I had recently commented about (tweeted!) how brilliantly LIC’s online premium paying service works. The best part about it is the fact they seem to have spent time in understanding customers’ requirements.

Almost every single corporate in India demands premium receipts from employees during January/ February every year, so that they could be accounted for, before the close of financial year, in March. LIC’s system works perfectly – you pay receipt online, even if its in advance, and generate a PDF receipt instantly.

ICICI, on the other hand, is the other extreme.

I have been to ICICI Prudential branch in Koramanagala thrice so far in my life – every year, in the first week of January, mostly on a Saturday morning. The scene is exactly the same – as many as 50+ annoyed, on-the-verge-of-getting-unruly customers waiting for assorted things – an ‘audience’ with the customer service representative; receipt for premium paid via cheque that is sent through a watchman, to the inner precincts; for a token from the watchman to know their turn for an ‘audience’…and so on.

Having gone through this thrice, I wanted to know if this could be done online, like LIC, and save some valuable time.

ICICI Prudential has an online payment service, but hear this – you cannot generate receipt for any payment if it is done in advance. We could generate receipts only after the due date! But, as ICICI proudly claims, you can pay online – if you want to, and let them sit over your payment like a magpie.

So, off I went today, again, for the 4th time, to the same ICICI Prudential branch. Waited for the mandatory 15+ minutes, amidst 50+ other annoyed, on-the-verge-of-getting-unruly customers and got my turn, finally, to meet a human, for some queries.

1st question: Why can’t I pay this online, generate an online temporary receipt as proof, save myself some time and save you, the customer service representative, some time too, in the bargain?
Response: Yes sir, you can pay this online!

2nd question: But the reciept?
Response: That you’ll get only after the premium due date.

3rd question: But the due date falls in end-February; my finance department wants the receipt before mid-January!
Response: Oh!

4th question: Oh? And, if a nationalized organization like LIC can make it happen and save us trouble, why can’t an otherwise-efficient private organization like ICICI Prudential?
Response: I’m not interested in hearing what LIC does – this is what we do at ICICI Prudential!

5th question: That doesn’t make sense – you mean, the only way to get a receipt if we paid premium in advance is to drop in to this office, wait patiently for either the token or this ‘audience with you’ along with 50+ pissed off customers?
Response: I think you’re pissed off from the waiting sir…

6th quip: Gee thanks, you noticed…

7th question: So, correct me if I’m wrong in my understanding – you’ll continue to not look at better ways of doing things and continue each year, during December, January and February, to face irate, harried customers?
Response: <A look which said, can I pass? And, can we go to the next question?>

8th quip: Here are my 3 cheques – please do give me my receipts.
Response: <A look which said, Yippeee, he’s done with this line of questioning!>

There are 2 points worth noting, here.

1. As a customer, I have seen that there is a better, efficient system – that exists elsewhere, in a competing organization. In short, I’ve seen the wheel…so I’d think twice before taking a coarse, caveman route for transportation, again. Note that I have insurance accounts only in 2 places – LIC, like most Indians, and in ICICI Prudential – so I cannot comment on how other insurance brands in India operate.

2. If that kind lady had thought of any response that seem to show that she cares, I’d not be ranting here at all. Instead, she chose to treat me as just another angry customer she’s adept in dealing with cold, calculated precision – it was almost as if ICICI’s communications team has given her a secret document titled, “FAQs for dealing with annoyed customers during the months of December, January and February”. What she chose to do was to not respect any emotion or feeling from a customer and merely go on with her work, which is, delivering receipts.

Also, the only reason why I’m blogging about it is because I’m not alone in this silliness – head to your nearest ICICI Prudential branch on a Saturday morning this month and take a look at the exact same scene. If this was a personal grievance, my first instinct, as I had advised in my own post, ‘Whine flu‘, is to try and deal with it with them directly first. Here, the process seems seriously flawed…or outdated. It demands a relook.

So, here’s the deal. I’m writing my experiences with a considerably lesser amount of sarcasm and annoyance, as a hand-written letter, and sending it to ICICI Prudential, by courier, on Monday, next week.

Let us see where this goes!