Friday, December 30, 2011

Goodwood gives a template response

Goodwood Park has responded to my "raw Christmas" complaint about its poor service. It was what I would call a template reply and is unlikely to give me the confidence that its standard of service will improve next Christmas.

Here's the letter from Cameron Smith, its F and B director:

"Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback with regards your experience on Xmas Eve with regards your pick up from the Deli.  
I do value your comments and the points raised are being addressed with those concerned.
I can assure that this feedback is important to us and we take your comments very seriously.
Once again on behalf of Goodwood Park Hotel, please accept my sincere apologies and I do hope to have the opportunity to welcoming you back to Goodwood Park Hotel in the future."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A really raw Christmas!!!!

Christmas Eve dinner this year had many hiccups, no thanks to the food providers -- Goodwood Park Hotel and Singapore Island Country Club (SICC).

From Goodwood, we had ordered a soya sauce turkey, a Yorkshire pork rack, turkey satay, candied chestnut, potato salads among other things. Allen and Celia were assigned to pick up the food.

Although they were there promptly at six, collection time promised by the hotel, they had to wait one and a half hours before all the food was ready.

The culprit was the turkey, or rather, the people cooking it.

According to Celia, what did not help was the staff who had to manage the impatient customers. Although they tried to appease them with offer of orange juice drinks, they made the big mistake of getting the order of the queue all mixed up. As a result, many who were there first were frustrated.

One middle-aged couple who were behind in the queue managed to get their turkey earlier because the staff succumbed to their unsavoury pressure.

But the long wait was not the only disappointment that evening. When the Yorkshire pork rack was sliced, the meat was found to be severely under-cooked. Our helpers had to give it the once over before it could be consumed.

The next big disappointment came from SICC which prepared our roast beef, pork knuckle, mince pies and Christmas pudding.

Like the Yorkshire pork rack from Goodwood, the two chunks of roast beef turned out to be raw. We could not have it re-roasted because there was no oven in the house, which, incidentally, is almost bare of facilities as it is due to be torn down for rebuilding.

Victor volunteered to send the beef back to SICC. The club, realising its shortfall, took it back without any question asked.

To its credit, someone from the club called up on Christmas Day to apologise and, as a gesture of goodwill, offered to compensate us with another chunk of roast.

That, I must say, was good damage control as it immediately appealed to our forgiving nature and softened us. I wish more people and organisations could do the same.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wang Foong's excellent service -- and here's Lucy to show you the proof

My friend and fellow blogger Lucy was all excited (I guess she must have been!) when she emailed me this morning to offer me a bouquet.

"After sharing with you so many brickbats in the past year, I'm happy, no delighted, to share with you some excellent service I received yesterday," she said.

Her story is pretty long (and interesting, I might add), so I will just reproduce what she has posted in her blog, FOOD fuels me to talk...

Wang Foong’s excellent service Sam

"On Wang Foong Foodstuffs Suppliers’ website there’s a tagline that says “Expect nothing less than EXCELLENT”. And it’s no empty boast!

I experienced first hand such excellent service that I’m quite astounded how a little factory outlet tucked away in the boondocks of Wooodlands could cultivate such customer centric behaviour that leaves so many big organisations like banks — not to say SMRT — and Cold Storage lagging so far behind as to be out of sight!

This is how I got to know Wang Foong.

Last Sunday, Dec 18, I was at OperaViva’s last soiree for the year held at founding chairman Leow Siak Fah’s imposing home off Kheam Hock Road.

Besides the excellent singing and a solo poetry recital on “The night before Christmas”, there was, as always, plenty of food. Besides the host family’s signature dish of mee siam, several of us brought something to share, pot luck style.

And it was the least inspiring looking contribution that caught my eye and taste bud. Note that dark little lump on the extreme left of the pix (below) behind the nyonya kueh. It was the best smoked pork knuckle I’ve tasted in a long time!

Once the outer skin was peeled off, the unprepossessing bundle turned into an ambrosaic tender flavorful knuckle ham, with just enough fat and bite to make every mouthful a heavenly experience.

No wonder then, several of us stood around to attack the meat repeatedly, morsel by morsel so that it was gone in no time.

I simply had to ask the woman who brought the knuckle where she got the yummy fare. She wrote the contact web site on a paper serviette:

That night, I went to the site and sent an email asking for more info and was given an auto response followed promptly the next day by a reply from Mr Samuel Soh, a sales operation executive, explaining that Wang Foong doesn’t take pre-orders but I could call him to find out more.

To cut a long story short, we spoke and I explained that I needed just two knuckles, to justify my drive from Newton to Woodlands. He gave me directions and promised to ensure that I won’t be disappointed on arrival with the “sold out” sign.

This morning, I made the trip but as one auntie who knows Orchard Road and its surrounding best, it wasn’t long be4 I was lost in the wilds of Woodlands. Despite very clear directions on how to get off the SLE to Woodlands Terrace, I found myself outside an MRT station, without a clue which it was — it didn’t help that there wasn’t any easily noticeable sign either!

