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Friday, May 25, 2007

Let's Talk About Customer Service, Part II

For the last year or so, my WHH and I have been struggling with sinus and ear infections. One of us gets better, the other one gets sick. A friend of mine suggested I get a Good Aire Revitalizer for our bedroom because the aircon makes the air too dry. I figured it was worth a try and went to a major department store on Scotts Road Monday afternoon.

I made my selection, but decided since they were having a big sale I should get the wok I've been wanting and a saucepan. Oh, and while I'm at it, that cool stainless-steel salad spinner. I've wanted one of those since they were invented.

Shopping is not one of my favorite things to do. Usually, if I need something, I'll go to the nearest store and buy it. I don't care if it's $5 cheaper at the store down the street -- most of the time. From now on, I will take the time to walk a half-block down the street. I stood in the queue to pay for my things for 20 minutes. I decided that I would write a letter. I not only faxed it to the store, but mailed it to the corporate office:

To Whom It May Concern:

I have just returned home after spending $528 in your Housewares Department at the Scotts Road store. As I walked home, I began to ponder my shopping experience at your store. (The Singapore government has been campaigning for excellent customer service.) In view of that, I hope that you will allow me to offer a critique of your Scotts Road store.

It is my understanding that your salespeople are commission-based, thus no sale no salary. It is a bit regrettable, as most of the time I feel harassed by them. I feel as if I'm in a hawker center with people touting, and it makes me feel quite uncomfortable.

If I tell a salesperson, “Thank you, but I just want to browse”, then I should think they would respect my wishes. Perhaps one could respond with, “OK, if you have any questions, I’ll just be over here.” Then, the salesperson should move aside and busy themselves with other work. I do not want them saying things such as, “Come look at this product. You try?” Most of the time, I’m not even shopping for the items they are touting. If the salesperson continues pushing merchandise, I walk away. It is that simple, and "Big Department Store on Scotts Road" has lost an opportunity for a sale.

My next critique lies in the processes in place when I want to actually pay for the merchandise. By that I mean, the fact that there were at least 6 people today (including an Assistant Supervisor) working behind the counter. There were 8 people standing in line waiting patiently to pay for their merchandise. Yet, only 1 cash register was open for customers.

I would think that more than 2-4 customers in line would be too many. Why not take someone off a job (such as one of the 2 women who were shuffling papers behind the counter) to serve these customers?

Additionally, why does it take 3 people to ring up the merchandise, wrap it numerous times, and then tape it? Today, for example, the cashier was in a rush (because there were 8 people in the line). She picked up an item, rang it up, and said, “That will be $6.85.” I replied, “That item isn’t mine.” I looked at the customer after me, and it was hers. Since it had already been rung up, I told her to go ahead of me.

Having 3 people take the money from one customer is redundant and confusing. I had to double-check to be sure the cashier had charged me for all of the merchandise I wanted to purchase.

Once I had paid, the saleswoman who had helped me asked me to fill out the form with my delivery information. I did so, and then asked, “When can I expect these items to be delivered?” She turned to the Assistant Supervisor who said “In 10 days’ time.” I replied, “Are you serious – 10 days’ time?” The nice saleswoman explained to me that that is the standard answer.

I just do not understand this. How can "Big Department Store on Scotts Road" expect a customer to wait 10 days for their merchandise? The maximum amount of time it could possibly take to get from one side of Singapore to the other would be 1 hour. At Takashimaya, the salesperson has a log book at the cash register and can give an approximate date and time for delivery. Quite honestly, I can get shipments from the U.S. or Europe in less than 10 days. Perhaps the delivery orders could be computerized and cashiers allowed access to that information?

I hope that my critique will be taken as that… a critique. The people who waited on me today were courteous, pleasant, and as helpful as possible. However, I truly think these managerial and process issues can readily be improved.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback.

This is the response I got yesterday afternoon via email:

Dear Miss Diana,
First of all, I would like to express my sincere apologies for the unpleasant experience that you
have encounter at our store.
We are very grateful for the feedback given to us as "Big Department Store on Scotts Road" has always pride itself in giving good customer service. It is through such feedback that we are aware of errant staff that provide poor service to our customers.
We trained our staff to approach and serve all customers. We had also reminded them
to allow customers to browse when customers do not need their help.
Our usual delivery practice is within 5 working days from the purchase date. However, due to our
cardholder sales on 17th May 2007, the delivery schedule were packed and could be done within 10
working days.
We definitely hope to be of better service to you the next time and thank you for shopping with "Big Department Store on Scotts Road".

Best regards,
Dept.Sales Manager.
I got a phone call yesterday afternoon around 3 asking if I'd be around from 6 to 9 p.m. I told the guy calling, "Yes, of course I'll be here, I want my stuff!"

My "stuff" arrived at 8 p.m. In good condition, and I'm happy with the things that I bought, but DAYUM! I had to wait until Thursday evening to get it? No real apologies? Just, we had a lot of sales this past weekend? No, "Of course we'll give you a 20%-off coupon"??? The hell? That just don't cut it with the DeeMonster (that's what my boys call me... I like it).

I'll wait to see if I get a response from the corporate office. I'm sure my fax was just passed along to the manager of the department of Housewares. If I don't get some sort of "we're sorry your shopping experience sucked-ass" kind of accommodation, I won't be shopping there EVER AGAIN, and I will most certainly divulge the name of the "Big Department Store on Scotts Road".

UPDATE: I never did get anything further from this lame company. No vouchers or anything. So, I'm telling you now, I will not shop at Isetan ever again.


Karla said...

Great letter. I hope they take it to heart.

Of course, here we have the opposite problem, which is you have to take a number to get help otherwise no one will even look at you. And in places with no numbers? Chase anyone you can down.
Though it is getting btter in the clothing shops. But grocery stores? Fugedaboutit.

Webmiztris said...

I completely avoid any place with pushy salespeople. that drives me NUTS!

Kentucky Girl said...

I HATE shopping in shopping centers because of crap like this. I'd rather order it online and hope for the best than to have to deal with incompetent staff at a store.

Shyanne said...

as whiny as this country may seem, complaining about absolutely everything, their feedback is never as constructive as your letter.

and honestly, it would be a rare thing to find them sincerely apologising and appreciating your feedback. unless of course this letter makes it to someone in the management who truly gives a poo about the customers. in most cases, especially with local management outside of the hotel or F&B industry, they don't really care as long as the complaint doesn't put them in trouble with the government. thus, the protocol apology letter.

it is sad.

mrsmogul said...

Came by Hilly. Just wanted to say that I have been in Singapore! Stayed on Sentosa Island.

Diana said...

Karla - You've got a point there, I guess I should be more grateful for the service I did get.

Webmiz - I hate it too because I feel like I'm being rude. I was not raised to be that way.

KG - That's how I always shopped in the U.S. too. I detest malls.

Shyanne - Yeah, I guess if the locals are used to it there's really no reason to change.

Mrs. Mogul - Did you enjoy your stay there? There are a lot of changes in store for Sentosa, a casino being one of them. Thanks for stopping by :D

E said...

heehee, I thought it was Isetan!

Let me say that I once won some contest with them (ok, it was a mother-daughter lookalike contest) and they gave me S$500 in vouchers.

Customer service is best in 1. Takashimaya 2. Robinsons 3. Tangs.

I think.

Diana said...

E... That's really cool that you won that contest.

I agree with your list 100% I will always go to Takashimaya first from now on. I was just lazy before and only walked over to Isetan. No more!