Undergrad Heidi Tan's mobile phone was pickpocketed at Raffles City last Saturday. She made a police report and promptly went to Singtel to get a replacement phone.
That was when her disillusionment with the telco started. Her friend told her about my blog and she emailed me this story...
"A most unfortunate incident happened to me last Saturday, and Singtel just had to make it worse with their unsympathetic response.
"I lost my phone last Saturday. In fact, I got pickpocketed at Raffles City, no less. Unfortunately, even though they were caught on CCTV, I did not manage to catch them in time. Hence, a police report was made, and it was classified as theft.
"So, I set about to get a replacement phone. I got my replacement sim card without any problems. However, I was told by the woman at Hello shop Singtel building branch that even though it was a theft, I had yet to fulfil 21 months of contractual obligations, and thus I still had to pay $300 to renew my contract, under the 12-month upgrade.
"She said that I could call the 1688 customer service number to try and get a waiver. Following Monday, my father called on my behalf. He was informed that the manager would call him back either that night, or the next morning.
"However, we received no calls. Finally, my father made another call to Singtel. It seems that the manager had no intention to call him at all.
"After much persistence, my father only managed to talk to the supervisor. The supervisor was of no help at all, giving us a negative response right from the start.
"In fact, the supervisor offered us a waiver of one-month subscription fees. Yet, his subordinate had actually offered us a waiver of three months subscription fees!
"It seemed pretty apparent at that moment that the protocol for handling waivers were, to say the least, pretty laissez-faire. My father was fuming. He thought it was ridiculous that after waiting till the next day for a call, the customer service manager thought that his matter was too trivial, or thought it beneath himself/herself to speak to a customer.
"Either way, it did not make a lot of business sense. And my father just insisted that I terminate the line and pay the early termination charges.
"Hence, I called them personally to say I would like to terminate the line. The caller on the other line, upon my request, was only interested to know if I knew that there was a charge for early termination, and whether I was intending to pay it.
"Absolutely no questions asked about reason for termination, and no attempt to retain the customer. I was crushed.
"Assuming that there were no excess charges, I was paying them $62 a month. What am I, to them? Just another customer?
"My boyfriend, feeling all apologetic for persuading me to take up a Singtel line, decided to draft an email for me to send to them. Maybe an email will work, he said. Telephone operators sometimes just do not know better.
"Just for a better chance, I sent my mail to two different addresses. Both came back after a day. The first one, was this...
"Dear Ms Tan,
Thank you for your email. We appreciate the concerns that you have highlighted. Unfortunately, we regret that we are unable to waive the $300 surcharge. Thank you for your support thus far and have a pleasant day."
Yes. That’s all. I typed a letter that was at least 10times as long as his reply. To a customer, it means “I really don’t care”. Or ctrl+c, ctrl+v. (That’s cut and paste, btw.) And may I ask how to enjoy a "pleasant day"?
The second reply....
"Dear Ms Tan,
Thank you for sharing your concern with us in your email of 11 October. We are sorry to hear that you have lost your mobile set. Our record under your line xxxxxxxxx indicates that it is currently eligible for the 12 months upgrade.
"It will be eligible for the 21 months upgrade from 6 June 2012. Under the 12 months upgrade program, the top-up charge of $300 is payable.
"In view of the price of the handsets sold to customers upon upgrade, we seek your kind understanding that we are not able to waive the top-up charge.
"Our record indicates that the line has an outstanding two years' contract which will expire on 8 Sept 2012. If the line is ceased, the gradated penalty of the set is payable.
"In view of that, please do consider retaining the line till the expiry of the contract. In view of that, we have not taken any action on the line till we hear from you again with your further instruction.
"Once again, Ms Tan, we apologise for the inconvenience and seek your kind understanding on this matter. Thank you for your support and have a pleasant day."
"This one is much longer. I acknowledge that she cared a little more. But then again, it was probably just a larger chunk of cut and paste. In the first half, policy regarding the 12 month upgrade was reiterated. In case they failed to realize, yes, we know the policy.
"If our action plan was something that was covered in policy, why would we go to such troubles to get it done? In my email, I mentioned the earlier part about no attempt being made to retain the customer.
"Good that she tried to do what her colleagues failed to. But retaining customer, because if you don’t, “the gradated penalty of the set is payable?” Is this customer care, may I ask? Or does customer threat sound more appropriate for their department?
"I’m appalled and disgusted to finally realise how insignificant we personal mobile line customers are to telcos, and also aghast at how low our service standards are, if the leading telco in Singapore’s service is anything to go by.
"While I understand that there are procedures to follow, shouldn't they review it on a case-by-case basis so that loyal subscribers like me, do not fall through the cracks, getting punished on top of getting pickpocketed?"
Heidi has taken a lot of trouble to vent her frustration. Let's hope Singtel listens to her problem again and waive the penalty.