Friday, February 25, 2011

Dr Susan Lim, why?

Of all the service providers that we use in our daily lives, I would venture to say that among those who can charge exorbitantly without too much risk of raising the hackles of their customers are our doctors.

The reason for this is simple: Most of us do not really know what the market fee is for a certain type of procedure or consultation. And we do not usually question such professionals over what they charge as it may come across as an affront to them.

Another reason could be that we trust our doctors and like to believe that they are generally honourable people who have sworn by the Hippocratic Oath to save lives and follow the standards set by the medical profession.

However, over the years as medical and other costs escalate with new technologies and soaring rentals, many doctors have begun to put up their fees in order to make sure that they do not inadvertently go into the red .

There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that as I believe that they, like all people, must make a living and should not be penalised for doing the right thing.

However, what disturbs me is when some doctors start to abuse their profession and, as a result, give their peers a bad name as well. Many of them have been accused of ordering unnecessary tests and procedures. Or to include fees in their bills that are questionable.

I know of one case where a cardiologist recommended an angiogram when there was no need for one. Fortunately, the recommendation was not taken up because my friend was smart enough to seek a second opinion.

He was convinced that this doctor was ordering unnecessary procedures because his office colleague was told the same thing when he, too, went for a heart check. It turned out that the procedure was also not necessary.

Talking about doctors overcharging, the news that shook Singapore this week -- just as hard as the Kiwi quake -- was the story of surgeon Susan Lim who is fighting the Singapore Medical Council in court to stop it from appointing a second disciplinary committee to hear a government accusation that she had overcharged a patient from the royal family in Brunei.

The fees given in the story were just mind-boggling.

The question on top of people's mind is: Why did this brilliant surgeon have to do such a thing?

What I am particularly happy about this whole affair is that everything is being made known to the public.

What Dr Lim needs to do now is to convince the SMC that she is indeed the honest person that she says she is in a 2010 video interview that I heard moments ago. Of course, I am assuming the court will allow the SMC's committee to go ahead with the second hearing against her.

Let's stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Starhub says sorry to Irene again

Starhub has again replied to Irene over the unsolicited SMS issue.
This was after her last email to the telco saying that it was able to send a reply that
was devoid of bureaucratic crap.

The Starhub reply says:

"We are sorry that we did not meet your service expectations during
the previous interactions regarding the advertising SMS concerns
you raised with us. We thank you for giving us another opportunity to
address your concerns and feedback.

"We wish to explain that the highlighted SMS was sent by a third
party, not facilitated by StarHub. In such advertising sms, an option
to unsubscribe permanently from their respective mailing lists is
usually included.

"Nevertheless, we do acknowledge that our colleague
could have done better by pro-actively requesting for the
unsubscription on your behalf after receiving your first e-mail.

"With regard to your feedback on the second reply you received, we
wish to clarify that our colleague who attended to you had
misinterpreted your concerns as being related to unsolicited SMSes
instead of specifically relating to the advertising SMS. This caused
him to reply to you as per the procedures required for unsolicited

"Please be assured that your feedback have been immediately
highlighted to our service supervisors who have closed this service
gap with the related staff and will continue to coach them for
service excellence. Once again, we apologise for the inconvenience
caused by this matter and look forward to providing you with a better

Surprise, surprise, Irene has been quiet for the last two days....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Irene slams Starhub for poor service

When Irene received an unsolicited SMS earlier this month from someone trying to sell survellance CCTV and other security products, she wrote to Starhub asking the telco to check whether the spammer was its customer and, if so, to tell him "to cease and desist".

Starhub took awhile to give this simple reply: the mobile number from which the SMS was sent was not registered with the telco. "You may wish to unsubscribe to the SMS when you received it," it added.

The telco's reply immediately got Irene's goat, so she shot back: "Thank you for the advice which is worse than useless. Can it really be that you are unaware that "unsubscribing" merely tells the spammer that there is a real live user to the number and encourages the spammer to send more crap or, worse, sell my number to other spammers."

Irene's annoyance obviously must have registered. However, it still took four days for the telco to send this reply:

"Thank you for your e-mail. We are currently experiencing high volume
of queries and sincerely apologise for the extended time taken to
respond to you.

"We regret to hear that you have been receiving unsolicited calls.

"In order for us to look into the matter for you, please lodge a
police report and fax the report to 6720 5000.

"In the report please include at least 5 connected calls from the same
number within one-month period. Please state the dates and times of
these calls. Please note that if the number is a foreign number, we
will not be able to do anything.