I lowered my car window and shouted at the first uncle passerby who looked my way to ask. He told me it was Marsiling which frankly in terms of giving me a sense of location, he might as well have said Mars.

So I called Mr Samuel Soh who told me not to worry. He would drive from Wang Foong “to fetch” me. And he did, within 5 minutes and then guided me to Woodlands Terrace by driving slowly with me trailing close behind.

Then he zipped into the sales area and picked up the required pork knuckles. I paid and he was all smiles, as he waved away my offer of a $2 tip “for your petrol lah, to come and look for me”.

This is service par excellence — all for a $39 purchase! Compare this to the terrible service that’s been doled out to me at Cold Storage on a fairly regular basis – where I spend thousands per year!

And no, Wang Foong’s operations aren’t of the “catch fly” variety. There were several customers milling inside its premises when I got there.

Yet it actually spared a sales executive to come and show me the way knowing that I’m no big spender! That’s putting service be4 dollars and cents!

So go eat your heart out all you big business and organisations, which are more interested in being big in sales than big in service! It’s shameful that a small operation like Wang Foong can out-run you like a gazelle can out run a bumbling elephant!"

Thanks, Lucy. I wish more people who write to me would do the same -- give praise when they come across someone who does an excellent service.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Good, cheap and fast --- how they add up

I came across a picture with this sign in my mail recently about service and thought the logic makes a lot of sense in present-day Singapore. It reminded me of labour chief Lim Swee Say's 'cheaper, better, faster' slogan.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Singapore Airport: Should there still be a question of whether it is the best?

The Wall Street Journal (Asia) today carried in its Travel section a story about Singapore Airport that all Singaporeans, myself included, would be proud of.

It would have been a perfect story if the sub-editor (or whoever was in charge) had removed the question mark from the heading, THE WORLD'S BEST AIRPORT?

After all, the story gushes about all the fantastic facilities and amenities of the airport, something that would be hard to match in other airports of the developed countries.

Maybe the ASJ just didn't want to get itself embroiled in any controversy. Here's the story...


On a recent vacation, Andrew Tregonning and his wife, Gill, found themselves relaxing in a spacious rooftop hot tub. Nearby were countless restaurants and shops, many with tax-free merchandise. Next, they could take a bus tour, catch a movie or meander through a tropical butterfly garden.

Ah, the joys of the airport. The Tregonnings were en route from New Zealand to India and opted for a long layover at Singapore's Changi International Airport just so they could play.

"It's the first time we've ever done something like this," said Mrs. Tregonning. "It's wonderful."

Changi is arguably the world's most fabulous airport. Since it opened in 1981, the airport has notched more than 370 "best" awards world-wide from travel trade groups and publications. A look at its operations reveals much about how to run a top-notch airport—and ways other airports could improve.

The airport offers amenities found elsewhere only in airlines' fancy lounges for premium passengers. There are comfortable areas for sleeping or watching TV, premium bars, work desks and free Internet. A nap room is about $23 for three hours; a shower can be had for $6. If you want to put your feet in a tank with tiny fish that eat dead skin, that's $17 for 20 minutes.

The pool is free to guests of the airport's in-transit hotels; otherwise it's about $11 a person. A bus tour of Singapore is offered free by the airport. The tour is arranged so that passengers don't have to clear immigration—the airport retains passports so passengers don't run off.

Simple steps matter, like minimizing annoying announcements and honking carts and instead playing soothing music to reduce stress. Placing rival currency-exchange booths and clothing stores side-by-side stimulates competition. Touch screens in bathrooms let travelers send text messages to supervisors when toilet paper runs out, for example.

Changi figures such perks entice passengers to spend more money at the airport and select Singapore over other connecting hubs. About 750,000 square feet of concession space—approximately the size of a suburban shopping mall—provides 50% of the airport's revenue, helping to pay for amenities and keep down costs to airlines. The airport says its merchants recorded $1 billion in retail sales last year.

A four-story amusement-park type slide is even tied into retail. If you want to use the slide, you have to have a receipt from an airport merchant showing roughly $8 and up in purchases. Without that, you can only ride the bottom 1½ stories of the slide.

Terminal 3, the largest, opened in 2008 with skylights, a wall of windows and an interior wall covered in plants rotated out of the airport's greenhouse. It is a city unto itself: dry cleaners, medical center with everything from dental care to fertility treatments, a grocery store, pharmacy, flower shop, jewelry stores, clothing stores and an indoor amusement park for kids with a balloon bounce house.

The 18th-busiest airport in the world by passengers, Changi is smaller than New York's Kennedy Airport and Amsterdam's Schiphol but larger than Shanghai and Houston's Bush Intercontinental, and is a prime connecting point for flights linking north and south Asia as well as Europe and Oceania. It's not just a hub for Singapore Airlines, but also a refueling stopover for European and Australian carriers. So the airport offers plenty of activities for travelers with time on their hands.

