Thursday, July 29, 2010
My friend May, the globe-trotter who has just returned from yet another jaunt,
sms-ed me to say that she has something for my blog.
"But it is not quite a service issue," she says, before adding "more like daylight
May was entertaining some of her business friends over lunch at the hotel's Yan Ting restaurant yesterday. It was a pleasant afternoon until she saw the bill.
The total bill came to about $230, but the shocker was the price for four cups of black coffee --- $60. May, who has drunk coffee in posh places all over the world, believes St Regis' cuppa must be the most expensive that she has come across.
She remembers her first shock was sometime ago at the same hotel when she paid $12 for a cuppa. When she gave her feedback to the management, she felt that their attitude was: "Don't go there if you cannot afford it!".
Well, at $15 per cuppa now, it is not exactly a case of deja vu.
"It was parked right at the top of the stairs, in a passageway meant for pedestrians,'' Anne said.
"Everyone else was parked neatly in the marked parking spaces (white
markings, wheel stops before the kerbs ) except for this car. It's not as if the car park was full - as it sometimes is."
The Traffic Police replied to her to say that they have nothing to do with enforcing parking regulations there and passed her complaint to the HDB which in turn forwarded it to the National Environment Agency (NEA).
Now Anne wonders whether the car park is "an orphan" and who is going to "adopt" it when the musical chairs' music stops.
"In any event, if it is the NEA then I need to add a complaint that the car park area is often littered - with drinks packets, plastic bags and such," she said, addding:
"And, oh, I was at Tiong Bahru market three days later and took this shot (above left) of one of the staircases, showing the pedestrian passage from a different perspective (the Beetle was parked where these pedestrians are walking, but on a different day and a different landing - this is just to show how the space is sufficent for a car but is not marked for parking)".
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
But the Sistic system wouldn't allow it. Neither would it let Irene book them on the phone with their credit card.
However, it WILL let her book them with her credit card on one condition --Sistic wants Justina and Patrick to show them Irene's credit card when they pick up the tickets at the Esplanade.
Relating her experience to the couple, Irene said: "The nice lady on the phone had to consult a supervisor who said I could give you a letter of authorisation
to show the gang at the Esplanade when you pick up the ticket, to which I said I wasn't mailing no letter to nobody.
"After some botheration, they agreed that I could email you and them and that you could then print out the email (THIS IS IT!) and present it as authorisation.
"As a management analyst would conclude, this extra botheration just quadrupled the cost of a Sistic transaction from 5 minutes to at least 20 minutes. Further, if this meant putting on hold and putting off others trying to buy tickets, that cost to Sistic was just magnified further. All this in efficient Singapore!"
Surely, there must be an easier way for our overseas guests to book tickets for shows at the Esplanade. Otherwise, how to be a centre for the arts???
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
A pleasant smile, a cheery "hello" or some words to sooth one's nerves, especially in a hospital environment, can certainly help to make your day.
I experienced this yesterday (July 26) when I went to Mount Elizabeth Hospital for my routine scan.
Nurse Kathleen Phun, who inserted a needle into my right hand to enable a gadget to be fixed for putting in the dye, tried to put me at ease as she went about her work.
I assured her that I was okay since it was not the first time having the scan. Thereafter, we chatted about her former colleague who had gone back to India and also the takeover battle for the hospital chain between the Fortis and the Khazanah groups.
Of course, we didn't realise at that time that it was a momentous day because Khazanah was about to announce its raised offer and put an end to the tussle.
Although what she did to my hand was routine, what I appreciated was the small talk that helped to take away some of the boredom of hospital visits.
The other nurse who was just as pleasant was Poh Hwa. She was the attendant in the scanning room. Though we exchanged only a few words, she made the effort to put me at ease, again not knowing that I was not a newbie.
Some of you would probably know this about how some people who, with their demeanour and body language, instantly project their helpful nature the moment you meet them.
I felt Poh Hwa was that kind of person. Mount E should be proud of both
Kathleen and Poh Hwa.
Monday, July 26, 2010
But, sad to say, I have noticed that we Asians are much slower when it comes to showering praises on just about anybody -- taxi-drivers, waiters, shop assistants, our subordinates in the office, even our dear ones.
When I started this blog, I said specifically that I wanted to use it not just to slam the sloppy service providers but also to compliment those who go the extra mile.
At this juncture, when I have posted just over 100 items on my blog, the ratio of compliments to complaints is just about 1:5. Which proves my point that we are all very stingy with our praises.
Surely there must be many days in our lives when we come across someone, be it the smiling petrol kiosk attendant or the hardworking Starbuck waitress, who has done something beyond what you expect.
I would urge you to try and note down the names of these people, and, when you have a moment to spare later in the day, to write some kind words that will help to cheer them up and make their day.
It is as simple as that! Remember, the important thing is to be keenly aware and appreciate the little things that come your way each day -- and make it a point to commend the people dishing them out.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Back from her honeymoon, Celia finally found time to write about the excellent service she had from Ritz Carlton at her wedding lunch.
She wrote: "We had our wedding lunch at the Ritz Carlton about two months back and must commend Ritz for offering superior service from the very beginning.
"Our wedding coordinator, Joey, was excellent - professional, accomodating, helpful and warm. She was always one step ahead, reminding us of tasks that we needed to accomplish and offering solutions before we even realised there was a problem. She never declined any of our requests outrght but always found ways to accomodate our needs.
"Service to our suite was also excellent. Each time we asked for assistance, a member of the staff would appear promptly, almost as if he or she had teleported to our door. Every member of staff we came into contact with during our stay not only behaved in a professional manner, but also came across as warm and friendly.
"One particular incident stood out for us. During the lunch, my mum had helped my grandmothers, who are both getting on in years, to cut their food from the first dish into smaller pieces. The service staff noticed and immediately offered to take over the task from my mum.
"My mum thanked them for the offer but declined the help since she had already started. They then informed her that they would cut the food in all subsequent dishes into smaller pieces for my grandmothers.
