Saturday, August 21, 2010

No Gain from City but Petunia gets it from CoolServe

Blogger Petunia Lee has asked me to feature her story in my blog on the recommendation of another blogger Auntie Lucia. It is about her experience with two groups of service providers that were completely different in their attitude towards service.

Here's her story...

"Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gain City vs CoolServe

Their names alone betray their company ethos.

Gain City - Who gained? The company did.

CoolServe - Who got cool service? I did.

No... I have absolutely NO financial interest in CoolServe. I am a happy client, no more. CoolServe came by over 2 days (today and yesterday) to install new pipes and insulation. The 2 gentleman who arrived were professionally polite as we discussed my concerns about managing debris from the drilling and hacking of walls. They went about their work quietly (or as quietly as they could, given that they had to drill holes in walls). They moved briskly and purposefully. When they went out for lunch, they came back on time. Today, they lunched in for 10 minutes and went straight back to work. And when they left, they left behind no mess.

The 2 gentlemen are named Messrs Pang Kien Lun and Teoh Gean Keat. I want to make it a point to name them because they are good and honest gentlemen and if readers wish, they could request them specifically.

Contrast this with my experience with Gain City almost 18 months ago. A very uncouth male (going by the digit I-1223) came by with a meek other male. When they arrived, I was at a Seminar. I had to leave my Seminar before it ended because an irate uncouth male insisted that he needed to discuss something important with me. When I got home, I was told loudly and with much gesticulation that what I had wanted done, was impossible to do.

I was about to suggest that if that were the case, he could pack up and go off. I would ask another company to do it because I myself didn't know how to advise him to do his job. Just then, his supervisor arrived and we spent another 30 minutes speaking loudly to each other. The supervisor then assessed the situation, planned out the steps and instructed I-1223. And so, after many words and much waste of time, work began.

After the supervisor left, I timidly shared my concerns about dust and debris. I have quite a few expensive books that needed protecting. He made some disrespectful noises and waved my concerns away and just simply went ahead to make a mess. I had to lay out protection myself.

But that was not all. 3 days later, the air-conditioning pipes poured a deluge onto my bedroom parquet. I called Gain City and was told that even though the installation came with a warranty, the warranty did not cover deluges caused by pipe condensation. Hence, Gain City would not come back to fix the problem unless I paid $160/= more. Feeling quite wronged, I pleaded and wheedled and scolded. As a "goodwill gesture" I was charged $75/= instead. Already fatigued by the very contentious relationship from Day One, I agreed.

What's more, somewhere in the conversation the fellow actually said that it didn't matter what I thought or said... or if I complained to CASE, Gain City was still the largest in the air-con industry and every other player depended on it. In my desperation, I wondered how that was relevant to a conversation where I was pleading with him to put himself in my shoes. It was obviously a bully boy tactic, telling me "Lady, suck it up because we are the biggest and you have no choice."

He was wrong. One always has choices.

Along the way, I also discovered that the Uncouth Male from Gain City was the younger brother of his Supervisor. I requested the company to send another team instead... one where brothers weren't looking out for each other at my expense. But Gain City ignored me and I kept seeing the same team again and again.

I came away with the impression that Gain City's manifest warranty was a dud. I came away with the impression that Gain City considered money ($75/=) more important than client satisfaction. I came away with a phobia of loud voiced and uncouth workmen who bull-dozed themselves over me, deaf to my gentle remonstrations and attempts at civilized dialogue.

I concluded that Gain City listens not one jot to its clients. They bung in a system... no matter if it ain't good... It's the client's fault for being too stupid to understand that for cheap price, you get thin insulation... and therefore condensation builds up in the pipes, collects in pools in the concealment troughs and when enough water builds up, splashes onto the floor like a pail up-ended. Madam, it's your own fault, not Gain City's.

In my defence, I had no idea what thin or thick was. The salesman had said that he had upgraded my insulation to a thicker one, and I said ok. One expects the experts to recommend and put in the correct materials such that deluges do not happen. In my defence, the other competing quote at that time came from CoolServe and Gain City was slightly more expensive. It just goes to show that more expensive is not always better.

