Back in the Delhi of the 1980s, our lives were synced to the DMS milk delivery vans. Everyday at a certain time, people would rush out of their homes to buy milk. The lines were rarely orderly and without some angst. There was always this fear that the milk would run out and they would not get the required amount for people at home.
If one failed to get it, then one needed to return the next day. This applied to yoghurt in summer and many other products.
Business analysts will tell you this was the by-product of the socialist model. Things changed globally and socialism is not considered a positive model anymore. Shortages, queues, rationing, bad service are now supposed to be things of the past.
I now point your attention to some new mobile phone companies. They are growing fast and they have obviously got quite a bit of success. Not commenting on their success but the striking similarities to socialist times. Not surprisingly some of these companies origin from countries that have had a socialist past.
A potential customer
- Register’s interest
- Participates in a lottery that provides an opportunity to pay and own the product
- Waits for the next lottery round announcements
- Has limited places/sites where the product can be purchased
- Has to have someone recommend them for the right to buy
- Will notice that the product has been resold by the ‘winners’ at a premium
Not unlike those times, where one had to always say good things about the leadership, the modern twist includes saying nice things on social channels for the permission to register interest for the product.
Would a customer then wonder about service or the lack of it. Well one has to wait and find out.
If you stand back a bit, it seems we are celebrating people who have created by making a virtue out of scarcity (artificial or logistical). You have a situation where about 300,000 people register interest and only about 10,000 or thereabouts are likely to get a product. Those who will get this product will get it when the company gets ready to ship, not when they want it. A large number of people will be turned away from each lottery.
Isn’t there a negative customer experience for these customers? Maybe there are business reasons why this model has been adopted but It does seem disrespectful to customers as well. One might argue the customer is welcome to buy another company’s product and most likely they will.
But is this model sustainable for the long duration? It does not take long for the tide to turn. The customer experience of the socialist era companies was largely based on sufferance because they could make people wait. Can these new companies afford to do that?