When a conflict occurs between a customer and an employee, who should the company choose to stand by? Not a very new situation for sure, but one that is encountered frequently. A recent conflict between a Zomato employee and one of its customers took the social media by storm. The video, that went viral, showed a girl alleging that a delivery person of Zomato hit her on the nose when she refused to accept an order, which was delivered late. Opinions were divided on social media with some sympathising with the employee, some criticising the service and yet others demanding a fair investigation.
However, Zomato took a very diplomatic stand by temporarily suspending the employee as per protocol, but bearing all the costs of fighting the legal charges levelled against the employee, Kamaraj. It also covered the medical expenses of the customer, Hitesha. This move was appreciated by many across industries. The question that arises is, ‘How judicious was Zomato’s stand?’
Sunil Kumar, CHRO, PVR
Striking a balance between the employees and the customers is essential because customers are business. However, there is no denying the fact that there will be no business without efficient employees. Therefore, the well-being and safety of the employees is equally important, if not more. In most companies, however, the philosophy followed is very customer oriented.
Kamlesh Dangi, group head – HR, Incred, says, “In the banking industry, it is often seen that in cases where borrowers delay the paying off of loans, banks stand by the collectors who visit the residences of these defaulters. This is because, chances are high of the borrowers getting abusive or physically aggressive with the bank employees. In fact, this is a known professional hazard and the banks are liable to answer for the lives of their employees. Zomato’s case, however, is an exceptional one because this was absolutely unprecedented. Zomato had to take a diplomatic stand because damage control was required to save the image on both the sides. Otherwise, normally, companies are customer oriented to a great extent. Therefore, it is difficult to say whether this move is right or not.”
Jayant Kumar, Jt. president – HR, Adani Ports & SEZ
Bringing about the right balance between the customers and the employees is not just a one-time necessity. A balanced approach is essential to retain the faith and trust of both in the long run. Beyond doubt, if customers feel satisfied, they will commit to a company, but the employee also has to feel safe and taken care of. Customers are not necessarily right all the time. How a company deals with such cases of conflicts shows the company’s work culture. Zomato had no option but to bear the cost of fighting legal charges in order to retain the rest of the delivery men, without whom its business would have been affected. In fact, had this issue been addressed ineffectively, the hiring process in future would have been affected too. People would not feel safe enough to join the delivery team, leading to a huge face loss.
Sunil Kumar, CHRO, PVR, says, “In our company, complaints are taken up by our customer service team itself. But the Zomato case is absolutely different. To save the brand image it had to bear the legal expenses of the employee, but, at the same time, it balanced the move by stating that the truth needs to come out. However, when it comes to such extremely unprecedented incidents, how companies deal with them depends on their company policies. No outsider can judge this.”
Kamlesh Dangi, group head – HR, Incred
Customers and employees are complementary to each other, and the liability of both should lie with the company. The challenge, however, is that the needs of the two sides are completely different. How does attaining a level of balance help the company in future? Jayant Kumar, Jt. president – HR, Adanai Ports & SEZ, says, “Managing the employees well and enjoying their trust is critical because only a well-managed workforce can expect to manage the customers well. If a company attains the right balance between the customers and the employees, it will continue to enjoy the faith of both. In the long run, this will help it hire good talents leading to good business. Being a part of the service industry, we keep track records of employees, and those who serve the customers well are rewarded and better retained.”
Who the company should stand by in such unique situations has been a subject for debates for ages. The recent story of Zomato has instigated this discussion yet again. While the delivery person, Kamaraj, was accused of physical aggression, he has counter accused Hitesha, the customer, of being physically abusive towards him. On the basis of this allegation an FIR has been placed against the customer also. A statement issued by Zomato reads, “Right from the get-go, our topmost priority has been to get to the truth. Towards that, we are helping both Hitesha and Kamaraj (our delivery partner) with all the support they need while the investigation is pending. We are also assisting the police in whichever way asked.”