I was so traumatised by Gain City that I refused to have anything to do with this new air-con work order for CoolServe. The Husband arranged it all. When the CoolServe gentlemen came, I ignored them completely.

But these 2 workers from CoolServe were as gentlemanly as the Gain City ones were thug-like. These 2 workers were as conscientious as the Gain City ones were slothful. These 2 workers were experts in their trade and earned my respect merely by doing a good job. And when they left, they gently told me "We have a 12 month warranty on the piping we have laid. If anything goes wrong, please call us. We will come back".

I felt like kissing the CoolServe man!! "

If you want to go to Petunia's blog, here's the link:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Starhub kept them waiting

When a company makes little changes to its way of doing things, it has a duty to inform its customers. Starhub failed to do so at its Tampines branch on August 7 and caused at least three of its customers inconvenience.

One of them, Shaharudin Abdul Karim, emailed Ms Diana Lee, a customer service officer at the telco, to ask why there was no reply to his complaint while at the same time giving me an account of his experience.

His email to me said: "I wish to lodge a complaint about the terrible service at Tampines branch on August 7, 2010 at about 1440 hours

"I arrived at the said branch at about 1400 hours to return my set top box. I queued up at the reception counter which already had a long curling queue stretching to the escalator.

"From my previous experience at VivoCity branch, to return the set top box there's a counter which handles solely this service. As such I asked my wife to walk ahead and approach any of the staff and enquire if there was such service.

"She was told by the cashier to queue up at the reception. After 30 minutes of queueing, (when I was) at the head of the queue I was told to go to a barricaded counter which has no queue at all.

"I wasted 30 minutes of my time only to be told to proceed to a counter WHICH HAD NO QUEUE AT ALL! When we expressed our unhappiness to the staff processing our cancellation, they seemed oblivious to our complaints and did not even express any apologies. In fact, the only words they muttered were to ask me to sign the form! "

Shaharudin is asking Starhub why it had asked its customers returning their set top boxes to queue at the reception only to be told 30 minutes later to proceed to another counter.

"Why aren't there any signage telling customerswhere to go to and why did the staff seem oblivious to the operation of the branch when a query is forwarded?" he added.

When he spoke to Ms Siti Kamilah, the duty manager, she explained that normally, the returning of the box was done at the reception counter.

"How would I as a customer know when is a normal situation and when is it not a normal situation?" Shaharudin asked. "A simple signage would have solved the problem and we would not have wasted so much of our time.

"Sad to say, I was not the only customer who was made to wait 30 minutes. There was a gentlemen who said he was late for work because of the waiting, and a lady behind me also experienced the same thing.

"Suffice to say, the three of us all expressed our extreme disgust and unhappiness with the utter lack of planning with regards to crowd management.

"We would have thought that with the constant crowd at your customer service centres, you would have had implemented certain plans and procedures to eliminate problems such as that I encountered but it seems not to be the case.

"If your intention is to purely make people queue, then well done, Starhub!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sistic: another sticky example

Talking about how sticky Sistic is when it comes to the purchase of tickets, Anne Holloway has this to share:

"I too bought two tickets via Sistic and needed to have my tickets collected.

"Sistic provides a template for an "Authorisation Form for Dummies" (attached) - it requires the details that a printout of their transaction receipt provides.

"The additional information required:
(a) one's credit card details (on the credit card I had to send along)
(b) my signature

"It just goes to illustrate the kiasu and hide-bound mentality that pervades Sistic and many other organisations which profess to use the web to facilitate sales.

"They seem to fear that anyone stealing my bag would be interested in collecting my tickets for a show?

"After all, the tickets had already been charge to my credit card - on August 6th, a week ago. So they would not be out of money anyway.

"All this red tape is what is holding Singapore back."

Friday, August 13, 2010

LTA continues to avoid the issue in the numbers game

The Land Authority of Singapore has finally responded to my email concerning my unhappiness over having to pay $1,300 to retain my previous car number for a one-year old car that I bought last month instead of only $100 if I had used it on a new car.

As expected, it sent me another one of those standard replies that some government agencies are fond of doing. There was absolutely no attempt at addressing the issue that I had raised.

It reconfirms my belief that when they think you are a nobody and a nuisance, this is the kind of treatment that you get when you try to argue your point.

