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
"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
(email@example.com) 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.
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!