"I think the Ritz Carlton team deserves a BOUQUET for their initiative and professionalism."
Thursday, July 22, 2010
David Heng of the restaurant, who had earlier apologised to her in a short note which I thought was inadequate, spoke to her to try and make amends. He followed up with this email to her:
"It was a pleasure speaking to you this afternoon. Thank you for sharing with me what you felt about your dining experience at Food for Thought 8Q. After sending that initial email to you, I was able to find the time yesterday to sit down with my guys face to face to work through with them the lapses that led to the incident.
"It was clearly a mistake to have served the burnt cake and we sincerely apologise for that oversight from the kitchen end. Also, our service staff should have made better decisions on the spot and been more prompt and proactive in fixing what was clearly an undesirable situation.
"We hope you will give us an opportunity to make it up to you. Please accept our invitation for a complimentary dinner for two back at Food for Thought. If you could let me know when you will be coming by, I would like to serve you personally.
"Thank you for your patronage and the frank feedback - it has been useful in helping us see areas we need to improve upon. I hope to hear from you soon. Have a blessed week! "
David's second attempt at damage control is certainly way better than his first. I am sure our service and customer relations people can learn from this.
LATEST: After the above was posted, the Food For Thought Team sent this to me:
Dear Pern Yew,
We were notified by CL herself that the account of the incident was put up on this blog.
Thank you for highlighting not just the services lapses that we made but our subsequent follow up with her as well.
We do appreciate the fair gesture!
The team at Food for Thought shares your desire to see good service in Singapore and is invested in making a visit to our cafes a pleasant experience.
We hope everyone will continue to support and encourage those working at the frontlines of the service industry.
Have a blessed week,
from the Food for Thought team
It was about a woman, Ms Chong Shiau Wei, who had waited for hours to see her doctor at SGH so that they could go through her blood test results. But he refused to see her, so she wrote to Forum Page to complain.
Although SGH apologised to her, its reply sparked a backlash as it was deemed curt and insincere.
Lucy says her relative had exactly the same experience. If you are interested in her story, please go to http://singaporegirl.wordpress.com/2010/07/10/whats-up-with-docs-at-sgh/ to read it.
Her parting words to me were: "Guess we will never have decent service at SGH, despite its tag line, Patients at the heart of all we do!"
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
She wrote this review and alerted the management of the restaurant: "After our main dish (which was pleasant enough), my friend and I ordered the Red Velvet cake for dessert.
"After I bit into the first piece, I thought it tasted odd, hard and tasteless. Having never had it before, I thought it was how the cake was supposed to taste.
"However, this was not the first time my friend had the Red Velvet and declared that it tasted bad compared to the previous experience. I ate a couple more bites and then it dawned on me what was wrong with the cake, it was burnt! Not just burnt slightly but burnt black at the top and the base.
"I turned the cake over and discovered that I was right. I also scraped off the very thick cream cheese icing and to my horror found the black top as well (see picture). Given the very charred piece of cake, I informed the waiter.
"The waiter looked quite lost but carried off the cake to his very sour-faced manager who looked at the cake, shook his head and muttered something to the waiter. (All this while, I was in a seat facing the counter where the manager had plonked himself, behind the counter).
"The waiter came back, put the cake back on the table and informed me that he would give feedback to the chef. He left.
"After about 7 minutes, I wondered if he got lost locating the chef so I waved for him and asked if he had informed the chef. He told me to wait and went off again to say something to his sour-faced manager who was still behind the counter. The manager said nothing to him and the waiter went off.
"My friend and I continued to wait with the burnt cake sitting in front of us (in full view of the manager, may I add). The waiter meanwhile scurried around serving other diners without so much as another look in my direction.
"After about 15 minutes, I couldn't wait any longer and asked the waiter if he had informed the chef. The waiter then told me that he could not inform the chef because the chef was not present. He then looked at me blankly.
"By this time, I had had enough of the poor service and asked him whether he was going to just let the cake sit at the table or whether he intended to offer a replacement. He floundered and the sour-faced manager FINALLY looked up and spoke to me to ask me how he could help.
"I asked him whether he intended to replace the cake. His excuse was "oh I didn't know whether you wanted another cake or I would just waive the charges on that piece of cake". I asked him whether he ever intended to replace the cake or just make us wait whilst they allegedly gave feedback to their chef (who was not there!).
"Sour-faced manager grudgingly offered us another piece of cake. We chose one and he proceeded to go back behind the counter to get the piece of cake. Within my full view, he picked up the selected cake and as he was transferring it from the tray onto my plate, he TOUCHED the cake with his BARE hands to keep it steady and upright on the plate.
"Albeit he only touched a small corner of the cake but it was nonetheless unhygienic as he had been handling money and definitely unprofessional.
"Further, although he informed me that all the pieces of Red Velvet were similarly burnt, he continued to serve it to 2 other tables who ordered it instead of informing them that the cake was burnt and clearly not in a condition to be served or eaten.
"I am deeply disappointed with my experience at Food For Thought. This was my first visit to the branch at 8Q and I had heard so many good things about the place. What a disappointment :( "
Certainly a lot of food for thought!
Food For Thought management responded promptly (July 20) but inadequately.
"Thank you for your email and we are sorry that you didn't enjoy your evening. We will take note of your feedback and the appropriate actions would be taken. Thank you so much again.
After what CL and her friend went through, I think they deserve better.
BOO-QUET for poor service and inability to do damage control.
Monday, July 19, 2010
The latest to complain is Anne Holloway who sent me her online feedback to the telco PLUS her extra comments in parenthesis.
She said: "I attempted to sign up for Mio TV online. (Singtel's online services are appalling for the premier and coddled telco in a country that boasts of leading edge technology and what that represents.)
"Long story short ended up doing it via telephone since your online response was to wait 3 working days! (Since we are considered only a tiny piece of snot we can get away with inferior communications and technology to some degree - snail mail and public or private transport enables people in Singapore to get to retail shops and service outlets unlike in countries like the USA where there is a vital need for online services to work).
