The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word …
January 23, 2009, 6:45 am
Filed under: Comment

Photo: Photocello2006

It’s Chinese New Year next week which means I get a holiday till Thursday.

That’s the kind of welcome I like from new countries, ha!

Anyway, when I’m back I’ll be writing this bloody thing abit more regularly [including the next A[P]SOTW assignment, which will be about flags] – not because I’m under any delusion that people like it – but because ironically, it helps me get some clarity of thought, despite going off on the sorts of tangents even a protractor couldn’t calculate.

So till then, I leave you with my last rant of the previous Chinese Year 🙂

Most people appreciate the value of good customer service and yet it’s got to the stage where we are more likely to be shocked at good treatment than bad.

Saying that, I have been hugely impressed at the standard of service I’ve received in HK so far. People are helpful, knowledgeable and pro-active, a far cry from the typical experience I had in Singapore over 4 years.

I should point out I’m talking about average day-to-day kind of things, not hotels or airlines etc – because in that respect Singapore, like the majority of Asia, are World leaders putting much of the West to shame.

Anyway this isn’t about the discrepancies between East and West customer service … this is about something entirely different, the pettiness of brands.

Photo: Kelly Bell

What I’m about to write is not limited to brands in Singapore, I am simply that country to demonstrate my point, especially given– like Germany – it is regarded as a blueprint for effectiveness and efficiency.

When I first moved to Singapore back in 2005, apart from the odd bit of bewildering red tape, everything was executed through a well thought out, efficient process.

As long as you had one of those magic ‘employment passes’, you could be sure of getting pretty much everything you ever wanted, done – however zoom 4 years on, and when you ask for services to be stopped, the brands demonstrate all the characteristics of a broken hearted 14 year old.

Rather than behave in the speedy, precise and effective manner that you’ve come to expect, they start making mistakes – or in certain circumstances – do nothing at all.

When I cancelled Jill’s mobile phone – something you would expect to happen fairly instantaneously [and which the company – who claim to be all about customer service – confirmed to me at the point of contract termination] – they took SIX DAYS to do it, and that’s with me calling twice a day saying it still had not been done.

With the cable company, they said the only way I could get my deposit back was if I had a Singaporean bank account – even though they knew I was leaving the country for good.

Then there’s my landlord.

Photo: Lauren Segal

Oh what a prize fucking cock he is.

After living in the place for 4 years … keeping it like a palace despite it continually having broken water mains and ever increasing rent … we have been accused of stealing the entire apartments furniture.

Not a plug. Or a table. The whole fucking apartment.

I know I’m from Nottingham, but that is ridiculous!!!

Despite the fact his own inventory showed he supplied us with nothing more than 4 walls and a roof hasn’t dissuaded him – nor has our ability to prove we bought and paid for everything – the guy is being a right pain in the arse and here’s the link between all these stories of brand fuckwitism … C.A.S.H.

You see Singtel knew they hadn’t cancelled our mobile … Starhub knew I was going to close my bank account [because in Singapore, you have to physically be in a branch to close it, something quite difficult if you live 4 hours flight away] … and our beloved Landlord knew he had no right on our furniture … the purpose for being awkward was to try and not give back any of our deposit.

In both SINGTEL and Starhub’s case the figure was negligible, but that’s hardly the point – when a customer leaves, as long as there are no outstanding debts/damage, a company has to pay back the money given to them at the beginning of the relationship – however like the bitter and twisted actions of a spurned teenager, brands seem to have an inability to let go cleanly and nicely, preferring to behave like a spoilt little fool in the hope that either [1] you come back or [2] you say ‘forget it’ just to get away.

Well that sort of shit doesn’t work on me.

Hell, I just launched legal action against SONY Ericsson for their continued inability to sort out my problem phone [they did, surprisingly about the exact time the writ was delivered to them but guess what, 4 days later and the same problem has happened which means I’ve had 3 phones that have worked for a combined 14 days since October!] so I’m sure as shit not going to allow an unhelpful, lying landlord get away with a five figure sum for no other reason than the economy is experiencing a downturn so he won’t be able to get the same level of rent we’d been paying him for a few years.

Photo: Yummies 4 Tummies

No one likes it when a relationship ends – but instead of trying to find out what made someone make that decision, brands tend to immediately go on the attack … behaving as if they are the ones being ‘robbed’ blind.

