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Posts Tagged ‘service

Count your blessings if you do not have to deal with customer “service”. I must have been cursed to need to communicate with three different groups this week. But ever the optimist, I link my negative experiences with lessons on learning.
 

 
My first encounter was to arrange a redelivery with a courier company that I had never heard of. I Googled for information and found their site.

Like most modern companies, their site had a lot of information and an option to type in a reference number. However, the number was handwritten poorly on the delivery chit. Whatever number I keyed in gave me an empty return.

I resorted to calling their hotline, and while the customer service representative was polite enough, he also could not find the reference number. We eventually used other information to find the package.

When rearranging a delivery time, he offered a wide 9am to 6pm window on a weekday. This meant waiting at home, potentially the whole day, for a package. I asked for a weekend delivery with a smaller delivery window.

The problems here were bad human handwriting and ridiculous delivery windows. Both are examples of not putting the customer first — writing in a way only the delivery person understands and wanting to redeliver when no one is at home.

The first thing an expert forgets is what is it like to struggle with learning.

Just as there was no empathy for the customer, teachers sometimes forget what it is like to be a student. If you forget what it is like to struggle with learning, then there is no point teaching.
 

 
My second call of the week was to arrange for the recycling or responsible disposal of a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that had stopped working.

I called a service number and discovered that I had three options: Bring the item in to an industrial office, pay a courier to deliver it, or arrange for pickup based the convenience of the company.

A UPS is heavy and I was not going to lug it to an industrial area that typically has poor access via public transport. I had already paid for the UPS and was not about to pay for its collection.

So I got the instructions to send an email — to an address that was not listed at the company’s website — to arrange for pickup. I received an automated reply with a reference number. And nothing else. No schedule, no instructions, nothing.

The main problem in this case was a broken promise because someone forgot to combine human effectiveness with technological efficiency.

If you cannot reach them, you cannot teach them.

The reminder to teachers is a mantra I repeat: You must reach them to teach them. This goes beyond delivering content and providing critical information. It means following up and providing feedback until there is clear evidence of learning.

Singapore's Mos Eisley, Sim Lim Square, is still a hive of scum and villainy.

My third encounter was to find a replacement UPS. To get a good deal, I looked for alternatives at Singapore’s equivalent of Mos Eisley, Sim Lim Square (SLS).

While some scum and villainy still exists, SLS has cleaned up its act and I know a few reputable stores. Reputable, but not dependable.

I looked up price lists and contacted one shop by SMS since the contact number was plastered prominently on its website. I did not receive a reply and called two-and-a-half hours later. The lady realised I was the same person who send the SMS and told me that they had contacted the supplier.

This would have been a fine response if my question was: Did you contact the supplier? It was not. Instead, I had asked: Do you have this item in stock?

I applaud her anticipation in answering the second question, but she did not answer the first. She did not inform me via SMS or a phone call that it was not available.

Immediately after the phone call, I received an SMS reply repeating what we already talked about.

The problem here is not just inertia or not being able to communicate in a timely manner. It is assuming that the customer knows what is going on (the item was not available and they were trying to get a supplier to deliver one).

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

In teaching, it is easy to assume that learners understand things the way you do. Easy does not mean that it is right. The learner does not have the same experience and mental schema as the teacher. Learning is a messy process and teachers who already see the order may forget what it is like to tidy up.

There are little things in everyday life that can remind educators what we can do to be effective pedagogues. We just need to be open, critical, and reflective.

Today’s reflection has two parts. The first is a technical one about mifi devices offered by Changi Recommends. The other is about the level of service of that chain store.

The Philippines has been an annual “mecca” for me since 2013 thanks to speaking engagements. In 2015, I decided to try a travel router (mifi) for a short engagement.

This year I did the same, but received a different device and had a different experience.

Mifi device.

Last year, I had a device that I could switch on and it would connect to a local SIM-based data service. It was intuitive to use. Switch on when I needed Internet access, switch off when I did not.

This year I had one in which I had to activate a data plan every 24 hours. It also took a long time to start up, and in between restarts, reset its SSID from the one printed on a sticker on its side.

Last year’s device was fully-charged as promised when I first switched it on. This year’s device was only half-charged even though the counter staff said it was fully-charged. Perhaps he had a positive outlook: Half-full could be rounded up.

The more recent experience was unnerving and a step backwards.

The chain store at our airport calls itself Changi Recommends. I cannot recommend the product or the service given how local telcos are stepping up their game and how it is getting easier every year to get a local prepaid SIMs from kiosks while overseas.
 

 
Each time I return from the Philippines, I get a rude reminder how lacking our service standards are.

When I returned from my trip, I decided to buy a Pokémon plush toy as I had a receipt that offered me a discount.

I followed the instructions on the receipt and approached a Changi Recommends counter only to be told, “No stock, go to the other counter in this terminal.”

I walked to the other counter and was told, “You need to go to the counter in Terminal 3.”

So I trotted over to that terminal only to be told at that counter, “Collect downstairs”. Where? “Downstairs!”

I had ask a weary-looking person at an information counter exactly where this downstairs collection point was before I finally found it.

The things we live with if we do not know how much better the service could be. The things we put up with when we do.

Even if the counter staff are not as warm or polite as the average Filipino seems to be, could they not communicate better and let all counters deliver the same message?

If they do not, the chain should change their name to Wild Goose Chase or Changi Not Recommended.

Patience might be a virtue, but frustration might be your reward.

I am nothing if not patient. When I read the news in November 2015 that my telco provider (StarHub) would lower its fees, I almost did a joyful jig.