"The MIO box was installed Thursday (July 15). The next day, no sound was forthcoming and it was agreed that a technician would come Saturday 17 July. He did not and someone from Singtel called to check our address because the technician said he could not find our home (same address as has been on our phone bill for about 10 years and to which the technician who installed the box came to on 15 July!). The appointment was rescheduled for today, Monday (July 19) between 2-4pm.
"(Mindful of my last experience with Singtel's reliability, I called to remind them and also to find out why no one had yet turned up but was given the run around.)
"I had called and spoken to a woman who then put me through to Ramesh who then had to speak to the relevant department. (After the various phone prompts, I got a woman who then said she would have to check with the relevant department; next thing I knew I got a man called Ramesh who went through the same details as the woman did before telling me that he had to put me on hold while he checked with the relevant department. He did come back and say that someone would be coming.)
"(Not believing Ramesh, I called again. This time I got to Tech Support and spoke to a man who told me his name is Mega. We had to go through a ritual again and then he took my cellphone number and said that someone from the relevant department would call me back)
"I called again and selected Tech Support, got Mega this time. He took my cellphone number and then Leong (91444741) called to say the technician was 10 minutes away.
"(When Leong called to say someone was on the way and assured me he'd be arriving within 10 minutes I told him - in no uncertain terms - that I had been misled before. Anyway the SAME man who set up our MIO and who IS a good tech turned up! After he'd traced the trouble to a loose sound cable behind our TV, he assured me it was now OK. I asked for his name and he said, "Leong"! I added 2+2 and did get 4 this time - the very same chap who spoke to me on the phone some minutes earlier was also the man who set up our system and now had put it right in a matter of minutes.
He told me that the company had called him and asked him to come sort out our problem. I could have asked him when he'd been delegated the task but did not in case I had more fuel!
Anyway, as he left, I told him I was going to keep his phone number and call him direct should anything happen because I was through with calling the company)
"This kind of service is reminiscent of British Telecoms in the early 80's and should not be the sort of service Singtel prides itself on in 2010."
SINGTEL APOLOGISES, BUT ANOTHER ONE HITS THE DUST
Singtel replied to Anne today (July 20) to apologise for the inconvenience caused. It said it had escalated the issue to higher management and taken immediate corrective steps to regain her confidence in them.
Mr Aaron Christian Thiyagarajan, SingNet's Technical Service Officer, wrote:
"Based on your feedback, we will strive to provide better and more timely information to you, continuous and extensive training for our staffs and improved procedures for handling operational difficulties in the future."
He promised that the issue would not surface again.
Unfortunately for Mr. Thiyagarajan, Anne's confidence in Singtel could not have improved because she had another story to tell.
She told Mr Thiyagarajan: "As it happens an old friend of ours, Anwar bin Amin (home tel: 6775 6429) who lives at: Block 1, Dover Road #10-304 mentioned today (July 20) that he has been having endless trouble with his Mio TV.
"It was installed, then within days he could not receive Mio TV channels. It was repaired on Saturday, 17th July, and then a technician came today and announced that they had changed everything that could be changed --- hence it could not be the fault of the set-up!
"That is NOT a very good explanation when Singtel is using its own telephone lines!
"This case makes it four out of four (including ourselves) families that we know who have been forced to subscribe to Singtel Mio to receive their favourite football or F1 racing channel but have not had satisfactory reception.
"Miio is now a topic of conversation, but not for its excellence. Nor for its technical back-up.
"Seriously, very few Starhub subscribers would move if they could continue with their football or motor racing viewing on Starhub.
"Your bosses may receive selective feedback now, but eventually the truth will out.
"In the meantime, perhaps you could arrange to waive charges for the time Mr Anwar bin Amin is unable to receive Mio - as well as get his set up and working."
On Jul 20, 2010, at 2:02 PM, email@example.com wrote:
Here's her latest email to them:
"I am writing to you again and forwarding some of the previous correspondence between us so that your people know that the problems that Starhub presents its customers are never ending.
This past week, I received YET ANOTHER letter from you - this time from your Finance Department.
First, it actually THANKS me for my continued support of Starhub services. How funny is that. I don't have much choice, do I?
Secondly, it informs me that the expiry date for my credit card is June 2008.
Has it really taken you three years to arrive at this conclusion?
May I remind you that THIS YEAR ALONE, I have spent HOURS at your Plaza Singapura service centre or at least what you call a service centre. The last two occasions each involved visits of THREE HOURS.
Please read the partial history of what disservice has been delivered.
May I remind you that I was told over the telephone that a manager by the name of Mr Bing Boon, if I remember correctly, would be expecting me at Plaza Singapura. Nothing of the sort. He wasn't. He looked totally surprised to be told that he was supposed to be expecting me. Still, eventually, he sat down with me and sorted out - or so I thought - the problem of the moment.
That, according to Starhub, was that I had "failed to register" one of my prepaid SIMs. I told the hapless manager that this was intolerable and that I had done this at least twice for each of the several prepaids I keep current for the use of visiting friends. These were topped up every month on my Starhub account. So how could they NOT be considered registered? And why was Starhub threatening to terminate yet another of my prepaid SIMs? So the hapless man worked and worked and worked to solve the problem.
"Am I all done now," I asked at the end. "Yes," he said. He had alreadyhad sight of my identity card, my credit card that is used for autopayment of my Starhub accounts. That American Express card expires in June 2011.
But now, according to your letter of July 14, you want a SIGNED BILL STUB.
So, again, Starhub, I am asking you: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?"
When I applied for my Passion Card on 30th June 2010 I had little inkling how slowly time seems to pass when one is waiting.
This despite smart friends telling me that time passes more quickly as you get older!
Today marks the 20th day since my application was accepted and yet it feels like a life time!
My life and shopping for groceries has not stopped, but every time I check out and am asked, "do you have a Passion Card", I feel a surge of grief as if I have just been orphaned and cast adrift.
Just think of how many points I have left at the checkouts? As a 'kiasu' Singaporean born and bred you don't know what it is doing to my psyche.