In my second email to LTA, I had requested that it be shown to its CEO as I believe that I have a good case and that I should help to point out an obvious discrepany that is staring me in the face. I would not have stumbled upon it if I had kept to my old car or bought a new one.

I am not sure whether the CEO was shown my email. If he did and still condoned the standard reply that was sent to me, then I think he is not doing his job.

I had sent the LTA two reminders before it condescended to give its standard reply. After posting this, I will make another attempt to get the CEO to read my blog and hope against hope that he will give me his honest opinion on what I have raised.

To be fair, I have also to point out that the CEO has been appointed to the LTA job only recently so I assume he would have nothing to do with the policy on registration number retention.

I reproduce below my posting on the issue and the two LTA replies:

Saturday, July 17, 2010
Numbers game with LTA: My hope is to make it see the light

The Land Authority of Singapore (LTA) has replied to my query on the rationale for charging me $1,300 for the retention of my almost five-year-old Camry car number so that I could use it on another used but newer car which I bought.

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...

Yours sincerely


"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,, 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."

After two reminders, LTA sent me this reply on August 12...

"We refer to your emails of 17 July 2010 and 28 July 2010. The fee to retain a vehicle number on an existing vehicle is $1,300, which is pegged to the bid-and-replace system (the minimum bid is $1,000 and the replacement fee is $300).

"This fee equalises the cost of changing a registration number on an existing vehicle. In this instance, we note that you have applied to replace the existing vehicle number, SJX8494K, with a retained number SCE8012B, and a fee of $1,300 was payable for the retention and replacement of the vehicle number. We hope the above clarifies.

Yours sincerely

This is my response to LTA's second email: No, it does not clarify. You can only clarify if you address the issue that I have raised. As a matter of record, I have already paid the $1,300 for the number retention way before you wrote your reply. "

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Good food not enough

I had two wonderful meals over the long National Day holiday weekend but one left a better impression over the other because of its superior service.

Saturday night saw six of us dining at Shin Yeh, the Taiwanese restaurant at Liang Court. It was my second visit so I knew that I could expect good food.

However, its service was a different matter altogether. One reason could be the standard of our spoken Chinese as it was just not good enough to make ourselves understood.

As we struggled to communicate and got more frustrated with every minute, we ended up speaking a mixture of English, fractured Mandarin and eventually Hokkien.

But what was most disappointing was the service or the lack of it. The restaurant was packed and it was obvious that the number of service staff was insufficient to see to its customers' needs.

Also, the ones who served us were obviously not properly trained. For example, our first dish was brought out without the accompanying condiments and we had to remind them more than once to do it.

When we ordered a bottle of Chilean wine, the waiter was not aware that it was no longer available. So, after being told, we had to choose an Italian red instead.

Then after the wine glasses were placed on our table and the bottle opened, it took like eternity before the wine was served. I don't think they were keeping it back to allow the wine to breath first :)

In contrast, my experience at the Chang Korean BBQ Restaurant in Dempsey on Sunday was a more pleasant one, even though we had to wait awhile before we got our table.

The Filipino serving staff were definitely a cut above the ones at Shin Yeh. Apart from their English language ability, they were more helpful and better organised.

We were particularly impressed with a waiter called Jet. He took the trouble to barbeque the meats and to explain to us what we were having.
Basically, he knew how to take care of the little things that would help to make eating out an enjoyable experience.

He even had time to engage in small talk, telling us that he needed to work as he had to help pay for his sister's education.

These two experiences have reinforced my belief that good food by itself is not sufficient for any restaurant to entice its customers back for more.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Coffee shocker? No, it's coffee plus-plus, says St Regis

St Regis Singapore has replied to my post about its "coffee shocker" experienced by May when she lunched at its Yan Ting restaurant with her business friends recently.

She was shocked by the $60 bill for four cups of coffee when the total bill came up to about $230.

The reply by Oscar Postma, its Executive Assistant Manager (Rooms), said:

"Thank you for conveying to us the feedback on behalf of your friend who recently dined at Yan Ting.

"Pricing at the dining establishments at The St. Regis Singapore are set to include the experiences of dining, where the ambience of an elegant venue, the personalised service of attentive wait staff and the entertainment provided all contribute to a St. Regis dining experience. It is commissioned to be a refined and memorable experience that is crafted to meet the highest standards of our guests.

