How to win hearts of your customers and teammates

We're teaming up with K D Muddappa, Head of Contact Centre for Reliance Jio (south) to speak about:

  • How to win the hearts of your teammates
  • How to set up successful customer support teams
  • How to keep your customers happy and coming back for more
  • How to manage people from different countries and cultures
  • How to deal with disruptions in the industry
  • How to take calculated risks and swing for the fences

Read the transcript

Intro: Change your passion, chase your dream and dream big. I hope my parents will listen to this. You should allow them to listen to I'm gonna play this part of the podcast to them. Yeah. I'm Shiva and welcome to A Job Well Done a podcast where we dive into the journeys of successful business leaders to find out what it takes to rise to the top If you see clarity on choosing the carrier getting a promotion landing a dream job or simply being the best at what you do. This is the podcast for you. Our guest today has more Firepower than most of your average executives from his first job as a salesman at a crockery store to serving in the Indian army and now spiriting contact center at Reliance Jio, he's come a long way and acquired a wealth of experience and interesting stories that have to be told. I've known K T Muddappa for a while now and every time we meet he entertains me with stories that always has takeaway. There is so much that we can learn from his experience of 25 plus years from how to set up Customer Service Unit. Managing people from different countries and cultures dealing with disruptions in Industries on entrepreneurship and how to take calculated risks having him on the podcast as a guest is a no-brainer MK. Welcome to the studio

M K Mudapa: Thank you Shiva

Shiva: MK ,Could you please introduce yourself?

M K Mudapa: Hi Shiva, I have got over 26 years of experience in the industry and the corporate world. Currently, I head the contact center for South for Reliance Jio and I have two centers, one in Bangalore and one in Hyderabad from a current role to what I started off as a Salesman in a Crockery store to what I am today. I've gone through multiple and varied Industries. I've been in Indian army for about six years and then I moved to hospitality for about a decade and then into multi-level marketing for about four years and in telecom, finally and therefore about another decade now so it's been a journey and but I've kept everything into a domain where customer is being my prime

Shiva: So MK It's obvious that a lot of your previous experiences have given you the skills to reach the top. Can you shed more light on this?

M K Mudapa: Yeah Shiva. As I already mentioned that I was in the Crockery store as a Salesman and salesman and service actually go hand in hand in those days. Actually that helped me a lot in terms of knowing how to handle customers. I think that was basic informal education which I got customer service, but the army taught me something else the army taught me discipline and and also chivalry as I mentioned. So what happens in chivalry is you treat a human being with respect and dignity. So a customer needs to be treated with dignity and respect, irrespective of who he is. So from the army I came back and I joined the hospitality industry hotel in Bangalore Holiday, currently Scholarly Meridian and I was a receptionist there and two years later. I moved as a manager to Holiday in Goa. And Goa has a different culture by altogether. So handling European tourist completely 90% of the tourism was European tourist. And 10% were Indians, so handling them from different cultures. Give me how to behave or how do they how to manage them how to please them itself was a learning for another

Shiva: So MK. It's quite clear that working with different cultures and actually handling guests in your hotel shaped you in this way especially to deal with team members and customers. Going to the question you been in customer service for about two decades now. How has it evolved or changed over this period of time?

M K Mudapa: Yeah, I think those days the customer service was more like a touch and feel when I said touch in feel nor the touch and feel but you wanted have people in front of you and you had to address them like Sirs and Mrs and so on so forth. Customer service in hospitality was more in terms of expressions and how you speak and have you look at each other eye contact and so on now from there on if you look back I would say look the current scenario customer service is moved to digitization is more digital. Now customers do not want to be you know, being asked multiple question multiple times. How you sir? How is everything always all fine? I don't think so customers have enough time. Other day I was in the restaurant and I was just looking at the raw the waiters coming in serving. Twenty years ago or twenty five years ago a waiter would come to the table and ask multiple times sir is there anything that I can do for you. But now if you ask me I myself would feel a bit uneasy because I don't have time because I'm doing some work meeting somebody talking to somebody so I would prefer somebody coming and just leaving a tablet there and I would order my dishes or whatever I want on the tab and it gets to the kitchen and from there gets delivered. Only the delivery part should be the human touch there as I don't want anything else. So when I say this it is evolved digitization of customer service is what it is. So AI is the latest in thing, which is going to be playing the game of customer service

Shiva: Okay. I think there's another line that you mentioned in previous meetings that I really caught my attention. That is the best customer service is no customer service

M K Mudapa: Yes. This is one of the the biggest industry leaders. Our vision is no service is the best service. What do you mean by no service is the best services, that means when you do the first service itself the best service so you don't have to do a customer service

Shiva: Okay. So MK you mentioned about the advent of AI and bots. Our customer service job safe now and let's say someone wants to be really successful in customer service today. How do they go about doing this?