I tried searching for a Guinness Book of World Records for the longest time taken to issue a membership or credit card and I couldn't find any.
Maybe I should write to them to start this category?"
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Its reply has not pacified me. Instead it has infuriated me even further.
I had paid $1,000 for that special number in Year 2000 when I bought a new car and had it transferred to another new car five years later, paying only $100. This time, because I had bought a used car, it charged me $1,200 more.
I asked LTA the reason for the huge discrepancy in fees for something that is really simple and routine.
LTA's reply yesterday (July 16) said:
"WE WISH to inform you that the fee to retain the registration number of an existing vehicle, which will be used on a new vehicle to be registered immediately under the same owner's name, is $100.
"However, the fee to retain a registration number, which will be used to replace the number of an existing vehicle that is registered under the same owner's name is $1,300.
"A higher fee is imposed for the latter as it involves replacing a registration number that has already been assigned to the vehicle. You may wish to note that the fee of $1,300 is also comparable to the fee payable to replace an existing number with a number of one's choice (i.e. to bid for a registration number), where the minimum bid amount is $1,000 and the replacement fee is $300 (before GST).
"We hope the above clarifies...
LYE WING WAI
EXECUTIVE SERVICE OFFICER"
MY REPLY TO LTA...
"Dear Mr Lye,
"Thank you for responding. However, your explanation does not clarify anything --- it only adds to infuriate me further. I have the following reasons to be upset:
"1) LTA's charge of $1,300 to retain a number plate for a USED car against only $100 for a NEW car is, to my mind, mere exploitation. You said the higher fee is imposed for the former as "it involves replacing a registration number that has already been assigned to the vehicle."
"My counter to that is, you do not have to assign any number to me in the first place because I had already given notice that I was going to retain my old number which I had already paid $1,000 for it almost 10 years. Your reason, sad to say, was a poor excuse.
"2) Even if I accept that I have to pay for your administrative work to replace a registration number that has already been assigned, I would like to understand how you could blatantly charge $1,200 more for a simple task like that.
"When I was at your office this morning (July 15) to settle the transfer, I asked the pleasant lady serving me why there was such a big discrepancy in the fees. She looked at me and smiled knowingly but did not utter a word. For me, that itself was an answer.
"3) Your last statement, "You may wish to note that the fee of $1,300 is also comparable to the fee payable to replace an existing number with a number of one's choice (i.e. to bid for a registration number), where the minimum bid amount is $1,000 and the replacement fee is $300 (before GST)", conveniently forgot that I had already paid for the number that I would like to keep. Why does LTA need to continue charging a ridiculous amount when it knows it is so unjust, inconsistent and illogical?
"Which must lead me to speculate as to why LTA is adopting such a policy even though it knows that it is patently unfair.
"One, which I mentioned in my blog, http://boo-n-bouquet.blogspot.com, is that it wants, in a not-so-subtle way, to weed out those whom it thinks would not be able to afford to own a car in Singapore? I would hate to think that it needs to do this to generate more revenue.
"In a situation like this, what riles me as a Singapore citizen, is that I feel totally helpless when I am confronted with something that I know is totally unfair but cannot do anything to change it. I have very little hope that my reply will be read and considered.
"My only request to you is that you copy this to your Chief Executive. I would like to believe that I have tried my best to right a wrong and, hopefully, some good would come out of it."
LET'S WAIT FOR LTA'S REPLY..
MAIA wrote: "Agree with the owner of this blogspot that the fee of $1,300 is an outrageous amount that LTA is charging just for a retention of an existing number. How does it add up? It's illogical, and not a small sum!
Can LTA please rethink its policies on this issue?
SHIONGE wrote: "You've made your point to them and let's see how they address this. I think many car owners have this same issue like yours so it would be good to highlight this point and see if they do correct this 'wrong' :) "
It was written by Richard Branson, boss of the Virgin Group and headlined
"Great customer service starts at the top."
"I HAVE always liked Sam Cooke's old hit song, Chain Gang. It really comes in handy when I'm talking about customer service.
That's because delivering good customer service requires that a frontline worker receives supportive assistance from an entire network of co-workers - in effect, a chain reaction of teamwork, one that is consistent from beginning to end. And when it comes to helping a customer, the chain of assistance is only as strong as its weakest link.
I love hearing reports of good care, especially when they're shared by a Virgin customer. But no matter what the source, there's usually a lesson to be learned.
Just to prove that I'm not always bashing our competitor, British Airways, I'll tell a consummate customer story that involves that other British airline:
An Executive Club passenger sitting aboard a jumbo jet about to leave London for New York suddenly realised he'd left his beloved leather coat in the airport lounge. He rushed to the front of the plane and asked if he had time to get it. "Sorry, sir, too late," replied a member of the cabin crew. "But don't worry. I'll tell the ground crew and they'll have it sent to you."
He returned to his seat, convinced he'd never see his favourite coat again.
Seven-and-a-half hours later, when the flight arrived at JFK International Airport, the passenger was amazed when an agent met him at the door of the aircraft and handed him his coat. They'd put it on a Concorde flight that had beaten his slower 747 across the Atlantic!
(Of course, I am obliged to point out that British Airways can no longer pull off that particular trick, since the speedy Concorde is no longer in service.)
It's true that the airline could have put the coat on a later flight and the customer would have been just as grateful when it arrived. But going the extra mile builds massive customer loyalty and brand-enhancing benefits.
You can be sure that passenger talked up the airline for years, and now even the chairman of a rival company is telling the tale. How great is that?
Let's look at another story that clearly demonstrates the importance of every link in the service chain - this time involving Virgin Atlantic.
An Upper Class customer's free limo failed to connect with him at his New York City hotel. (It turned out the customer had been waiting at the wrong door.) He jumped into a cab to Newark Liberty International Airport, a fair distance from the city. Rush-hour traffic was bad; by the time he got to the airport he was very angry, running late and panicking that he'd miss his flight.
