Starhub customer Irene Hoe must be totally exasperated with the service provided by the telco.
If you were to count the number of times she has experienced "non-existing" service from the telco, you would begin to appreciate her frustration.
The latest happened late last month after she sent the following message to Starhub:
"Subject: Book 592001 # front of porch
Yesterday morning, I tried three or four times to send this message.
Each time, I received this message in return "Resource unavaiable".
What was the problem?
Was this a BlackBerry problem or a Starhub problem?
------ SMS ------
Sent: Jul 28, 2011 09:51
Subject: Book 592001 # front of porch
Book 592001 # front of porch "
What followed was not only hilarous, it would also make a superb case study for those in the communications and service industries.
Enjoy the exchange:
On 29 July 2011 12:08, StarHub wrote to Irene:
"Hi Irene Hoe,
Thank you for contacting StarHub Blackberry Helpdesk.
The sms format that you tried to send is to
We tried sending with the same format and to the same number but we do not received the same error on our end.
Instead we received an error: SMS format was incorrect.
Please check from the vendor as this is neither StarHub or Blackberry
Should problem persist, please reply with your contact details for us to
call back and assist you further.
Customer Service, Technical Helpdesk
Moments later, Irene replied:
"Subject: Re: Book 592001 # front of porch
PLEASE READ MESSAGES WITH CARE.
Why did I write that in caps? Because you clearly did not read my message to Starhub with due care.
NOW READ THIS CAREFULLY, TOO.
I did not try to contact an online bookstore.
The addressee of the SMS message I sent, which was bounced with the error message RESOURCE UNAVAILABLE was Comfort Delgro.
I often send the SAME message to the SAME number.
I sent the SAME message this morning and got the taxi I had requested. The problem happened the day before.
DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME SO FAR?
What I do not understand is how you managed to deduce that I tried to SMS an online bookstore.
I must therefore conclude, Nurul, that it is eminently possible that you are a computer that has been wrongly programmed.
In which case, the time I have spent writing this message has been in vain.
In the event that you are not a computer, I suggest that it would be a darned good idea for you to spend more care and time reading a customer's email before you jump to odd conclusions.
Of course, it may be that this really is not part of your job and you were only doing a colleague a favour, and your real work lies someplace other than answering the queries of customers.
(In case there is a doubt, this message was written by a real human being and not a computer) "
Less than an hour later, Nurul wrote back:
"Hi Ms Irene,
Please accept my sincere apologies for the initial response to your email and we do appreciate your clarification on the matter.
Regarding the error message: Resource Unavailable, that you have experienced when you used ComfortDelGro's SMS taxi booking service (SMS-A-Cab: 71222), we have escalated the case to our Network Engineers for further analysis. We will share their findings with you upon receiving their reply.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Starhub followed this up with another reply from its Technical Helpdesk
later in the day:
"Dear Ms Irene,
We have checked the prepaid cards under your account: 81160122, 91617892 and 91028813. However there are no SMS records sent to 71222 that we can see since there is no cost deducted from your prepaid wallet for the transaction. May we verify the mobile number that you have used for the ComfortDelGro's SMS taxi booking service (SMS-A-Cab: 71222) please?
Customer Service, Technical Helpdesk
Irene replied to inform the telco that the SMS was from her BlackBerry,
NOT from her prepaid cards.
The following day, 30 July, Nurul wrote:
"Hi Ms Irene,
Based from trace yesterday for mobile number 90111949, a sms was sent to 71222001 at 10:21hrs and another sms to 71222002 at 22:06hrs without any error.
We are still checking with our Network Engineers for further analysis. We will update you again."
At this stage, I could feel the increasing frustration from Irene when
"Sigh. The problem did NOT happen yesterday.
Please read the original email.
I just wanted to know WHY the messages that day, NOT yesterday, did not go through."
Shortly after, Nurul wrote to apologise, claiming it was a "typo error".
Then on 3 August, Roy Looi of Starhub sent Irene an email to tell her about the possible causes...
"Hi Ms Irene
Our SMSC Network Engineers and RIM have updated us on the reported error message that you have encountered on your BlackBerry handset.
From their findings, we see that there could be several causes to the error message: Resource Unavailable as displayed on your BlackBerry handset whenever you are unable to send a SMS to the ComfortDelGro's SMS taxi booking service (SMS-A-Cab: 71222).
These possible causes are as follows,
1. Your device is temporarily out of range and thus does not have sufficient network coverage to send SMS at the location. Hence the BlackBerry handset would reflect the error message since the mobile network is not available at that particular instance. Once the handset is re-connected to the mobile network, the SMS will be sent successfully. As shared previously, our SMSC Engineers verified that there are no records of any SMS sent out to 71222 on 28 July 11. Therefore the SMS would have remained unsent in your phone and so did not reach our mobile network.
To resolve this, please move to another location with better network coverage or wait for your BlackBerry device to come back online. Alternatively, you may toggle the Mobile Service of your BlackBerry Off/On to re-establish network connection manually.
2. There is network coverage but the network may be out of capacity at that instance. However this is unlikely as the frequency spectrum allocated for each planned cell is more than adequate for sending SMS. We will agree that the error message: Resource Unavailable, is generated by the handset rather than the network since network alarm error messages (which is also a different error message) will not be sent to customer’s handsets.
3. The error message was returned by the vendor’s i.e ComfortDelgro’s SMS service.
As these findings remain inconclusive, RIM is requesting for your BlackBerry handset event logs for their review and continued investigation. Please refer to the following link from RIM’s Knowledge Base which will assist you in extracting the event logs for your BlackBerry handset.
How to extract the event logs on a BlackBerry smartphone
This will help provide them with more information to determine the cause for the error message that you have encountered by your BlackBerry handset. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter."
Two days later, when Irene did not respond, Roy Looi wrote again:
"We have yet to hear from you.
"The RIM ticket opened for this case is INC000023409936. If you require assistance in extracting the log file for your BlackBerry handset, please provide us with a contact number (preferably a land line) and a convenient time for us to reach you."
When Irene finally responded, she was obviously in a foul mood.
"Roy, I am no geek.
I haven't the slightest idea what a log file is or how it is extracted or from where it should be extracted.
I would imagine that 99 per cent of BlackBerry users would be in the same position.
All I wanted, all I asked for - if anyone at Starhub really bothered to read what I wrote initially - was an explanation of how and why this failure happened.
Instead, your people began by saying it HADN'T happened. Don't take my word for it. Just look at the email trail.
After too many exchanges of useless email messages, your last but one message offered a possible explanation.
But not before Starhub had once again proved to me that customers finish last in your company's service sweepstakes.
Did I really say "service"? Well, I'm not sure it exists at all at Starhub.
This is not simply a reaction to this particular incident, but to my whole sorry history of Starhub.
You may consider this closed. For now."
Those of you from the communications and service industries may draw your own conclusions from all this. But one thing's for sure: Starhub has failed to nail down Irene's problem in the first instance and it could have it all sorted out easily with a simple telephone call to her.