M K Mudapa: See, there are two kinds of customers Shiva. A customer with one is a mass customer like if work at in Telecom or even in e-commerce, you have people who buy lot of things or buy your connection for a mobility of sake now, there are customers who are high net with customers for high net worth customers. You can't get them around to getting into AI mode because he pays you a huge amount and he needs to be serviced properly. So as a customer service professional you need to have the expertise on you must understand how we are going to help you reduce the cost on the mass base of your customer and the high-net-worth customers would be usually it is, 80 is mass and 20 is the premium. So the premium you may want to keep the human touch and feel as I mentioned. So for the mass you may want to do the AI. As a professional so you should be learning or you should be traumatized to both these scenarios. So only then you'll make get into a profitable business because 80% you can't service on a human touch and feel

Shiva: Okay. So what you're seeing is as Leaders, you need to figure out how AI can help you reduce the cost and streamline your operations. And if you are an individual contributor and let's say on customer service you're saying focus on carriers are organizations that cater to higher end customers that actually require the high-touch model

M K Mudapa: Not necessary because he has to have both because when he has to grow up into the and the ladder of customer service, he needs to start understanding how the AI will help him. And also how he as to manage the other part because if you look at 80% is that 80-20 usually the revenue is reverse. Got it. 20% give you the 80% margin. Yeah, and 80% gives you 20% margin. So that's how you need to have balance both these if you can't do it with the basic customer service and can you ignore the new advent of AI into the lives of customer service

Shiva: Got, it perfect. So going on to the next question about your current employer. Reliance jio It's been a massive success Congratulations to you and the team on that. I was very curious that why do you think Reliance succeeded?

M K Mudapa: So if you look at the normal Telecom industry was delivering a Sim in 48 hours. Activation was 48 Hours. Whereas Reliance did it in 15 minutes. That was the vision of a chairman then coverage network was well spread out and third the speed of the data, which was given was fantastically high, third when I was paying 250 rupees a GB Reliance came in and got it at five rupees a GB. Okay, then the other part is my plans were so simple I did not have multiple plans which I want to choose the called a hero plan at 399 rupees you get 284 days of service with 1.5 GB of data per day unlimited calls and a hundred SMS a day as no designed by regulatory, but what I'm saying is how simplify these are. So customers were very happy. He did not have to be worried about to multiple plans and issue which will arise otherwise, so I think that is one thing which is actually is a huge success which Reliance today is one of the number one Telecom company, which could garner about 340 million customers a matter of three years, which no other company has in any other field has acquired customers so fast in the world

Shiva: Makes a lot of sense. I think simplifying the payment takes out a lot of tension and customers have a very simple decision to make I think this lesson can be applied at every industry MK. Don't you think?

M K Mudapa: See these days people as I as I said earlier, don't have time simplify things and they will they will not disturb you make sense. Yeah. So I said the exactly what it meant is no service is best service

Shiva: Got it,  So MK you had extensive experience in setting up customer service operations from scratch and on other occasions improving the effectiveness of already set up units. What are some of the guidelines that one must follow to set up a successful customer service unit?

M K Mudapa: The first and foremost Shiva is we need to look at the kind of human resource or the people who we hire in customer service is not everybody's cup of tea because it's not a lip service. It's more like a service with passion. I would always looked at when I was hiring people with attitude and aptitude to serve the customer have a patient's hearing who would have more to listen and less to speak. So these are the small guidelines which I have used to hire people because you don't have passion to hear customers problem. You will never go back and resolve a customers issue will be more like a lip service be only calls coming in or complaints pouring in there's no resolution happening and the next which I used for to improve customer service was be more proactive and going back in till in the customer. What these problems are what few mistakes we made and how we resolved it for him or how you're going to resolve it. I always believed that a proactive service is always better than reactive service. So anything which you feel which you think that this has happened in the customers not known but go back and telling him. Sir, that this there was a problem in this particular product. So, hence, we would like to replace it or you like to correct it. I think customer will feel much happier than he finding out the fault then coming back to you

Shiva: So MK how does proactive customer service look can you share an instance from your experience so far

M K Mudapa: One of my telecom for company where I work the IT companies pick up the high data services from us and whenever there are fiber cuts. We were proactive in telling them that the fiber cuts were in this place and we lost your service level by this much and we would like to refund the smudge or you would go back and tell your fiber has been cut at this level and we redoing it in another route. So doing so what happens the customer was someone they trusted us a lot because we are more proactive and going back and telling our mistakes rather than trying to hide it for ourselves so that actually that way had more trust with us and if customers find is that okay, you're giving me information and I'm fine with that. I know that you're going to rectify it.