"We wanted to transform the way travel is done and create a stress-free experience," said Foo Sek Min, executive vice president of Changi Airport Group Ltd., the airport's operator. It was "corporatized" into a state-owned company in 2009 and has had plenty of government support, since the airport is considered a key economic development element for the small, fast-growing island nation.

Mr. Foo's personal pet project: a butterfly garden. Soothing and relaxing, it's a two-story tropical garden overlooking gates for Singapore Airlines super-jumbo A380 jets. Since smoking isn't allowed indoors, the original concept was a smoking garden. "Why not do more?" he said.

Changi also has a private terminal called "Jet Quay" that is used by celebrities, private jet-setters, government officials, CIPs—Commercially Important Persons—and anyone else willing to pay. For about $1,150, you get jet-side limo service. For $231 you get the use of a private terminal along with golf-cart rides to gates. For $62, Jet Quay personnel will greet you at arrival and escort you through main terminal areas.

Few of the airport's 28,000 workers actually are employed by Changi Airport Group, but airport management requires new hires to go through a weeklong indoctrination on the airport, its layout and service standards and training on how to help travelers.

"Serving the customer well always correlates with earning money," said Mr. Foo. "Do you need a swimming pool in an airport? No. No one asked for that. We are creating the market, creating the demand. People choose Singapore because they can swim."

Bill Franke, former chairman of America West Airlines who now runs a private equity group that invests in airlines, knows Changi as both an airline operator, having founded Tiger Airways in Singapore, and as a frequent traveler. The quick baggage delivery, easy immigration and security set-ups, pleasant surroundings and sounds all contribute to efficiency, he said.

"When I come into Changi, there's a sense of comfort, a feeling which I don't have at other airports," Mr. Franke said.

Customer service is apparent. Feedback kiosks are scattered throughout. In bathrooms, seemingly always clean and appointed with small flowers, touch screens by sinks ask customers to rate the facility.

Mining company executive Kevin Swendson, heading home to Indonesia after a business trip to Singapore, stopped in at one of the airport's two movie theaters to watch "Fast and Furious 5." The theater has surround-sound audio, wide aisles for maneuvering luggage and patrons who quickly say, "Shhhhhhh!" to anyone talking.

"A lot of airports are boring like hell. But there's a movie here, massage here, food here. It's great," he said. His advice for other airports: "Just have a good imagination and a bit of spice. It doesn't seem that it would be that hard for airports to do it."

Those of you who'd like to read the story in AWJ, here's the link:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Come fly with me...and be surprised!!!!

I received this story this morning and thought that I should share it with you.

Come Fly With Me !!!!!

For those who have flown RYANAIR:
"Spare a thought for Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive of 'Ryanair'.......

Arriving in a hotel in Dublin, he went to the bar and asked for a pint of draught Guinness. The barman nodded and said, "That will be one Euro please, Mr O’Leary."

Somewhat taken aback, O'Leary replied, "That's very cheap," and handed over his money.

"Well, we try to stay ahead of the competition", said the barman. "And we are serving free pints every Wednesday evening from 6 until 8. We have the cheapest beer in Ireland."

"That is remarkable value" Michael comments.

"I see you don't seem to have a glass, so you'll probably need one of ours. That will be 3 Euro please."

O'Leary scowled, but paid up. He took his drink and walked towards a seat.

"Ah, you want to sit down?" said the barman. "That'll be an extra 2 Euro. You could have pre-booked the seat, and it would have only cost you a Euro. I think you may be too big for the seat sir, can I ask you to sit in this frame please?"

Michael attempts to sit down but the frame is too small and when he can't squeeze in he complains: "Nobody would fit in that little frame!"

"I'm afraid if you can't fit in the frame you'll have to pay an extra surcharge of €4.00 for your seat sir." O'Leary swore to himself, but paid up.

"I see that you have brought your laptop with you" added the barman. "Since that wasn't pre-booked either, that will be another 3 Euro."

O'Leary was so annoyed that he walked back to the bar, slammed his drink on the counter, and yelled, "This is ridiculous, I want to speak to the manager!"

"Ah, I see you want to use the counter," says the barman, "that will be 2 Euro please."
O'Leary's face was red with rage. "Do you know who I am?"

"Of course I do Mr. O'Leary,"

"I've had enough! What sort of Hotel is this? I come in for a quiet drink and you treat me like this. I insist on speaking to a manager!"

"Here is his E mail address, or if you wish, you can contact him between 9 and 9.10 every morning, Monday to Tuesday at this free phone number. Calls are free, until they are answered, then there is a talking charge of only 10 cents per second."

"I will never use this bar again!"

"OK sir, but remember, we are the only hotel in Ireland selling pints for one Euro".

Moral of the story: if you fly low-cost carriers, be prepared for the extras.