I’ve said it many times, but the hard work for a brand starts when the purchase has been made because that’s the point someone can truly evaluate the truth behind the claims … and the greatest opportunity for loyalty is when things go wrong … which is why as long as companies continue to treat bond/deposit as corporate profit, then they are going to continue to alienate rather than attract.

36 Comments so far
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he’s back. mr bitter and twisted is fucking back. frankly i haven’t got the fucking faintest what he’s bitching about but he uses swear words so it must be fucking good.

i like what honkers is doing to you, much better than placid ‘pore or happy central frisco.

your landlord needs a kicking but after this post hell be hired by omnicom as commercial director or some other bollocks.

you’ve made me happy with this post campbell. whod of thought that would ever happen?

Comment by andy@cynic

Great post Robert and unlike Andy I know what you’re saying. 🙂

You’re right that it’s sad good service is more of a shock than bad but with more companies viewing training as an expence is it that surprising?

I love the comment the hard work for a brand starts when the purchase has been made. You’ve always said companies have to continually fight for their customers loyalty and that includes when someone says goodbye because people leave brands for a whole host of reasons but if they are treated badly in the “closure period” then you can be sure they’ll never come back. (Sony Ericsson?)

Comment by Pete

Thanks for that Andy, it means so much to me.

I should point out that there is one company in Singapore who are efficient, helpful, understanding and truly customer service focused – the Singapore Tax Office.

No seriously, they are great – the nicest bunch of tax buggers in the World – but I do appreciate it could be because I was asking them to tell me how much I had to pay rather than them chasing me for unpaid bills, ha!

Comment by Rob

“the hard work for a brand starts when the purchase has been made.”

Reminds me of your great saying in regards to VW (was it?) Rob….

“it’s easy to get me to buy your car, but the hard part is getting me to buy another one, and then another one…”

great post.

Comment by Age

What a memory you have Age – yeah, it was about my VW Golf with the suicide complex.

As Andy say’s [when he’s in his normal mode, not his blog persona] “marriage starts when the honeymoon stops”

Believe it or not, that is not a comment on his love life … at least I don’t think it is, ha!

In all seriousness, even when a company appreciates they have to keep “selling” once the purchase has been made, more often than not they overwhelm people with information they think is important rather than appreciate what the customer really wants.

Knowing when to get in contact and how to act is the difference between trust and annoyance – and it’s amazing how few brands really get it, even though interms of long term brand profitability, it’s almost unsurpassed interms of value for customer aquisition.

Comment by Rob

It’s not about the company knowing when to be in contact (unless they detect a fault or a safety issue) – it’s about them always being contactable (and productively so) when the customer wants it.

Comment by John

Fair point John, but I do think there are times when a company should/could contact their customers – the issue is making sure it’s information they want rsther than information the company wants them to want.

There’s a lot of brands out there who have loyalists that are almost like a ‘fan club’ – and as much as openness/contactability is a vital attribute, so is cultivating the ‘special relationship’ these people think they have with the brand – which can mean in certain circumstances, getting in contact with info that the wider community don’t know yet.

Admitedlly it’s rare, but it’s there …

Comment by Rob

I think the fanclub concept is crucial, but would argue that the relationship with them should be a continuous one rather than a broadcast model.

In other words there should be a place or channel where the fans can be welcomed. It might be a permission-based email model, but so as to avoid any risk of spammming, I’d prefer it to be somewhere the customers choose to visit in order to feed their habit. Sort of like this blog, but different.

Comment by John

I’m not denying the value of having a continuous dialogue between brand and person [or should I say, the ability to have continuous dialogue] however as not all brands can boast a ‘fan club’ type customer mentality, that approach could encourage more passive brands to bombard their customers with a plethora of pointless information simply for the sake of having dialogue.

One of the best brands in managing customer involvement, access to communication and geniune ‘brand announcements’ is Ducatti – and yet so many others could be like this, it’s just their ego that often gets in the way.

Comment by Rob

I think it simply comes down to the brand knowing their place. For most of us consumers, we just want whatever the product or service is to do it’s job. That’s enough.

