Friday, January 29, 2010

NTUC Finest stop-and-go

My friend Jessie, who shops at NTUC Finest in Bukit Timah Plaza at least twice a week, has an unwelcomed bunch of sales people to deal with each time she goes there.

This is her story: "On my last two shopping trips there, I was offered some packets of samples by this sweet smiling sales lady. My refusal to accept the samples drew some surprising comments from them such as "They are free...take them".

"The reason why I did not accept those samples was that I did not want to take something I do not need. However, I did feel a little "ungracious" for not accepting this kind offer. This product is Sea of Spa. It claims to be from either the Dead Sea or Red Sea.

"Today, at the same place, a smiling salesgirl cornered me. I decided to accept a small sample package offered. Big mistake. I had to waste 10 minutes of my time with her giving me her sales pitch. I had no intention of buying the product at all but I had difficulty shaking her off.

"I would like to appeal to NTUC Finest to move this bunch of sales people away from the strategic position where they are now located as it is almost impossible for shoppers not to be held up by them. It is like you have to get past the ushers first before getting into the supermarket.

"Fortunately, there is another entrance to NTUC Finest on the lower level. So, for my next shopping trip,I will make it a point to avoid this group of sales people at the upper level entrance."

Let's hope NTUC Finest will consider her request.

***LATEST: NTUC FairPrice has replied to the feedback. In its email to me,
it says: "...We do apologise for any inconvenience caused with regards to the Sea of the Spa sales staff. We are unable to relocate the stall to another level, however, we will remind the staff not to be too persistent in their sales techniques so as not to hold up customers at the entrance. We assure you that we will monitor the situation at the store closely to ensure the smooth flow of customers at the entrance.

Thank you for your feedback and we look forward to serving you again.

Yours sincerely,
Debra Chang Ay Jen
Team Leader, Customer Relations
NTUC Fairprice Co-Operative Ltd"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

FCUK shirt and Thai courtesy

As promised, FCUK Thailand delivered my replacement shirt by DHL this morning. This is customer satisfaction indeed!

I must thank Worada Wongkhan, Assistant Brand Manager & Buyer, French Connection (FCUK) - Thailand, for responding to my email and offering to have my damaged shirt replaced.

He certainly deserves a BOUQUET for courtesy and trust-worthiness.

But it's BOO-QUET for the FCUK head office in London which did not even bother to acknowledge the email that I sent. Ironically, on its website, it promises 100% customer satisfaction. Maybe they do it by proxy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poor service: DBS replies

DBS has promptly replied to a complaint from a family member about its poor service at the Newton POSBANK. (See post below).

And I have responded to say that the long queues were not caused by two members of its staff being away from their counters for just three minutes.
If that had been the case, there would not have been grumblings and comments from its customers at the bank that morning.

As to its offer of $50 notes, my family member says "no, thank you" -- she has already got her supply from another bank quite easily.

By the way, this is not the first time we have experienced poor service from DBS even though we have been banking with them for close to 50 years.

Monday, January 25, 2010

POSBANK: No common sense

A family member went to POSBANK to cash some money for Chinese New Year this morning and came back totally exasperated. She said she had to wait more than half an hour in the queue because only two counters were opened.

What was worse, she did not get the $50 notes that she wanted for Chinese New Year angpows although she was there early and saw notices posted all over the post office telling customers to get their new notes.

"Why didn't DBS anticipate the long queues as it was a Monday, the first working day. They should also know that there would be more people coming to the bank to withdraw money for Chinese New Year," she fumed. "Opening up more counters is such a commonsense thing to do."

She said one man in the queue was so angry that he told a staff member who was going around asking people what services they needed: "It is so easy to take our money, but when we want it back, you take your time!"

Soon after this, another counter was opened....

I don't know what excuses the bank is going to give but it definitely deserves a BOO-QUET.

***LATEST...Here's the reply from DBS to my email:

"We refer to your email of 25 January 2010.

Thank you for taking time to share with us your thoughts about our
products and services.

We sincerely apologise for the less than pleasant service experience
which your family member had encountered recently at our POSB Newton

Our branches usually experience peak transaction activity during lunch
hours, Saturdays, at the beginning or end of the month and also
particularly just after Sundays/ festive periods/ holidays. To speed up
the transaction turnaround and minimize disruption to customer service,
our Branch Service Managers and Deputy Service Managers would also
assist at the counter whenever possible.

