Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Special VIP Deal in Yerevan!

As a marketing specialist I can't help noticing every marketing activity held by Armenian companies. I do my best to keep track of innovations and changes in the Armenian market.
For many Armenians, taxis are a vital source of transportation and compared to other countries they cost pretty cheap (in other words, cabs are not luxury in Armenia). But the sad thing about Taxis here is that the companies don't pay attention to the quality of the service, the drivers are not carefully selected as most of the taxi services always have vacancies for the drives and can hardly find anyone that would agree to work for a taxi service. 
I have heard many drivers complain about working conditions, long hours and the fact that in case of any damage, they are responsible for repairing the car, not the company itself. I figure, this must be a risky job to take.
In any case, Armenians love taking taxis, especially on holidays, when you can hardly find a taxi, or when it's snowing. Suddenly everyone in Yerevan calls the taxi services.
Every person has a favorite taxi service or a couple of them. I have two! As I live far from the city center, I call a taxi service which is close to our house. This is in case I am leaving home. When I am in the center of Yerevan, I usually call Taxi Opera! 
Usually! But one day my marketing curiosity won over my habit. And on hearing that a well known Taxi Service called VIP (for some reason Armenians very much like such words as Prestige, Elite, VIP, etc.)  has a new special deal, I thought I should try this. 
The special deal was the following: any time the cost of the ride is over 1000AMD(Armenian Drams), the customer pays 1000AMD. Interesting I thought and called Taxi Service VIP!
When the car arrived, my friends helped me to take all my stuff to the car including my daughter Marie's stroller, which perfectly fits in a trunk of any car. 
Me and Marie got into the car and it took off. I wasn't very surprised, when the driver made the ride longer by not taking the shortest way. "Well, I guess he needs to make sure it goes over 1000AMDs," I was very mad. My frastration grew when a car cut our way and our driver started cursing the driver of the other car. I was in such a shock that I couldn't say a word. When we reached our house, my husband came out to help us with the stuff. Before getting out of the taxi I looked at the taximeter, which showed the amount of money I was supposed to pay at it said 1200AMD. When taking my favorite Opera Taxi, the amount never passed 1000AMD. It was still ok, as they had their "special deal"! I got out of the car and took Marie home (she had fallen asleep on the way like she usually does). My husband paid for the taxi and carried our stuff home. 
The curious thing about all this was that my husband not knowing about the special VIP deal paid 1500AMD as the driver told him to do. 
I was so mad, that I called the Taxi Service, the operator girl was surprised when I told her the whole thing. She told me she would check this with the driver and call me back with the explanation. Satisfied with the answer I calmed down a little. After a couple of hours, when I still didn't get the call from the operator girl, I got mad again and gave them another call. The girl explained that because we had something in the trunk they charged us more and she told me that usually they don't charge additional money if the trunk is well closed. Apparently the driver claimed that the stroller was so big that the trunk of the car remained open. Very interesting explanation, isn't it?
I couldn't help thinking about this incident for a couple of days, I told all my friends about it, telling them not to use this Taxi Service ever again, but it didn't make me feel better.  It didn't because I know that no matter how mad you are and how much you complain no change is made by the company. And this is a big problem now in Armenia, that many companies don't understand how important is the customer's opinion and that only one in a hundred customers actually expresses his dissatisfaction, the rest just don't use the company services any more. 
I am still hopeful for the Armenian companies to one day start acknowledging that it doesn't take only initiating special offers, it is also very important to find out if the customers are satisfied with the special deals.

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