Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Customer Service: A Study in Contrasts

My last post, "Indifferent Strokes from Business Folks",dealt with the poor customer service that I received from Sky Cable and how difficult it can be to get for many (most?) companies in the Philippines to take customer complaints seriously.

But that is not always the case. 

On  Oct.10 I purchased a take out order consisting of a pork liempo and pork barbecue stick meal at Reyes Barbecue which is a local chain that specializes in grilled native dishes.   Each item came with a packet of atsara (papaya relish). It turns out that the contents of both packets were spoiled. I returned to the store to notify the manager, but there was none on duty. So I told a line employee instead about the matter and emphasized that their entire supply of this product is likely inedible,

I wasn't  asking for my money back as the item in question was just a small part of the purchase. Yet I felt that the restaurant should be made aware of this quality control problem. My thinking was this time it was just a bad batch of atsara, which was easily identifiable even without opening the packet. But next time a customer might unknowingly wind up with an order that has a much more serious food safety problem, such as bad meat.

For good measure I went to the Reyes website and filed a narrative of my issue  in the "Contact Us" option.  However, I didn't really expect anything to come of it, which has been my experience in filing complaints or making inquiries with other businesses this way.  Imagine my surprise when just a few hours later I received a reply from the manager/owner of the franchise where I had made the purchase.  She apologized profusely for the incident which she acknowledged was inexcusable and said that the employee whom I originally discussed the matter had indeed brought it to her attention, but she didn't know how to reach me as I didn't leave any contact information at the restaurant. She even offered  to furnish  a new order of the above items on the house.   I took her up on it, and this time everything in the order was fine, including the atsara which was fresh and crispy.  

In short, a strong indication of a company's integrity and reliability is not just the service that it provides for customers in the regular course of day to day business but moreover how they respond when they've made a mistake. The respective attitudes of  Sky Cable and Reyes Barbecue in this type of situation are as different as night and day as is their worthiness of patronage by the public..

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Indifferent Strokes from Business Folks

Here is a narrative about bad customer service. It reflects the attitude of many companies in the Philippines which have made  an art of inefficiency.

Our  cable TV and Internet provider Global Destiny was recently taken over by another company, Sky Cable Corp. It would be too much for subscribers to expect a seamless transition in such a changeover, and sure enough, Sky failed to record some of our subscription payments in the course of the records transfer between the two companies and sent us a past due notice in early September  threatening disconnection of service even though our accounts were in fact paid current.

In response to this warning, I immediately phoned Sky.  They claimed that Global Destiny is still responsible for billing and referred  me to the Global Destiny customer service number which turned out to be unreachable.  I called Sky back but they still refused to assist. I pointed out that they now own our accounts and even changed the account numbers to accommodate their system, and most tellingly "Sky Cable" not "Global Destiny" is the name of the payee on their bill.  Finally the representative  appeared to relent and said they would look into the matter and call me back the next day. Of course, she didn't. Such is the state of customer service in the Philippines. Employees will tell you what you want to hear. This type of stroking is rooted in the local culture. But meanwhile, these reassurances sound so convincing that you really believe your grievance is about to be rectified.

So a few weeks ago I reported our problem to the regulatory agency  that oversees cable businesses, the Department of Telecommunications, and received an email acknowledgment that it had been received. While that's pending, a few days ago I asked the administrator's office of our condominium building  whether they had heard of any new information as we are not alone in our complaint. There were no new developments, but they gave me a contact person at Sky to whom I texted a brief  explanation of our problem. She promised to call back on Oct. 3 but that didn't happen. 

This morning I finally received a corrected bill for each account.This afternoon I also received a text from the contact person at Sky requesting that I refer my complaint to her supervisor. I understand if the rep felt that my situation was beyond the limits of her job responsibilities , but as a matter of business courtesy, the supervisor should be the one to initiate the contact.

Obviously, I'm glad that the situation has apparently been resolved, but if I hadn't persisted in getting it it fixed and wasted hours of my time in doing so, rather than looking at an accurate statement, I might now be looking at a "cable-less" blue screen on my TV and at a "cannot connect" message on my computer for my Internet service.

The moral of the story is that if ever you have a service issue like this one, don't assume that it will be resolved with one call to or interface with a representative. If the complaint isn't properly addressed on the second contact, get a supervisor or manager involved and follow up regularly. Escalate the matter and file a complaint with the appropriate regulatory agency if necessary.  These steps won't guarantee success in getting issues settled in your favor, but failure to stay on top of them will almost ensure a disappointing outcome.