According to our findings, there were 4 high counters and 1 Customer
Service counter in operation on the morning of 25 January 2010. The
Branch Service Manager Carol was assisting some customers in the sales
cubicle while the Deputy Service Manager Suhaidah, who was assisting at
one of the high counters, had attended to your family member.

At one point, two of the high counter staff had gone to the backroom to
open the cash vault leaving only two high counters were opened. This
took about 3 minutes and the two staff had immediately gone back to
their respective counters after that.

Concerning the request for the new S$50 notes, the stock had been fully
exchanged and there were no more new S$50 notes available for exchanged. Suhaidah had then offered new S$100 notes for exchange which your family member had informed was not needed.

Once again, we apologise for the unhappiness which the incident had
caused to your family member and seek your understanding towards the

On the request for new S$50 notes for exchange, we would appreciate it
if you could let us know how many pieces of the notes are required so
that we can make arrangements to have them available for exchange at a
branch of your convenience.

Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to address your concern and
for banking with DBS.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Sy
Assistant Vice President
Customer Care & Feedback Management
Consumer Banking Group
DBS Bank Ltd "

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Toast to Shabu Shabu Gen

After a day of frustration with service providers at M1 and Nokia, my friend Su was compensated with a lovely time when she and hubby had dinner at Shabu Shabu Gen restaurant at Shaw Centre.

With the impatient attitude of the telco personnel she encountered earlier in the day still fresh in her mind, Su couldn't help but to compare them with the helpful waitresses that she met at the Japanese restaurant.

She told me: "These women who served us were so much better than the telco women in terms of service and knowledge of the products they were selling. What impressed me most was the fact that, although these restaurant waitresses couldn't speak English very well, they managed to communicate effectively with their customers.

"So, to me, it is not how well educated a person is that makes her a good service provider. Rather, it is the sincerity of wanting to serve in a friendly manner and knowing how to explain clearly that makes the difference."

Therefore, it's BOUQUET for the Shabu Shabu Gen waitresses and the BOOQUET to the M1 and Nokia service staff.

*** LATEST Nokia has replied to Su's complaint. Go to "Impatience rules at M1 and Nokia" and read its reply at the bottom.

Here's Shabu Shabu Gen's reply:

"My name is Raymond and I am in charge of Corporate Communications for the Les Amis Group.

Thank you for your email dated 24th January regarding the memorable dinner your daughter had at Shabu Shabu Gen. We are delighted to learn of the memorable experience she had with us. Your encouraging words will certainly be of much inspiration to all our staff.

We greatly appreciate your taking time to provide us with the valuable comments, and sharing them on your blog. We look forward to welcoming you back to Shabu Shabu Gen, or any of the restaurants in our Group soon!

Kind regards,
Raymond Lim M.B.A.
Les Amis Group
1 Scotts Road
Shaw Centre"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bizarre Starhub service

I seem to be getting more complaints against telcos. This is how my friend Aloysius describes his recent experience with Starhub:

"This whole episode is really bizarre and is like a page out of a comic play. I have been extremely patient and if Starhub takes my patience for granted they are not worth my patronage and I may take my custom elsewhere but it will be a great pity as I have been their customer for nearly ten years."

Go to Blog Archive and click on "Hello Starhub: Stop wasting my time" to read Aloysius' full account of his experience.
I have sent his feedback to Starhub in the meantime.

***LATEST To date (Feb 1) I have had no response from Starhub about my friend Aloysius' complaint.

Impatience rules at M1 and Nokia

My friend Su is so angry with M1 and Nokia. She sent me this email today (Jan 22):

"Bought N97mini, one of the newest phones in the market.

Tried to sync my phone on Ovi which is Nokia's website for apps/backup/sync etc. Followed instructions exactly from the website but i didn't receive any sms as the website said i would in order to configure my phone for syncing. So i call M1.

The hotline woman was impatient and unhelpful and she raised her voice at me when i asked questions. Then she transfers me to their technical staff, who says call the Nokia Careline, which i did.