"While we cannot turn back the hands of time of Ms. May’s experience with our staff when she presented her initial feedback some time ago, I wish to assure that it truly is not a representation of our St. Regis service attributes, and we deeply regret if it has been presented as such.

"Thank you once again for providing us with your views, and we hope that we will have the opportunity to welcome you both back to our hotel soon."

Well, what Oscar is saying is that she was paying for more than just coffee at the hotel.

My interpretation: Have your cuppa at a less atas place if you want to pay a cheaper price.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

SingPost: Another complaint

Hours after I posted "SingPost all boxed in" today (August 5), Fern wrote to say that she has been following my blog for a while now and just has to comment on this latest entry as she has had similar experiences with SingPost.

She said: "Just last month, our friend sent us a package via EMS Thailand. We waited for weeks but the package never arrived and finally decided to check with him. He gave us the tracking number and we realised then that SingPost was responsible for delivering the parcel to us in Singapore.

"When I entered the EMS tracking number on the SingPost website, it showed me that there was a failed delivery on 2 July (which is impossible since there is ALWAYS someone at home) and that the package had been waiting in limbo at the Eunos Post Centre. When were they going to inform me that my package had arrived?

"When I tried to arrange for a re-delivery via phone, it was unable to process my request so I tried via the website, all the while not knowing if the package was ever going to be delivered since I didn't get an acknowledgement note.

"Thankfully the package arrived finally but if I hadn't taken the initiative to track the package down, it will probably still be sitting at Eunos Post Centre today."

LATEST: After the two posts on SingPost's poor service, the company's Customer Service officer, Julie, wrote to say that "we have forwarded the web hyperlink to our relevant function(s) for their attention and review(s)."

She added: "We regret the service experience encountered by the blog members. Please be assured that we are committed and focused to improvements."

I don't understand what she meant by "relevant function(s)" but I guess management is doing something about it.

SingPost all boxed in

Someone who did not give him name, made a comment today (August 5) about SingPost service after reading a post, "Slow service at SingPost", that I wrote months ago.

I thought it was an interesting encounter he had with the company and the experience is worth sharing to show its inflexibility.

Anonymous wrote: "Chanced upon your post when I googled on 'boo' service from Singpost. Yours is just a single encounter, mine has been years long of disappointments and life shortening.

"Anyway, my latest 'boo' with them ...

"I have a parcel coming from Japan via EMS. With the tracking number, Isee that the parcel will be delivered today. But there is nobody home to receive it today so I called Speedpost line early AM to have it redelivered on Saturday morning instead. Save them a wasted trip, right?

"But the hotline staff tells me the item will be sent out with the postman and she can't do anything. I think to myself, can't she call the postman?? Don't they have ways to communicate with field staff?

"And then even though we are both sure nobody will receive it and it will be a failed delivery and I reiterated that unless I got ghost at home, she cannot make the redelivery request for me rightaway.

"She wants me to wait till the postman record as undeliverable at the end of the day, then I call in again tomorrow to make the same redelivery request.

"She say it's a standard process ... isn't this stupid and redundant? Why act on the problem tomorrow when we already know it now and can act now?

"Speedpost is so efficient, right? Efficient in their standard processes which do not cater for exceptional handling nor recognise real situation needs first.

"And customers have to 'suit' them, not the other way round."

Looks like no one in SingPost is thinking out-of-the-box, er, sorry, out-of-the-Postbox!!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nike just did it --- badly

Vera is convinced that service standards here are heading south after her shopping experience at a Nike shop in Paragon on Sunday (Aug. 2).

She was served by a young unsmiling girl at the shop. After she had tried on two pairs of shorts -- black and white -- she told the girl that she would like to try the blue one as well.

The response she got was: "Which one you don't want?"

She told the still unsmiling sales assistant: "I want all three." And she did buy all three in the end, despite the poor service that she received, as she reckoned that she did not want the hassle of going to another shop.

With a sigh, she told me: "If Nike, a top brand, cannot train its sales people properly, I have little hope that service in our shops will improve any time soon."

Well said, Vera!