Take your Singapore phone company Rob. At the core, their “job” is to give you access to a phone. As long as that core need is met (AT ALL TIMES!) then that relationship works. Yes they can try to push it further – and often they do by getting in touch, trying to get you to convert your home phone as well, maybe your internet etc – but for the most part… you just want a fucking mobile account. For whatever reason that relationship breaks down, it’s fair enough for them to ask questions to try and improve what might of been something they did wrong. The breakup occurs when that core promise fails to exist. That’s the point where the brand needs to realise that the consumer won’t care about “hearing” from them anymore.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is it’s sometimes easy for brands to forget what role they play in the consumers lives. More often I’m finding myself sitting in meetings thinking “bullshit!” when clients are telling me about how important they are.

“Announcement: You’re not the best thing that’s going to happen to them today!”

In this day and information age it’s easy for brands to speak directly with consumers but they often go into it without asking “what value does this hold for my consumer?” and I’m not just talking about what the client thinks is valuable… but REAL value. Something that makes them glad they gave you 3 minutes of their precious attention. It’s not easy and I honestly can’t think of an example right now of a company that does it well.

Anyways… I know what I’m saying makes sense in my head, but it’s Friday arvo before a long weekend and I’m excited to be off to the soccer in a few hours. Ciao

Comment by Age

It totally makes sense Age … but you know what, whilst the relationship between brand and customer may develop cracks when the company no longer performs as is expected – in my experience, it only truly falls apart when the organisation takes no responsibility for their role in the situation – prefering to play ‘blamestorm’ than work towards a genuine resolution.

I don’t blame the staff – they are only as good as their company trains/lets them [and without doubt there are customers out there who deserve a good smack in the gob] – but given respect and understanding are unbelievably powerful attributes for a brand [especially when talking about customer service] it astounds me how few brands exploit its potential.

It’s here I could talk about a story I heard about Virgin during the BA war, but I am not sure if I’m allowed to and I’m potentially in enough trouble to piss off the clients who still have money in their bank account to pay bills and salaries, ha.

Comment by Rob

Sadly I think all mobile companies are like that, my experience in cancellations certainly is.

What a cock of a landlord though.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Oh and regards to staff, what often happens is they get figures to meet on customers they get to stay on instead of cancel. So no one ever takes responsibility for cancellations as noone wants to get that mark against their target.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

great post rob and it reminds me of a similarly ace post about the way different companies/sites deal with you unsubscribing to email lists.

i think this level of fucked-up customer service might actually be a product of all the brand-plannery wank that aims to ‘personify’ brands. if you’re in a relationship with a person (as brands are told that they have to be with their customers nowdays) and they tell you that “it’s not you, it’s me” and walk away. it hurts and you don’t act like a reasonable, rational human being. even if it really is just that they’re moving the country and it’s not possible anymore, you shed tears, you wish they were still here and you might fawn over that last black sock they accidentally left behind the sofa. and, as humans, we say that it’s quite normal to behave that way (at least for a little while).

yet, when it comes to these personified brands having to deal with rejection and abandonment and they act like people and take it personally, then it’s really fucking unhelpful and unprofessional.

brands are going to need to sort this out quick smart, because the next generation of consumers rarely going to be loyal – they are ruthless, savvy and will chop and change to fucking suit. it’s going to be far less personal than ever and they will probably judge a brand by how easy it is to leave, rather than (like us old fogies) how easy it is to join.

i can’t wait 🙂

Comment by lauren

I think you are right when you say many planners are responsible for the over-emotional response some brands convey when dealing with issues of conflict. Brands are not people – even if they may have encouraged ‘customers’ to have an emotional connection with them.

Saying that, I don’t totally agree with your view that the next generation will be totally brand disloyal. Hell, they’re the most brand literate generation in history and it’s not that they’re anti-brand, it’s more they’re anti the wrong brand … but that’s a debate for another day! Ha

Comment by Rob

brand literate doesn’t mean brand loyal. and disloyal doesn’t mean anti-brand, they’ll just expect a whole lot more from them. but you’re right, debate for another day.

here’s hoping your landlord has a crap chinese new year. that’ll fuck his shit up 🙂 [unless he’s a slimey ex-pat, of course.]