I get someone who has a strong foreign accent, so i have to ask her to repeat herself several times, and each time she shows her impatience by raising her voice. And instead of telling me how to configure Ovi, she tells me to download PC Suite instead, which i do following her instructions.

Then i ask about Ovi, and she essentially tells me just use PC Suite, with no good explanation of why i can't use Ovi.

And i've been "backing up" my stuff for the last hour and it is still stuck at 16%.

I'm moving to Singtel and buying an iPhone"

I told Su that I will email her complaint to M1 and Nokia.

**** LATEST: Nokia replied today (Jan 23):

"We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused. Please allow us to assure you that your experience in this instance is not typical of Nokia's level of customer service. We continue to be committed to providing you and all of our customers with the highest standards of service in the industry.
"We value all constructive feedback that we receive. While we can appreciate the dismay expressed in your correspondence, we can assure you that Nokia prioritize and understand the support required by our customers. The comments you have made will not go unnoticed and we will strive to ensure that every effort is made to assure our customers of the level of commitment available. Rest assured that your feedback will be highlighted on to the relevant department and look into this matter."

Will just have to wait until the next time to see whether it can maintain
its "highest standards of service in the industry".

Thursday, January 21, 2010

FCUK: Good news at last!!!

I received good news from FCUK Thailand today.

Just as I was about to give up hope, the agent for the British brand of clothing emailed to apologise for selling me a colour-run shirt and offered to send over a new one as replacement. (Click on comments after the posting, "FCUK: A run for my money" to read the email).

Thanks to the Internet and my persistence (ahem!), the new shirt will arrive next week by DHL. Touch wood, I hope the colour will not run this time. I need it for Chinese New Year!!!!


I also received an email today from SingPost (finally) in response to feedback from my friend May who wasn't too impressed with the efficiency at the post office in Sixth Avenue when she went there to buy some stamps earlier this month.

SingPost gave its explanation for the hold-up but I must say it could have been a bit more thorough and let May know where she can go to buy her postage stamps without having to wait in a long queue. (Click on comments after the post, "Slow service at SingPost" to read the reply).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Food for thought at Noble House

My friend's office wanted to host a lunch for some overseas visitors and approached Noble House Restaurant to make the arrangement. After some discussion, the menu was fixed and the price agreed upon.

Then someone in the office remembered that many of the Western visitors might not be keen to have shark fin soup as one of the dishes, guessing that many of them would probably be anti-shark finning supporters.

So they called the restaurant and requested that the shark fin dish be changed to a vegetable dish instead. The person who took the call said that it was not a problem, but they would have to pay an extra $2 per head to have the dish changed.

That took them by surprise as they thought the vegetable dish would have cost less than the sharks' fin soup.

My friend's colleagues were of course unhappy as they have been frequent
customers of the restaurant. They considered going to another restaurant.

A couple of days later, they called Noble House again. This time, they were attended to by another member of the staff who, when told about the $2 charge, said there was no need for it.

With no extra charge, the idea of changing venue was dropped. The visitors came, had a good meal and went away satisfied.

My friend said the service was good, but she is still wondering why they were being asked for the $2 extra change by the first member of the staff.

Guess I have to give Noble House Restaurant a BOO-QUET for its inconsistency.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

FCUK: A run for my money

I bought a FCUK shirt in Bangkok over the New Year holiday, brought it back to Singapore, had my maid rinsed and dried it, and, sadly, discovered that the colour had run !!!

It was unbelievable! It was also the first time that I had a shirt ruined because of a colour run. And to think that FCUK is a well-known brand.

I hope the Brits will not say it's the French fault. After all, FCUK stands for French Connection United Kingdom, and not a mis-spelling of THAT infamous four-letter word.

What should I do with the shirt that is now hanging forlornly in the cupboard? I called a FCUK retailer here, hoping it could offer some help to have the wretched shirt exchanged.

No such luck. It will only do so for products purchased here and has nothing to do whatsoever with the Bangkok retailer which, incidentally, is in Central Chidlom, a large shopping mall.

As a last resort, I googled and got to both the French Connection head office in London and the one in Bangkok where I made my complaint.

With fingers crossed, I await their response.

Norton efficiency

There are service providers and service providers. Some are friendly and helpful. Others are less so but are nevertheless proficient in their work. Then there are those whom I would avoid like the plague.