Shiva: What I've noticed of late is customer service is becoming a good differentiator for people to stick around with a certain company. But a lot of companies also look at customer service as a cost center instead of looking at a profit Center. So how would you go about changing this?

M K Mudapa: So predominantly customer service is be in a most like a easier cost center never been a profit center. The times have changed where a customer service should start getting into up selling. It's called a service marketing. You need to market your service will start marketing your service in today with this advent of social media. We will all talk about good things. So if somebody goes to a restaurant and has a good service and there is always a note on the social media saying that the person went to X place and he was so and so and you get rated. So today when you go even in uber will you travel you look at the number of stars or the rating of the driver before you even board the car? Right? So what is that you're doing for your service you get rated because that particular service you are using that driver got it. So same way works in your restaurant your hotels. So people rate you they rate for multiple aspects. The best aspect if you look at is food industry itself in a restaurant you go and you find somebody's rating is below 4.1 you don't want to go there right? So it is a customer service up selling. So that's what I said is the constant is issue has always gone. Now. It's customers has become more like profit center now

Shiva: Got it. I think a bunch of companies are also using customer service to up sell and cross sell so it could be upgrading the customer plans and and actually getting more out of the wallet. I think it is all the way from Coffee Day when you step in whether you order a brownie and they say can I put some extra vanilla ice cream on this to I don't know renting a car and then at the desk there they're asking if you really want to upgrade so think up selling is is in an integral part of customer service and also brings in a lot of money very, correct very, correct. Alright, so now we dive into I think your strongest point so far managing teams you manage teams from 60 - 2,000 people from different contries and organizations and cultures. Can you please share your input on this?

M K Mudapa: I learnt the customer management or managing people from my very first job which I did and the Crockery Shaw store called Jamal's. I was a salesman there and I would come actually I came in during my 10th standard vacations. So it was more like a money which I wanted to pay for my fees. I must go or college fees and so on so don't have my relatives who are well-to-do and some of our family friends who would visit the store and when they would visit I would run down and hide in the and the you know, they had a basement store where you would keep all the the stocks. So I would go and hide so one occasion a lady from you know from my part of the country came and visited the store and Mr. Jamil whose happened to be the proprietor of the company. He walked up and spoke to her and she said she's from Coorg and he said oh, their is a boy from your place also working here. So she wanted to meet me and I didn't want to meet her because somehow I knew that she's one of a community person and she would I know I did I didn't want to be seen as a Salesman in a Crockery store. He called me up and he introduced me and that lady told me that you should be happy that you're earning your living unlike your other people who are living on their grandfathers earnings or their property. Okay, and this is ancestor properties. So I think that where I realized that dignity of Labor is what matters Jamil respected that a lot. I always I mean in debted to him even now that he invibe that part of it so do whatever, I work I do. I do it with dignity. And also I give the respect to my coworkers or my subordinates be it my housekeeping supervisor or my housekeeping boy or my house maid or my security today. I really definitely value their contribution to whatever happens in the company. So that is been one part of understanding the dignity of Labor and I still hold it very highest team today Okay, then what happens in Goa? I know it they come from different culture altogether irrespective whether the path they're part of India, but people were still considering themselves to be you know, the Portuguese or they always wanted to be affiliated towards Portugal. So having said that the staff were more, you know in that culture of hostility. So they do not want a person coming from outside Goa to come and be their boss. So this was a big challenge getting work done. And believe me the so hostile is you can't talk rough or rude to a staff if he makes a mistake because when it's do that step out of the hotel you can beaten up so that kind of situation was that so I had to manage a very cordial relationship with them and it was so chanced upon to me was one of my beach boys daughter both really wanted to take leave and it was of thick of a season. I couldn't afford them a leave but I took a chance and said okay, finally, I'll alot this leave so I did approve his leave and when I asked him about his daughter and she was a kid, I went and bought a gift for her and give it to him and said you should give it to her. He was overwhelmed. He said no that I must come at it in the birthday party. I did go and attended the party actually that actually spread the word among the other staff the 60 odd stuff around me that this manager is one among ours and he you know, he dwells among those and he's not like a boss so that actually broke the ice and then we had a picnic staff picnic where in everybody were let loose and I was one among them rather than their boss in the following week. I could see changes in people the staff coming and talking to me nicely. They've been supportive and inviting me to parties and so on and I could get my work done. Sometimes I would also give them advises and they would actually no continue supporting me in the team

