Point
Mumbai – 400 027

Let’s see how long will it take … wish they would not have taken special permission to open account 😦

Tack the complete issue here

Track the complete story here

Status

Simply put – Issue is not yet resolved.  Alas, mail to CTO could help so far that issue got escalated to Top management faster, else  I would have still been struggling with escalation levels…. and could not very well relate to the comments of others on my

I think its worthwhile to share the issue now

Opening of New Account

When I was travelling to India last month. I had opened NRE savings account around end of October. I am thankful to ICICI that they took special permissions to open the account with Zero Balance. I had promised them to transfer necessary money for minimum balance as soon as the account gets activated. However you can see that my thankfulness ends there!!

While opening account i was given  an account kit and was told that as soon as the account is active I would be able to use the login details provided there and it would normally take 3-5 working days. Here I was to depend on the number of days and no message will come when my account was to be activated.  After around 5-6 days I used the login details, it worked and I was under impression that my account is activated now and should transfer the money as promised. (Now – I cannot transfer money to NRE account from any domestic Indian account, it accepts money only from overseas international accounts so had to remit money from Oz)

Around 10th of November I remitted money to my newly opened account via HiFx (I have always used them for past transactions and has always been satisfied with their service and money has safely gone to my other ICICI accounts smoothly).

OUCH…

However HiFx guys called me up to tell me that money has been returned back to their intermediary bank (in this case Standard Charted Bank in India) as the account details were wrong. Now this happened because my new ICICI account was not yet ACTIVATED. It got activated only on 17th

In all this process I lost some money. HiFx gave me two options of calling the money back to Australia or wait for sometime and then transfer money (less the money I lost) to ICICI account again.

After consulting with ICICI that the account is now ACTIVE they advised me to transfer the money again to India account (this was sensible decision as in the process of calling money back I would have again given the foreign currency conversion charges). So my account got credited with lesser money on around 19th November.

Where’s the confusion

Here is the gist of conversation I had so far with ICICI –

Funny Pre activated Kit

Now ICICI customer care told me that the login kit provided to me was pre activated kit, and I could login to the account using given details very next day however REAL ACTIVATION only happens when they activate the account from Back Office which only happened on 17th of November. ICICI has accepted that if was the fault on their part that my account activation got delayed and was not given correct info by the front line staff (I do have mails from senior customer care members to back this claim)

ICICI can’t trace the transaction that was returned Back

They accept their fault about the delay in account opening and wrong information. However they cannot trace the records of transaction that was returned back because account information was not right. They simply telling me that no transaction happened before 19th Nov

I have provided them with the SWIFT messages provided to me by HiFx stating –

  • Message from HiFx Bank to Standard Charted Bank stating ORIGINAL money to be credited to my ICICI Bank account
  • Message from Standard Charted Bank to HiFx Australia Bank stating that money was returned back because beneficiary (my ICICI NRE account) account details didn’t match
  • Message of last transaction of stating ACTUAL (and less) money credited to my ICICI account

ICICI representative also told me that in India Standard Charted bank transfer money to ICICI using domestic payment transfer process called NEFT in which the goof up happened and NEFT charges were deducted and that ICICI has not deducted anything. Further ICICI is not able to trace the details of NEFT transaction that happened between Standard Charted and ICICI.

ICICI expects me to take this up with HiFx and get them the details of domestic Indian transaction and when I provide me with these details they will be able to close the case. I am not too sure how fair is this expectation of ICICI – When they cannot trace the transaction sitting in India how can HiFx do that.

Clearly ICICI is at fault

Anyways, it doesn’t matter to me who deducted what and why. So far from the facts it is very much clear to me –

  1. There are enough proofs to all the transactions that happened between any parties (HiFx, HiFx Australia Bank, Intermediary Bank Standard Charted, ICICI)
  2. Fact that ICICI has accepted that they are at fault by not ACTIVATING the account on time and not giving me right information at the time of account opening
  3. I have done the transactions in past too and have never been charged anything by any party, this time goof up happened coz account was not activated on time and thus ICICI should reimburse me with the money I have lost.
  4. Special approvals and Special status are only while opening accounts… once you are customer … Rules start to come into action

(In any case they are the verge of loosing some faith of one long lasting customer.. if  at all they care.. hope they do)

Track the complete story here

Update on ICICI

CTO Act

While i was composing my last post on curious case of sales call, I had also forwarded the mail conversation of problem with NRE account to the CTO of bank Mr Pravir Vohra, whom i had met recently during FST evevt in Sydney.

Thanks to him that service managers are taking action on same and did called me up to discuss the case and are acting on it.

I am wondering…

1. What if I would not have fwded the mail to him? am sure it would have taken longer and I would have been struggling with mails

2. What if CTO would have just ignored it thinking its not his department but that of customer care.

What is your Institution doing for your customers?

I feel gone are the days when IT was purely back office, increasingly IT leaders are realizing this as Mr Dhiren Kulkarni  Joint CIO,  St. George bank stressed during his presentation at FST event that I as a CIO own my customer. I feel Its a big statement, customer is not only the responsibility of customer care rep or front staff or business but also of the IT. No wonder that CIO of CBA took sal cut when their Net banking was down and thus customer satisfaction levels went down.

All said lets see how long will it take at ICICI before issue gets resolved. Anyways, thanks to Mr Pravir for taking action.