"However, if the number belongs to another service provider, we will
write to the service provider concerned to send a warning letter to
the caller. If the caller is a StarHub subscriber, we will send a
warning letter to our subscriber."

By now, Irene's blood pressure might have hit the ceiling. She delivered another stinker:

Your reply tells me that you are not bothered - or worse, that you do
not care - about telephone spam sent to YOUR customers, because you
regard dealing with it as a COST to you and not as part of service to
your customers.

"Therefore, I will be happy to reduce that cost as soon as my current
cellphone contract with your company is up. And I will advise my
friends who are your cellphone customers to do likewise."

The latest email worked like magic. Starhub replied to Irene that same morning:

"Thank you for your reply.

"We seek your understanding that the procedures and supporting
documents/details highlighted in our e-mail dated 14 February 2011
are shared across service providers and are required to be provided
as supporting documents when requesting for another service provider
to send advisory letters to their registered subscriber.

"This is irregardless (sic) of which service provider you are currently registered
under and not unique to StarHub alone.

"In view of your concerns, StarHub will send an e-mail to the sender
( and request for the sender to remove all your
Prepaid contact numbers.

"We hope to have provided clarification regarding your concerns."

Irene was just as fast with her counter :

"OK, I get it.

"1) You can actually do something other than offering a customer bureaucratic crap. This is somewhat better than the advice offered in your earlier email.

"2) But you will do something only if a customer actually threatens to quit. And to suggest to her friends that they should do likewise.

"Two questions:
1) Why couldn't you have said this FIRST?
2) Do you really think that this is a good way to present your company and its corporate philosophy?"

I believe the Starhub-Irene exchange is good material for teachers of customer relations seeking to show their students how not to take their customers for granted. Maybe Irene could even be recruited to give a lesson or two!

Friday, February 11, 2011

New currency notes for angpows: Ball is at the feet of our banks

The Monetary Authority of Singapore's Currency Department has replied to my feedback about the shortage of new currency notes for the Chinese Lunar New Year

In my posting just before the lunar New Year, I had written about the yearly shortage faced by many people and quoted a friend who asked why the Board of Commissioners of Currency could not have printed more new notes knowing that there was going to be a demand every year.

She said the giving of angpows "is a good family tradition that we would want to uphold and the government should play its part to make sure that there is sufficient supply of those notes every year."

Unfortunately, according to the MAS, it is not a simple case of just issuing new notes. It says it
will (only) issue new notes when recirculated notes are insufficient to meet the demand for cash.

"This usually coincides with festive periods such as Chinese New Year. The amount of new notes to be issued in any given year, depends on the demand from banks and stock level of recirculated notes," it explains.

This means that the ball at the feet of our banks. How much new notes are put out by the authorities depends on the banks.

In other words, the annual shortage occurs because the banks have under-estimated the demand from its customers.

The big question is: Why are the banks so conservative, some would say stupid, in their applications for new notes when they know full well that there is consistently a shortage every year?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Golden Village tells why it has to give that warning

Golden Village has responded to Ms Cheah's protest about a warning sign placed on the ticket counter at its Jurong Point cinema.

According to Ms Cheah, "the sign warns us to be nice to the sales staff and action will be taken against angry customers." She took offence when she saw it and wrote to Golden Village.

In its reply, the cinema's Senior Manager for Guest Relations, Ms Annabelle Yap, thanked Ms Cheah for her feedback and gave the reason for putting up that sign:

"Over the past few years, Golden Village has seen an increased occurrence of staff being both physically and verbally abused by our patrons. We have witnessed an average of at least one such incident being reported per month to our management team. We believe the actual numbers are much higher as many of such cases are unreported.

"The reported cases include instances where our staff experienced food being thrown at them after reminding patrons that they have flouted house rules by bringing in food and drinks bought outside Golden Village premises.

"Our staff have also been spat at, pushed and had movie vouchers thrown in their faces when told that the vouchers have terms and conditions. Our staff were also subjected to offensive gesture and profanities despite making every effort to remain calm and providing their best to appease the angry patron.

"These unfortunate incidents have greatly impacted our staff morale and have prompted us to be pro-active in trying to promote a safe environment in which our staff can perform their duties.

"This signage does not in any way dictate how our patrons should behave but helps to highlight instead the need for mutual respect between the two parties to ensure a more enjoyable movie experience. On our part, Golden Village will continually strive to improve our service standards in order to provide the best service possible to all our patrons."