Shiva: So MK summing it all up you saying that instead of leading from the top be a part of your team understand the local culture?And you try to understand them and their lives and that's the way to actually win the hearts of your team.

M K Mudapa: Very true. You need to keep your ego set aside

Shiva: make sense. So now let's say there's a person who's new to the manager role or has just joined the company as a manager. What could he do? What could he or she do that will set him up for success in the company and at the same time  with his team

M K Mudapa: See when a person comes in he should understand that he's not an Individual player he's a team player. It's just like a football game. When you have a captain. Now the captain plays also the same type which they are rest of the ten of them play. So you can't say a captain. I'm a captain so I should get all the other time the ball and I need to score goals is not that so everybody when you start playing you're a player you're not a captain. You're not just to play you are one among the 11 of them in playing football. So same way if you believe and behave that you are also. Keep your as I said keep your ego aside and start playing like a player with the team. I think they will respect you a lot. If you'd become a more like a boss. I don't think the people will give you any of their kind of respect. Okay. I had one experience in sterling which I would like to relate to how team player actually matters. Hide the situation during rush season in sterling results and to the month of April and one of the customers usually the check-ins are early and check out so late. Oh, there is a problem of the room inventory's. So what happened was the guest had already arrived and was waiting for about three hours and room was not ready and you made us such a human cry and shout. So little ran the lobby and realize that he's been waiting for a longer period and then I found out that his room was getting ready. I went to the room to find out I found only one house maid cleaning doing up the room. So I asked the lady to go into the bathroom and I did the bedroom. And completed the work pretty fast. So that actually gave the housemaid confidence in a field that these kind of times also people don't behave that they are managers or bosses and they could do come and help me so that actually gave me, you know the sense of team player and the team actually around the resort found that they could approach me to do any kind of support with the required there are going to walk up to me and I think that a great learning which I had though. But it's an incident but I think there's a big learning to be a team player than being a manager by itself

Shiva: Makes a lot of sense. So, you know, every team has a player's mediocre ones and even slackers, how do you really motivate your team members when they're let's see not performing at the best.

M K Mudapa: See as I really said yeah, every human being has their own strengths and weaknesses. So I play to the strengths of the of the particular person. I would not like to know, I would like to work on the weakness in terms of bringing out the strengths and then the weakness I try to work it out so that they can in order to overcome the weakness part of it. Can have this in one of my organization zone of the lady? You know, she had a I don't break down because she broke up with her boyfriend and she would come to the front office in front of the customers. She would start crying and we can't expect that to happen. So I told her to go and work the back office for about a week. So she had all the time to for her to cry and no come out of that particular incident of us and post one week. She went back and she was happy. She came and set aside. I'm fine. Now she could go back. So basically, what is that? I didn't do anything great. I found that she needed that time. I give that time. For example, if there is a person who is low in particular area, I would look at what is that he needs give that time allow him to perform. Yes. I know today people do not have the time to allow people to know succeed for longer period they say okay two months you're out now unless we give the time to the particular people. Put the slackers not everybody is like slackers everybody come here to work. So we need to give them that kind of a space and a small kind of prep talk. You know, I have known the shoulder and give them a tap on the back and say hey, listen, you can do it and they will do it through wonders.

Shiva: Okay, so you're saying that understand what their problem is and help them address it instead of just trying to look at it like it's your problem and you're shoving something down there short make sense and now coming on too. Another meaty topic office politics. I'm sure that you've seen your fair share over the past two decades. So how should one handle this?