The first Virgin agent he located immediately seized control of the situation. She calmed the fuming customer, apologising profusely and assuring him that he would not miss his flight. From her own pocket, she refunded the taxi fare he had paid, then she rushed the passenger through a staff lane and got him to the gate with 10 minutes to spare.
Truly a job well done. Like the leather jacket incident, it demonstrates how great customer service can convert a negative into a positive.
WHEN THE CHAIN BREAKS
Now we come to the part of the story where the chain breaks. During the post-flight debriefing, the agent told her supervisor what had happened and asked to be repaid for the US$70 ($96) cab fare. Rather than congratulating the agent on saving the day, the supervisor asked whether she'd gotten a receipt for the fare.
When her answer was, "There was no time for that," he actually chastised her. He said, "No receipt, no reimbursement. You'd better take more care next time."
Clearly, the supervisor was more concerned about rigid adherence to accounting practices than about employee initiative. While fiscal accountability is important, especially when an outlay of cash is involved, there will always be occasions when an asterisk needs to be marked on the balance sheet.
One thing was certain: Any Virgin employees witnessing their supervisor's scornful reaction to their colleague's exemplary deed would be unlikely to display the same resourcefulness. Which means that the customer loses - and so does the entire company.
Happily, the story came to the airport manager's attention and he quickly took steps to redress the imbalance between company procedures and customer service. He advised the finance team that he'd approved the cash shortfall, while the supervisor got a quick refresher on how important we at Virgin think it is to "catch people doing something right".
Eventually I heard this story, and it truly impressed me. The next time I flew through Newark, I made a point of seeking out the agent who had made us proud. I remarked: "I don't have a taxi receipt, so you probably can't help me."
Her astonished smile said it all.
No company can train its front-end people to handle every situation, but you can strive to create an environment in which they feel at ease "doing as they would be done by".
Good customer service on the shop floor begins at the very top. If your senior people don't get it, even the strongest links further down the line can become compromised, as the story shows.
Finally, poor customer service can also be relished ... if you experience it at the hands of a competitor! At such moments you might catch me humming another old favourite, Aretha Franklin's Chain of Fools."
The writer is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
from Serene Luo, a journalist.
She wrote to me: "I was recently very sick at the end of June, and had to go to a 24-hour clinic on a Saturday night at 2am. I took a pill at 1+ in the morning, because I felt horrible, and I guess it must have taken effect sometime before 3am.
"When I arrived at 2.20am at a 24-hour clinic in Hougang Block 681 (the Central Clinic and Surgery), the doctor wasn't in. The clinic assistant said he had stepped out 10 minutes ago for supper, and she would call him.
"Two calls later, he was still nowhere to be seen and she apologised profusely.
"At 3am, the doctor burst through the clinic's front door, and said rather brusquely and loudly: "Why, the patient collapsed, is it? You had to call twice?"
"I was sitting just inside the door, and though feverish and nauseous, felt disgusted at his rudeness and lack of empathy for a sick patient.
If I wasn't sick enough, would I really have dashed to the clinic at 2 in the morning?
"In the doctor's office, his questioning made me feel as if he was just keen to quickly process me and get me out of his office. By this time, after 3am, the pain pills I had taken had obviously taken effect and I was much more lucid and feeling better than I was when I first arrived.
"His eagerness and impatience was further confirmed when he buzzed the electronic number for the next patient, an elderly man who was using a walking stick and had a swollen leg.
"The electronic sign kept on buzzing, buzz, buzz, buzz -- at the rate of one buzz every two seconds -- as the man limped slowly to the doctor's room.
"Sick people feel terrible enough already, and they must be really feeling terrible if they need to go see a doctor in the wee hours of the morning. It does not help when a doctor's bedside manner makes them feel like they are inconveniencing the doctor."
Central Clinic & Surgery Group's clinics are located in major housing districts. On its website, it declares:
"Our dedicated doctors are always at hand, to give you the best healthcare service you require."Serene certainly does not agree!!!
ANNE HOLLOWAY wrote: "Central has 4 clinics in Singapore, so either demand is inelastic or not all their doctors are as ill-mannered as this one.
In any event their CEO should hear about this.
A friend once remarked that some Singaporeans need to have their brains re-wired. I tend to agree when it comes to poor service attitudes.
The problem stems from denial and a pro-active defence, both of which we learnt from our government! When a problem is not acknowledged, it simply doesn't exist and pursuing the matter could rebound on us.
So many people just stick their heads in the sand, like ostriches."
SHIONGE wrote: "I'm sure many people do have their fair share of encounters with doctors like this. I've seen and experienced enough and I know a good doctor when I 'FEEL' one because they exude sincerity and care.
"That is why for the past 20 years, my family still consult the same family doctors (husband & wife) in Choa Chu Kang - Edingburg Clinic.
I know I might not sound fair but I've walked into one of these 24-hour clinics and in my opinion, doctors on duty at that hour do show their 'true colours' and I tell myself, I will never ever going to walk into a 24-hr clinic. I'll 'cheong' to A&E if have to instead."
A disillusioned Irene wrote a "stinker" to the book-seller today (July 15) to tell the management what she thinks of its service. In an email to its Customer Service people headlined "Tell me, Borders, do you really want our business?", she said:
"I used to love Borders, especially at the start when you had enthusiastic people who knew their books. Sadly, I've come to the conclusion that Borders no longer loves its customers and that its staff are just primed to get you to the cash register, collect your money and go on to "NEXT!"
"Some months ago, I went to Borders fully intending to buy several books, including seven copies of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which were intended as gifts. So I asked a passing employee "Where can I find Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen?"
" "What kind of book is it?" she wanted to know. And, "Do you know the author's name?"
"OK, so Jane Austen has been dead for a long while. But the response of your employee quite stunned me.
"So I left.
"I now know that short of queuing up at the counter to have someone check out a title or name on the store computer, there is no great chance that your people will know anything useful about books, particularly the great classics.