As I was still tied to an existing two-year subscription plan, I had to wait to take advantage of this change. In January this year, I visited a StarHub store to find out exactly when and how to make the switch.

I found out that I could do this in late June 2016 for my mobile line and last week for my wife’s line. While the when was easy, the how was less so.

The process seemed to be designed to dissuade those that dislike jumping through hoops. According to a customer service representative (CSR), I had to call 1633, inform them of my wish to change, and then make the change myself online.

I did that, but I wondered: Why call when the process is do-it-yourself? Do some people need help figuring out when they can do this and which web page to visit? Automate the process and put it online!

I already had the URL by trawling the telco’s site, but the CSR on the phone read it out to me one letter at a time anyway.

I managed to make the switch online. The process involved verifying my credentials (logging in), checking my eligibility (a button on screen), and making the switch (clicking on that button). The initial phone call was not necessary.

I thought all was well and merely had to wait two more weeks to repeat the process for my wife’s line. However, hope springs eternal, patience is a virtue, and shit hit the fan.

StarHub messes up.

When I logged in to check my account, the telco had my mobile line under the wrong scheme. As a Hub Club member, I qualified for the SIM-only 4G 3 plan at $21.45 instead of $42.90 per month. My online account information indicated that I was on the more expensive plan, but an email stated that I was on the cheaper plan.

Which piece of information was I supposed to believe?

I emailed and called the helpline again and received email and verbal confirmation that I was on the cheaper plan. But the information online still indicted that I was on the more expensive plan. Which information will the billing department use?

Last week I tried switching my wife’s mobile line to the SIM-only plan. However, the process had changed. The verification process was no longer available online and there was no option to make the switch.

I called and emailed again. I was told to wait because they had to check their backend. If I was not already bummed out by that point, I might have made a cheeky response about them caring only about the bottom line or their service being the butt of jokes.

Instead I tweeted this:

I received a reply to DM my number phone and account number. I did so and also provided the annotated screenshot I shared above. Now I screenshot their DM reply.

StarHubCares?

Apparently when they “escalate” something, it takes three working days. As it was a Friday night by the time they replied, I presume they mean an optimistic Wednesday.

This sounds reasonable since I am not a Member of Parliament or mrbrown. I am just a little person who subscribed to StarHub services since its inception.

Three working days is definitely reasonable when there are still “contact us” pages elsewhere that claim a 14-day wait for a reply.

I can wait. The telco can take its time. During that time the billing cycle will kick in like clockwork to charge me more than it should. To address this, I will have to call, email, or tweet. Again.

Patience is a virtue, but frustration is my reward.

A short time ago I read this news article about a man who bought a souvenir football jersey only to discover that the club logo was upside down.

The football fan shared his outrage on Twitter.

One or more wise representatives from the football club took this on the chin, published an apology letter upside down, sent him a replacement jersey, gave him a free ticket to attend a match, and invited him to the players’ dressing room so that he could get both shirts signed.

The football club did not have to do all this, but I am sure they won a ton of goodwill and turned a bad situation into a good one in one fell swoop.

Over a week ago, one of my external hard drives, a Western Digital (WD) My Passport, started failing. I hand-delivered the faulty device to the local service centre on the 10th of March and received a replacement on the 15th.

Not only was the turnaround time quick, the drive was also shipped from another country by courier and was twice the capacity of the one I sent in (2TB instead of 1TB). Now that was service!

I have found the WD My Passport drives to be reliable (I have three at home) and my confidence took a dip when one started failing. But because of WD’s prompt action, my confidence has been restored.

Both the football club and the hard drive company put their stakeholders’ concerns front and centre. They found out why we were upset and what we really needed. Their responses were not just good enough, they were great!

We call teaching a service. Does it live up to this claim? What excuses do we give for not providing excellent service in teaching?

 
Even though the level of service in Singapore has improved somewhat, most of us have come to expect service with a scowl rather than a smile.

Here is something I experienced recently. I bought dinner for my family at a food outlet. After waiting for a while, my takeout was ready for its trip home. Or so I thought.

Something made me check the contents thoroughly and I discovered that an item was missing. I pointed this out politely: Excuse me, I think [name of item] is missing.

The service person said she would check with the kitchen. No problem, right? Wrong. Her tone was one of disbelief, her look was accusatory, and she did not apologize for the mistake. Apparently, I was a lying thief hoping to get something more than I paid for.

Realizing they had made a mistake, I waited some more to get the missing item. It was delivered to me and I said “Thank you!”, but there was no apology nor a perfunctory “You’re welcome!”

Those of us who have not travelled out of the country or experienced a culture deeply other than our own will not know any other way. We behave no differently to those that serve and this indifference or rudeness is simply reciprocated.

Those who travel or those who take the time to observe and question will ask why the scowl seems to be part of our psyche.

I am reflecting on this not to psychoanalyze our culture. Others who want to do this can do so at their leisure or their peril.

I am thinking about the indifference and rot that sets in when we get comfortable with the way things are. The service person saw no reason to behave otherwise. She had no positive models to emulate. Such models operating in our context were probably labelled weird anyway, so why paint a target on your head for ridicule.

I am reflecting on this as my department gears up for the new semester. We have become more efficient with better workflows. We have become more effective with better strategies. But we must guard against becoming complacent. We provide services that are tied to technologies that change constantly.

I would like us to provide a service with a sincere smile because we believe in what we are doing and are prepared to go the extra mile simply because that is the right thing to do.


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