M K Mudapa: Office politics is there everywhere you can't just deny the fact of it. There's a politics everywhere. The two kinds of politics one is a politics wherein you have a  co-worker wants to ridicule you and wants to be a better off then you and your boss who thinks that you're a done or nothing because somebody else, you know have to polishes So I always believed in being myself because if I have to change myself to please my bosses, I think I will not never be myself. So I had to tie those situations. Another part is I don't believe in people apple-polishing especially my subordinate and I don't want even to put down my co-workers by ridiculing them or showing that I can do better than them. I think end of the day it's something called karma still live is around in this world. What goes around? around comes Yeah, so I believe in that don't

Shiva: Make sense, you're saying that office politics is everywhere you just have to deal with it. So if you can't take it, you probably need to sort of on move on. Yeah, and you're also seeing that be yourself never lose sight of yourself. Absolutely. So that's the only way you're gonna you're going to go up

M K Mudapa: Very character this it's a Karma that this world is typically, you know, rule become what goes around does come around. So if you do something good, yeah comes back to you as good

Shiva: make sense I think there's one dialogue or the one line that you said earlier in our meetings. You said people don't leave organizations people oh, yes, it is

M K Mudapa: I think it is if I'm not I don't know who mention that in one of those little phrases. He says, people leave bosses not organizations, nobody is unhappy with an organization, but people aren't happy with their bosses.

Shiva: Okay, and now moving on to more risk here of is talking about entrepreneurship. I use tired of farming and a renewable energy company at an age where a lot of people are discovers. Can you please shed more light on this?

M K Mudapa: I thought I'll do entrepreneurship while working. I recollect one of those sessions with the gentleman called Mr. Handa who has a school on entrepreneurs. So one of the participants asked him a question saying that Miss Handa what is the qualification to become entrepreneur. So he asked him where he works and you the next question what he said was. Okay, fine to become entrepreneur you need a qualification. You should be fired tomorrow and we're worried. What is this? This is unless you are fired from a job or you don't have a job. You can become on through now because the point is you can't have a job in one another title to entrepreneurship. Basically, to sail you're trying on two legs on two different boats, you know, I read somewhere in one of those restaurants saying that you know, the writing was very clear that until the last grain is beneath in under the last fish has been eaten and the last drop of water has been poisoned on the in the river only then you realize you can't eat money. What? A profound note it was. I can't eat money. Now you guys so that is where I wanted to get into the agribusiness. So I had to the farm to fork model wherein I would do away with those five or six levels of vegetables are moving between from the farm up to the retailer. So we started this company called Farm direct. What I would like to tell here is at this stage for people who want to get an entrepreneurship is keep some funds to your for daily bill needs for your you know, fire to lit up everyday at home and balance you can get to the entrepreneurship but we have a strong idea today there are multiple startups which come and which go unless you have a great idea and you fail and you always learn a lot in these tools at startups. As an entrepreneur then what I learned in I am as studying that so okay. It is a great learning because today I can you know, I can start one more. Maybe I will do very soon on this slides once again

Shiva: Well best of luck with thatwe'll probably have you back on the podcast once has become massive success

M K Mudapa: Sure

Shiva: Which is winding down now MK. So what would you tell yourself if you're starting off now?

M K Mudapa: At this age, I always tell know, if I would start a fresh at the age of 22-23, I'll tell people take risk because this age you must take risk because once you start growing up and you know age up taking risk becomes slightly a dicey situation. So at this age do take risk, fail multiple times and only then you succeed. So go out do something which you have an idea, you know way of saying look there's my passion. Now, if you look at in our age the parents wanted the children to become either a doctor or engineer, but I have had people who studied engineering and came and started becoming customer service. Nothing to whether engineering part of it. So where the passion lies so I would say go change your passion chase your dream and dream big

Shiva: I hope my parents there to listen to this you should allow . I'm gonna play this part of the podcast for him. So yeah, so the last and probably one most of important the questions here, what's the best piece of advice you received?

M K Mudapa: It's one of the advises which I received was aim at the sky and shoot at the star. So, you know it was  one of those very nice wordings. I always looked at his think macro don't think of the micro part of it because you won't do something large only then you'll achieve something if you think everything is I know difficult don't look at it. think that's what even I had heard from. Mr. Drew Ambani saying that for him. Nothing was impossible everything possible and he would say dream big and always dream big so that in reality it will happen. If don't have a dream. There's nothing reality

Shiva: that's really good advice Thanks a lot MK for joining us today

M K Mudapa: Pleasure.

Shiva: If you want to reach MK, you can write to him at I hope you found today's episode helpful. I'd like to thank MK for joining me today and to vtiger for partnering with us to make this show possible. If you like what we're doing, please subscribe to our podcast so that you're notified when we launched a new episode also, it would be awesome. If you could support us by sharing this episode with a friend or colleague who might find this useful. This is Shiva signing off from A Job Well done. See you soon.