I spoke to one this morning who falls into the middle category. His name is Patel. I got to him when I called Norton Singapore to seek help
to reinstal my internet security software.

After going through a series of pressing this-and-that buttons, in accordance with the instructions given by an American-accented man, I finally had Patel speaking to me in his soft Indian voice.

I suspect he was working from a call centre, but I didn't ask him as he wasn't exactly the chatty sort. For a brief moment, I had visions of the confusion that was coming my way. I guess I must have been watching too many videos of hilarious mix-up at call centres.

It took me a minute or two before I was able to fully comprehend Patel, especially after listening to the American voice earlier on. But once I got used to the Indian voice and what he was telling me to do, there was absolutely no problem.

Welcome to the globalised world! And a BOUQUET for Patel.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hello Starhub...don't waste my time

I have always told my friends about the first-rate service that I get from Starhub. However, with my latest experience, I am not sure whether I would dare to do it again.

The main reason is the difficulty that I now encounter whenever I try to contact them for one kind of service or another. I used to be able to call a number and get to speak to friendly service staff like Maya, Bonnie and William.

This is not possible now because, for some inexplicable reason, that line of communication has been discontinued. That "special number", I must point out, was not given to me. It was recorded on my mobile when I was talking to them two years ago about a handphone I was considering buying. So I took the opportunity to use this channel whenever I needed to get in touch with them as it was very convenient.

With that line cut off, I have no choice now but to call the hotline, 1633, and listen to the recorded voice of to a woman who keeps telling me to "hold the line, your call is important to us, we will be with you shortly."

The unfortunate thing, as I discovered many times, is that my call is so important that very often I do not end up speaking to "a real person". The last time this happened was last Tuesday evening.

I called 1633 at 9 p.m. as I wanted to report a faulty set-top box and have it replaced. As usual, that woman's voice came on -- and droned continously for what seemed like eternity.

I must confess that I do not have the patience of a saint, but this time, instead of hanging up after a few minutes, I let it go on as I wanted to see how long it would take before I got a chance to speak to a customer service officer.

But there was no such luck. Sharp at 9.15 pm., the woman's voice suddenly announced that the service had ended for the day. I couldn't protest there and then even if I had wanted to. However, she was kind enough to ask that I leave my contact number so that someone could call me back.

So much for being an important caller and that I would be attended to shortly.

Starhub did return my call the next day, but only after I had made another call to report my problem.

To be fair, the only gripe that I have with the telco is the ability to get through to its service people quickly so that I do not have to waste precious time. I have absolutely no complaint with its service personnel whenever they come to my house to do their work as these people are usually very polite and helpful.

I would also like to clarify that the time-wasting problem arising from the use of recorded telephone voices is not a monopoly of Starhub. Many large organisations in Singapore have also resorted to using this type of technology and their customers are facing the same problem of getting through as well.

I would like to suggest to Starhub to encourage its customers to use the email to communicate whatever problems they have instead of relying on just the 1633 hotline. I am sure that would help clear the logjam which we have been encountering.

In the meantime, I will hold back my award of a BOOQUET to the telco, but will keep monitoring its services.
**** LATEST: A few days after the set-top box was replaced, another problem cropped up --- there was an error in the smart-card. I called 1633 again. This time I got through without much waiting. A pleasant customer service officer named Chanti attended to me. The smart-card was replaced a few hours later. I was impressed.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cheerful Cindy from Novita

Only days into the new year, I am happy to report that I have had two pleasant encounters with service staff.

On Monday, my wife and I went to Novita, the Lifestyle Makers, whose office is in the Upper Thomson area, to get her garment steamer repaired. We were attended to by Cindy, a cheerful young lady.

She took the steamer, went into another room and, in a matter of minutes, was out to tell us what the problem was. She said it would cost us $20 to change the part that was faulty.

My wife told her that perhaps she should waive the charge as the steamer was seldom used since it was purchased. We could sense that she didn't have the authority to accede to our request.

Instead, she asked for the receipt of the purchase. When she saw the model number and the purchase date, she happily told us that it was still under guarantee.

Cindy could easily have got us to agree to the payment without telling us about the three-year guarantee and we would have no choice but to comply.