"But no, you protest, this is unfair. You will say, I know, that I cannot judge the whole store by one employee. Sadly, this is not so. This incident was merely the culmination of a series of disappointments, some of them comic, over the last six years.
"How different it was in 1999, when I visited your store to buy new editions of books to have them autographed by the sci-fi author Arthur C Clarke in Sri Lanka.
"In the store, I mentioned his name to a passing employee and asked where I could find his books. She led to the right shelves. I specifically said that I was interested in the newest editions and collections of his stories. She not only picked out books for me but also looked inside the covers for the edition dates. And then she carried to the cash counter the dozen or so books I had chosen.
"I also wanted to buy some music by Brahms, whom the writer had once described as a favourite composer. She wasn't so familiar with music but she led me to the classical music section and showed me where I could find the CDs.
"That, alas, is history.
"Last month, when I was paying for my purchases, I took slightly longer than usual to look for my credit card. So your cashier simply waved over another customer in the queue and served her. So while that customer was paying and having her purchases bagged, I then had to wait. I pointedly asked your cashier why she had done that.
" "I thought you would take a long time," she said, addressing the counter and steadfastly refusing to make eye contact.
" "So when I was ready with my card, why didn't you serve me?" I asked. "I was almost finished with her," was her response. The "sorry" she served up as an afterthought was simply that.
"So, dear Borders, if you are losing once-faithful customers, I have just saved you the bother of carrying out a survey to find out why.
"Irene Hoe "
When Irene sent me this email, I told her I was not surprised. Reason? Very few schools -- and parents -- encourage their children to read, especially classics like
Pride and Prejudice.
But that is still no excuse for a big-name book-seller like Borders!
QUICK RESPONSE TO IRENE'S COMPLAINT
LINDY ONG wrote: "Borders has never been a good bookstore for me. The staff usually have no idea of their books. The only good service I have received have been from the exceptions among their staff (people who actually understand service and books - I even commended one to their management - sadly, they never stay long).
"But sometimes their own store/computer system make it difficult for new staff to find books. Once, they could not find a book by a writer whose surname was "Kelley" because the name had been keyed in as "Kelle". Computer column had no space? Bad input?
"Once, I was looking for an Eyewitness Guide for Chile. A girl at the information counter said, after looking through her computer system that there were no Eyewitness travel guide books by Dorling Kindersly at all. Exasperated, I persuaded her to come with me to the shelves to see the mentioned range of books and by luck, I even found Chile. Her response? "Oh, not in the computer." Very sad."
ANNE HOLLOWAY wrote: "My dear Irene, surely as a true blue Singaporean you have observed the decline of service in Singapore and discern the contrast in the level of product knowledge with, say, America.
"Here, a job is a job --- ideally a stepping stone to one that pays a bit more. Knowing about books and reading them is not the motivation to work at Borders. Having said that, Borders' management do not seem to have provided any training and guidance.
"What I have found now I am back is that it takes an inordinate amount of time for the cashiers (when there are enough of them) to complete a sale and take your payment -- and it is not as if they are exchanging life histories with the customer in front of you!
"Tangs and Best Denki could probably sell a lot more if they opened up more cash points and had them manned. But these stores are not alone. NTUC could do a lot better by upgrading their checkouts especially at busy times.
"If only one did not have to get some produce weighed before checking out! Their better cashiers undertake to do this with good grace if you have forgotten and this takes a bit more time - which need not have been wasted (if only our supermarkets had more modern systems).
"Anyway I believe that checkouts and cash desks in countries like the USA have evolved so that staff (mainly part-timers) are able to work them with minimal training and supervision.
"They've tried self-checkouts but most people still prefer going through a cashier. There's another reason -- a cashier once remarked that shoplifting was given a new meaning by some less-than-honest customers!"
LEN McCULLEY wrote: "Borders have descended to the dumps. There is an air of resignation about their staff and they seem de-motivated. Perhaps there is trouble in their business. I found their large and enjoyable store in London’s Oxford Street has shut down on my last visit in June.
"On the other hand, Foyles (remember musty old Foyles?) has rejuvenated themselves and are a huge pleasure to visit in London.
"I visit Harris instead of Borders in Singapore but they are not top drawer yet."
ANONYMOUS wrote: "I don't see anything wrong. You cannot expect every employee to know every book in Borders. There are just too many books. It is good that he asked and not bring the customer on a merry-go-round. Is it wrong to ask for clarification?
"While I do not agree with the cashier's decision to serve another customer when you are searching for your credit card, I will be very irritated if the person in front of me is taking too long to search for his/her credit cards. BE CONSIDERATE! Don't hog the queue!
SUI NOI wrote: "They don't only don't know their books, they are also insufferably high and mighty when you try and make enquiries. I support Irene!"
WTAN wrote: "I had a Borders gift card which unfortunately expired by a few days. I wanted to see if the staff was able to help. The counter girl asked me to wait and approached another male staff. The male staff requested to try and see if the system was able to read my gift card. Wada! It still recorded it as "useable". Furthermore, he advised that perhaps I would like to make payment at the counter which he used to check my gift-card. I thought that was real thoughtful of him! Bouquet definitely!
By the way, analysing the case, that means the expiry date on Borders' gift card is ... erhem... not accurate/updated? =) "
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Yesterday (July 14), at a press conference, he was reported to have apologised no fewer than three times for causing his customers inconvenience from the
huge computer systems failure on July 5 that held up ATM usage and online access.
In his letter to customers, Mr Gupta said: "In hindsight, our internal escalation process could have been more immediate. We could have also done more to mobilise broadcast channels to inform customers of the distruption in services first thing in the morning.
"Once again, please accept my apologies and know that we take full responsibility for this incident.
"There have been valuable lessons learnt and I assure you that this matter will continue to remain a top priority for me."
Well, I have two comments on this: 1) A "customer first" culture takes time to develop, especially when the bank's track record has not been exemplary. Which surely makes it more critical that top management should have been more
2) Customers would like to see action rather than listen to cliched words like "top priority" and "take full responsibility".
