Telecom giant on Wednesday hit back on the row and said that “Mostly, untrue and factually incorrect” things were said about the way company handled the case on Monday.
NEW DELHI: Telecom giant Airtel on Wednesday issued a full-page statement over the bigotry row that led to a Twitter war in the last 48 hours. “At Airtel, we never have and never will succumb to differentiating on the basis of religion, ethnicity or caste,” said the company.
The controversy started with a customer showing hateful behavior with a Muslim executive of the company on Twitter on Monday afternoon and the company proceeded to resolve the grievances of the customer rather than denouncing her bigotry immediately. In the night on that day, the company issued a statement denouncing customer’s bigotry but before that it had faced strong condemnation from people on the social media.
In its statement on Wednesday, the Airtel said: “In the past 24 hours, a lot has happened and a lot has been said. Mostly, untrue and factually incorrect.”
The company said its executives Shoaib and Gaganjot handled the case of the customer on the basis who of the two was available at that time and it is incorrect that Shoaib was replaced by Gaganjot after the bigotry shown by the customer to Shoaib.
“For us, Monday was simply a case of two dedicated professionals, Shoaib and Gaganjot, following a dutiful course in their regular work shift. But it ended with making national headlines. As is true for most customer care processes, the idea is minimize the time taken to resolve any customer query. So when a customer writes in and one advisor is busy, the query gets assigned to the next available advisor automatically. Which is exactly what happened with Shoaib and Gaganjot.”
The company further said that on Monday, the two faced a different situation but acted in a routine manner.
“First, a customer who made an outrageous request of preferring to talk to someone of a particular religious identity. Second, a realization that this was to be given more importance and responded to before solving the actual service issue. But regardless, they continued to dedicatedly work towards ensuring that the case was progressing towards a solution.”
“They didn’t see that the world was watching and reading into this from a very different lens. The fact that Shoaib wasn’t logged in and that Gaganjot took up the case got read as ‘bowing down to bigotry.’ The fact that Gaganjot didn’t check his colleague’’ religious identity before taking up the case got read as ‘heading to a discriminatory request’.
Harsh Lesson For Shoaib and Gaganjot
In its statement, Airtel said: “While Shoaib and Gaganjot went about working on this case they learn a harsh lesson. That their religious identity matters. That they should check identifies before taking up the responsibility of a service request. Maybe from here on, they will. However, we will resist that. Strongly. We promise you that we will try our best to let them stay innocent and bereft of religious considerations in the path of their duty. Our training manuals will never carry instructions to pause and check one’s identity before serving a query.”
“We are still trying to wrap our head around how one colleague responding on behalf of another is being misconstrued as our ‘acceptance of discrimination’. We did not and we repeat, we DID NOT change the advisor because of the unfathomable request from the said customer. At Airtel, we never have and never will succumb to differentiating on the basis of religion, ethnicity or caste. We will continue to train our representatives to see the world without the filters of bias, of any kind. Airtel has been resolute for 23 years. And our resolve comes from the way we have built this company – on teamwork, perseverance and sheer love for what we do. We would not have gotten this far if we lived by shallow principles of discrimination.”
“Shoaib and Gaganjot and other members of the team will continue to respond to you basis who is ready and available. It’s now upon you to be judge of what impression this episode has left on these two minds and possibly many more,” said Airtel.
At the end of the statement, Airtel again hit at the mindset to see things from communal angle by deliberately hiding the name of the Official Airtel Spokesperson who issued the statement. It wrote: “Name withheld so you can read this free of religious and caste overtones.”
Chronology of Event
At 12:09 PM on Monday, a customer Pooja Singh @pooja303singh wrote: “@airtelindia pathetic Airtel DTH customer service. I raised complaint for reinstallation of DHT. but assigned service engineer misbehaved with me. His words are “Tum Phone Rakho Dobara call mt krna ” his number is+91 79-85195094. This is how Airtel is looting its customer.”
At 12:18, Airtel executive Shoaib responded: “Hey, I most definitely appreciate you reaching out here! We’ll take a closer look into that & get back shortly with more information. Thank you, Shoaib.”
At 2:59 PM, Pooja came up with this hateful comment: “Dear Shoaib, as you’re a Muslim and I have no faith in your working ethics because Kuran may have different version for customer service, thus requesting you to assign a Hindu representative for my request. Thanks”.
At 3:25 PM, Airtel’s another executive Gaganjot responded: “Hi Pooja! As discussed, please let me know what days and time frames work best for you so we can talk. Further, please share an alternate number so that I can assist you further with this. Thank you, Gaganjot.”
This led to a Twitter war with condemnations raining both on her and the company.
Barkha Dutt: “Whaaat. This is awful. And if it was inadvertent rotation the company should have ticked off the bigot first. Problem with too much automation or did they surrender to prejudice?
Kavita Krishnan: @Airtel_Presence @airtelindia we too are your customers and are waiting for you to publicly clear your stand, defend your employee Shoaib who was subjected to discrimination on grounds of religion (unconstitutional), tell the bigoted customer you stand by #Shoaib
Pratik Sinha: Hello @Airtel_Presence, an employee of yours was discriminated on the basis of religion by a customer of yours. Instead of standing up for your employee, you promptly complied with such a bigoted request? @airtelindia”
Omar Abdullah: “Dear @Airtel_Presence this conversation is genuine (I’ve seen the timeline myself). I refuse to pay another penny to a company that condones such blatant bigotry. I’m beginning the process of porting my number to another service provider & canceling my DTH & Broadband.”
Airtel Responds to Customer’s Bigotry on Monday night
At 8:18 PM, the company responded to the bigotry shown by the customer.
The head of Airtel Response Team replied to the customer. “Dear Pooja, at Airtel, we absolutely do not differentiate between customers, employees and partners on the basis of caste or religion. We would urge you to do the same. Both Shoaib and Gaganjot are part of our customer resolution team. If any customer contacts us for an ongoing service issue then the first available service executive responds in the interest of time. On your query, we will get back to you as soon as there is an update. Thanks – Himanshu, Airtel Response Team Lead.”