For the professional manner in which she handled her customer, I think she deserves a BOUQUET.

....Friendly Sandy from NUHS

The next day, I met another service-oriented lady at the National University Health System's (NUHS) Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Centre. Her name is Sandy.

For the record, I must say that I was not there to have a makeover but for medical reason. I was impressed by Sandy's eagerness and thoroughness in explaining the efficacy of the two products that were recommended to me by my consultant.

She took pains to show me how they should be used and even repeated -- more than once -- the important aspects of their applications.

What I liked best about her approach was her ability to connect with the person she was speaking to. She was talking like a friend giving me advice.

A BOUQUET for Sandy as well.

Slow service at SingPost

My friend May, who appreciates good service when she sees one being rendered, but can also be upset/irritated when she comes across inefficient or lazy service providers, sent me this email yesterday:

"WE WENT to the post office at Sixth Avenue this afternoon, just after 2 pm. There were 5 people in the queue ahead of me. One staff was seated at each of the 3 counters. In the middle position, I noticed the counter staff was doing something else instead of serving the customers in the queue. On the counter top was a sign which said, "Position closed".

"Okay, so it explains why she was not helping to clear the queue. But it is hardly a consolation for me, as all I wanted was to purchase stamp booklets, but I had to wait in the queue.

"And it was a long wait as everyone of the 5 people ahead of me, had transactions which took a long time. To illustrate, by the time I finally got served, the queue had built up to about 12 or 13 people.

"The middle counter finally decided to start serving the customers in the queue when I had moved into No. 2 position. When I was finally served by counter 3, this staff put up the "position closed" sign immediately after I bought my stamp booklets from her.

"So, the rest of the long queue would again be left with 2 staff serving them. Now, all this while, I noticed another staff (she appeared to be the supervisor) walking up and down, looking very busy but showing absolutely no interest in the fact that the customer queue was building up.

"If I were in her position, common sense would dictate that I chip in to help move the queue, and leave my other duties aside temporarily. But her attitude appeared to be that customers have no other choice but to wait for service at SingPost. How sad!

"I asked the counter staff where else I could get my stamp booklets so that I can avoid wasting time in a queue each time I needed to buy stamps. Her answer was not very useful. She said "some bookshops are agents and they will be able to sell me the stamp booklets". Exactly where these shops are is left to me to find out!"

SingPost gets a BOO-QUET for this. I will forward this post to the management and await its response. Meanwhile, stay connected.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hiccup at Shangri-La

Four fun days in Bangkok over the New Year holiday were sufficient time for our group of 14 to forget about the woes of the world for a brief moment.

Back in Singapore, however, an online survey from Shangri-La Hotel, the place we stayed in, promptly reminded me of the unnecessary hassle that we were put through before we could have our room reservations confirmed.

As far as I know, it is the practice of international hotels to simply deduct a one- night room charge as deposit to secure room reservation after credit card details and authorisation have been given.

But, strangely, Shangri-La wanted something more -- it asked us to make photo-copies of our credit cards, both front and back, and to have them faxed over. The reason, it explained, was "due to security and make sure that card is same person".

Most of us were not happy, to say the least. One hotelier in our group said that it was not right to do this as we were not involved in any third-party transactions. We were all authorising our own payments and the hotel could have easily checked our credit cards on arrival.

Nevertheless, most of us complied as we did not want to create a fuss, except for one couple, who stood their ground and refused.

The husband emailed the hotel: "I have provided you full details of my credit card with which you can now receive the guaranteed full amount of one day's room rate.

"I fail to understand why you require a copy of my credit card (front and back) as this can serve no further purpose except to expose me to possibility of forgery or other malpractice as advised by American Express office here in Singapore.
They advise that it is not necessary to provide a copy of my credit card to enable you to collect the one day's room rate."

When the hotel did not reply to their objection, the couple wrote another email, this time to ask for confirmation of their reservation. It was duly acknowledged.

For not bending to the unreasonable demand of the hotel, I would award my friends, EC and May, a BOUQUET.

As for the reservation team in Shangri-La, it has to be a BOO-QUET
*** LATEST: To date (Feb 1), Shangri-La has not replied to my email. So I must assume that it will continue with its practice of asking for copies of credit cards to be faxed over before room reservations can be confirmed.