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Here is Anne's story of the encounter:
"A HUGE bouquet for the lovely Malay lady at the Giant (Turf City) checkout this morning (Tuesday, July 13). She had a badge on which said "Temp Staff" but went out of her way to find out prices of two items that were displayed as promotional items. And in one case she went all the way back to the store-room to check whether they had any stock. Alas, no.
"I got to chatting with her and asked whether I could enquire why she was working only as a temp. She responded that she had a day job - actually was a student working during her school holidays. Then she asked if I really thought she looked like a student to which I replied in the affirmative.
"Whereupon, with a big smile, she told me she has two children (I found out they are 7 and 4, I think)! So I asked her about her real day job --- she works at the American School as a teacher!
"That piqued my curiosity even more, so I asked why she wasn't spending time with her young children and she told me that her parents (or was it in-laws?) are living with them and that she needed the money.
"There are few more deserving of recognition and a bouquet than this lady; she was charming, helpful, well spoken (real English, not Singlish) and, not least, the epitomy of filial. She goes out to work to earn extra to support her family instead of moaning about it.
"I think Giant should find her a better paying part time job than at their checkouts (she's far too capable to waste) and our government should include her in our upcoming National Day honours."
Thanks, Anne, for spotting an exceptional service provider and taking the trouble to sing her praises.
I discovered another one this week when I made a deal to sell my almost five-year-old car Camry so that I could buy another used but newer car. For sentimental reason, I wanted to retain my current registration number.
However, to my surprise, I was told that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) would charge me $1,300 for the retention of the number to be used for my next car.
I had paid $1,000 for that number in Year 2000 when I bought a new car and had it transferred to another new car five years later, paying only $100.
I have a number of questions:
1) why does LTA charge such a high fee -- $1,300 --- for the transfer when I had already paid $1,000 when I first bought the number?
2) Why is there such a vast difference in fee --- $1,300 for transfer to a used car compared to only $100 to a new car? Is the administrative work so much more difficult between one and the other?
3) Could this be another not-so-subtle way to weed out those whom they think would not be able to afford to own a car in Singapore?
I have asked LTA to give me the rationale for this apparently unfair, illogical and inconsistent policy.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
What is more disheartening was the curt reply that SGH gave below that letter. I will leave it to you to form your own opinions.
But I would like to ask these questions: Are our public
doctors over-worked, underpaid or badly treated? If not, why are some of them behaving that way?
The Straits Times' Forum letter on July 10, 2010...
Baffled by SGH doctor's
refusal to see her
ON JUNE 30, I arrived five minutes before my scheduled appointment at 9.40am with a doctor at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
Twenty minutes later, an SMS informed me that my turn would come after five more patients.
But I was still kept waiting after more than an hour, while patients who arrived later were ushered in to see the doctor.
When I asked for an explanation, the counter staff consulted the doctor and told me that he was still settling some matters for me.
After an additional half an hour's wait, I asked for an explanation again, especially as my appointment was scheduled so that I could collect my blood test result and have it explained to me.
Subsequently, a customer service officer gave me my blood test result and told me that the doctor did not wish to see me.
After reading the report, I queried one of the findings.
The officer consulted the doctor, who still refused to see me, and told the officer to inform me that the result was all right and that I did not need to consult him or any other doctor.
After much discussion, the officer finally arranged for another doctor to explain the blood test report to me.
I am baffled. I was told to wait to see the doctor, who then refused to see me and worse, arranged for me to consult another doctor.
Before my appointment, I had called the hospital to find out if I could obtain my result without seeing a doctor. I was told that I could not do so. The hospital representative told me that I was required to see a doctor, who would explain the result to me.
Yet I spent hours waiting to see a doctor who ultimately declined to see me.
The experience has affected my impression of SGH as well as the doctors working there.
Chong Shiau Wei (Ms)
SGH reply and comments in The Straits Times' online...
Sorry, says SGH
WE THANK Ms Chong Shiau Wei for her feedback ('Baffled by SGH doctor's refusal to see her'). We are sorry for the lapse in service. We are committed to improving care and service for all patients.
Associate Professor Wong Wai Keong
Head, Department of General Surgery
Singapore General Hospital
I agree with travelersg, Prof Wong's so-called reply is a NO REPLY.
This is the style of all govt bodies, you complain, we reply, just say sorry lor, what more do you want. SGH' s so-called reply smacks of ARROGANCE and INSINCERITY. Come on, Prof Wong, you can do better than that.
Posted by: fossanoit at Sat Jul 10 11:01:48 SGT 2010
I wonder what kind of moral ethics this Wong fellow has.
I also wonder what kind of 'family education' this Wong fellow has received from his parents.
I most of all wonder what kind of moral values he is going to instill into his children.
A doctor who cannot even apologise sincerely, but talk like a pastor who 'stand corrected' (and erected) simply has no soul. Sh!t doctor.
Posted by: Stormrider65 at Sat Jul 10 10:36:04 SGT 2010
How did the hospital win the Worldwide Award for excellence highlighted in the papers recently ??
Associate Professor Wong Wai Keong
Head, Department of General Surgery
Singapore General Hospital
Head of Department ??
What a joke.
Posted by: SammiVellu at Sat Jul 10 09:52:11 SGT 2010
Say Sorry with positive action to show that SGH has a customer retention policy...... like refund all fees incurred by patient who experience and suffered as a result in lapse of service.
Posted by: kokoobird at Sat Jul 10 09:39:24 SGT 2010
Agree with all the above comments. This reply is equivalent to a none reply.
Posted by: travelersg at Sat Jul 10 09:32:02 SGT 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
In the month of APRIL, I was particularly impressed with OCBC, Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS), C K Tang, Mount Elizabeth Hospital and Singapore Airlines.
OCBC changed its reward system for savers after receiving feedback about its inconsistency during a promotion period. It shows that the bank does listen to its customers who take the trouble to voice their views.
CCS and Mount Elizabeth invited me to meet their officers after my posts about possible cartel practices by motor insurers and sale of medical insurance at the hospital respectively.
Although I was not totally convinced by what the CCS told me about motor insurers here not practising as a cartel in a case that I cited, I was glad that it took the trouble to explain their views to me. I must thank Sebastian from CCS for making the arrangement.
My meeting with Mount E's CEO, Dr Kelvin Loh, allowed him to clarify something that I had assumed wrongly in my post, i.e., that the hospital was making money from selling insurance to patients just before they were due to go in for a procedure or operation.
It turned out that Mount E was just providing a service which it thought was useful. Dr Loh, however, took my point that the timing of the sale pitch was inappropriate. I hope it has since rectified the situation.
Singapore Airlines was quick in getting back to my friend Peter Ong who complained about a bar-tender in SIA's first-class lounge who had bad-mouthed Australians in general. It apologised for the indiscretion and promised to counsel the bar-tender.
C K Tang was also quick in admitting its mistake of having a sales assistant whose product knowledge was inadequate. It promptly provided Peter Ong with the correct information and apologised for the inconvenience.
I was impressed with Tang's retail manager Alice Ching's ability in handling a dissatisfied customer and hope Peter will continue to patronise the store when he drops by on his way home to Australia.
The month of APRIL had its share of poor customer relations. Top of my list was the Singapore General Hospital's Records Office for taking 68 days to complete an insurance claim form which my brother had submitted.
Here was a classic case of how public relations should not be handled. Instead of apologising for its mistake and move on, SGH tried to explain how difficult it was to fill up a claim form and that it was progressing into a more efficient system.
The sad part of this whole episode was that SGH, which is running what I believe is a top-class hospital, allowed itself to take its eye off a section of its administration which it might have deemed to be not so critical.
Two others that did not make the mark in terms of service were the Budget Terminal (read "Budget Terminal woes") and Kuriya Penthouse in Orchard Central (read "Take it, here's my sushi!"). They did not bother to respond to feedback.
Non-response was not restricted to the month of April. In MAY, there were many cases including ASA Holidays, Body Shop, Tiger Aiways, Toy "R" Us and Shang Palace.
I must assume that these organisations either do not believe in customer relations or are simply not bothered because they think they can get away with what they have been doing.
But I must say that Tiger Airways is unique in its customer relations policy. It has made it very clear that it will only entertain complaints by customers who write in but not online.
That is one sure way of cutting down on complaints as it knows that many will not take the trouble to do it. And it could be one reason why many customers have resorted to going to Facebook -- where there is a site set up called "Why I hate Tiger Airways" --- to air their views.
The enlightened ones in May were No Signboard Restaurant in Vivocity (it made amends for a couple who were poorly served); and the Land Tranport Authority which provided my friend Anne Holloway with the information she asked for and which the Traffic Police had refused.
Although Panasonic replied to the feedback given by Irene Hoe, it might have been a little slow because she had vowed to tell all her friends and relatives about the poor service she received and not to buy Panasonic products in future. I know Irene has lots of friends.
June was an interesting month with a variety of issues thrown up --- from complaints about Singtel's Mio TV service to Silkair's broken promises.
Singtel was criticised by Jensen Aw for asking him to pay for an extra phone line so that he can watch Mio TV. Its cable people made Quak Hiang Whai unhappy with the timing of their work schedule and its PR guys riled him up further by failing to contact him.
But not everyone was angry with the telco. Eileen Bittner was pleased and appreciative that Singtel was able to retrieve her HiCard number, and wrote in to thank them.
Singtel, however, was not the only telco facing the heat. Irene Hoe (yes, again) gave Starhub a piece of her mind when they gave her problems over her prepaid cards. The last I heard, she was still exchanging emails with the telco.
SilkAir did not respond to my two posts on its service to Penang. First, it could not explain why a seat request was unfulfilled when the booking was made months ahead. Secondly, why didn't it open its internet check-in counter in Penang when there were people who had checked in that way.
Maybe Singapore Airlines should offer to give its sister company a lesson or two about customer service!!!!
Anne Holloway was pacified after Hitachi apologised to her for the slip-shod manner in which her washing machine was being installed and Best Denki in Takashimaya, where she bought the machine from, promised to make amends.
The Ministry of Manpower called me to ask for Maia Kayleigh's contact number after she complained about her maid agency. I have yet to know the outcome.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore acknowledged my feedback when I alerted them to the post, "Henry the hero in accident claim". I wanted the regulator to consider my suggestion regarding the apparent injustice that Henry and other motorists had to endure when they meet with an accident.
I hope the MAS would let us know whether or not it would act.
That's about it. I hope you have no problem guessing who have been given BOUQUETS as against those who have to bear with the BOO-QUETS.
Do continue to write about your experiences with our service providers!
Thursday, July 1, 2010
One reason could be that she is now not getting a copy of the free newspaper delivered to her on a regular basis and wants to be assured that she does.
After faxing in her request for guaranteed delivery more than a week ago, she still has not got a reply from Today.
So she wrote the following email to the newspaper inquiring as to what is happening:
"Subject: what's happened to my delivery request of 23/6/2010?
"I faxed in for home delivery on 23rd June 2010.
"Today, I thought it strange I had not heard a squeak from TODAY.
Fortunately I had not trashed my hard copy of the Delivery Request.
"I DID find I had forgotten to sign the form, but as you have my telephone number why didn't someone call to rectify MY ERROR?
"So I have signed the form and re-faxed it today.
"Just to be sure I am emailing this to you!
"Please note that you do not make it easy for would be subscribers (maybe you do not really want any) because I had to go to Contact Us to find an email address for Circulation. It is not where I had expected it to be - with the blurb and form to download.
"Thanks. I look forward to receiving our TODAY one of these days. Preferably sooner than later.
*** LATEST: A reader, Shionge, wrote: "Hey so did TODAY respond? It's six days overdue :) "
Sorry I did not post the action line. I did in fact alert Today's Editor Walter Fernandez. He was grateful for the "leg up" and promised to get it settled.
I assume that the application for delivery has been approved since I have not heard from Anne since.