Comment by lauren

Cash Rules Everything Around Me

I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side
Staying alive was no jive
Had second hands, moms bounced on old man
So then we moved to Shaolin land
A young youth, yo rockin the gold tooth, ‘Lo goose
Only way, I begin to G’ off was drug loot
And let’s start it like this son, rollin with this one
And that one, pullin out gats for fun
But it was just a dream for the teen, who was a fiend
Started smokin woolies at sixteen
And running up in gates, and doing hits for high stakes
Making my way on fire escapes
No question I would speed, for cracks and weed
The combination made my eyes bleed
No question I would flow off, and try to get the dough off
Sticking up white boys in ball courts
My life got no better, same damn ‘Lo sweater
Times is rough and tough like leather
Figured out I went the wrong route
So I got with a sick tight clique and went all out
Catchin keys from across seas
Rollin in MPV’s, every week we made forty G’s
Yo brothas respect mine, or anger the tech nine
Ch-POW! Move from the gate now

Cash Rules Everything Around Me
Get the money
Dollar, dollar bill y’all

It’s been 22 long hard years and still strugglin
Survival got me buggin, but I’m alive on arrival
I peep at the shape of the streets
And stay awake to the ways of the world cause shit is deep
A man with a dream with plans to make C.R.E.A.M.
Which failed; I went to jail at the age of 15
A young buck sellin drugs and such who never had much
Trying to get a clutch at what I could not touch
The court played me short, now I face incarceration
Pacin’, going up state’s my destination
Handcuffed in back of a bus, 40 of us
Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough
But as the world turns I learned life is Hell
Living in the world, no different from a cell
Everyday I escape from Jakes givin chase, sellin base
Smokin bones in the staircase
Though I don’t know why I chose to smoke sess
I guess that’s the time when I’m not depressed
But I’m still depressed, and I ask what’s it worth?
Ready to give up so I seek the Old Earth
Who explained working hard may help you maintain
to learn to overcome the heartaches and pain
We got stickup kids, corrupt cops, and crack rocks
and stray shots, all on the block that stays hot
Leave it up to me while I be living proof
To kick the truth to the young black youth
But shorty’s running wild, smokin sess, drinkin beer
And ain’t trying to hear what I’m kickin in his ear
Neglected for now, but yo, it gots to be accepted
That what? That life is hected

Cash Rules Everything Around Me
get the money
Dolla dolla bill y’aauhhhaaaauhhhhahhhauhhhhll, YEAH

Comment by RZA

Fair point Lauren, but I still don’t follow this general consensus that the next generation will be anti-brand.

Sure they may have less patience for brand fuck ups … sure they may be more discerning in which and how many brands have such an influence in their lives (it certainly won’t be limited to the “usual suspects”, that’s for sure) … but in the main, for the brands that are accepted for whatever reason, they will cause the next generation to behave with the same sheep like mentality as this and countless previous generations – which is why I said they’re not anti brand (ie: they are so demandung/selfish that they will walk away if their specific needs aren’t met) they’re anti the wrong brand (brands that don’t convey the image/values etc that are important to them, or important to them when others watch them)

The nice thing about talking “future” is no one can say you’re wrong because it hasn’t happened yet – so let’s pick this up in say 25 years, ha.

Comment by Rob

In the future you’ll still be listening to dreadful bands and wearing sandals. Prove me wrong.

And I disagree, every company has to strive to develop the fan-club passion for its product/service and the messaging approach doesn’t sit well with that. Continuous dialogue is the antithesis of the messaging monologue.

Comment by John

I can’t believe the RZA stopped by this thread. That’s the most ace thing I’ve seen this year thus far.

Comment by Age

All I’m saying John is that for brands with fan club type customers, there are times where a ‘messaging’ approach (within a general 2-way dialogue) is powerful … but it has to be because it’s genuinely valuable for the ‘fans’ not more misguided ego shit.

And Age, excuse my ignorance but why is that the most wonderful thing that’s happened this year? Thank god it’s only January or you have had a shit, boring year. 🙂

Comment by Rob

germany as a blueprint for efficiency and effectiveness. this is something i am always wondering about. getting things in germany done often tastes like too much inflexible bureaucracy. telecommunication companies are no exception. maybe because the market was monopolistic until some years ago. the government installed a regulator to deregulate the market. telekom, the former monopolist, is known as being a bit of a pain when it comes to customer service and paying money back. they are quite expensive too. and they are losing customers. but telekom is still owning large parts of the communication infrastructure which lets them stay in the game, i think. the competitors that have to buy into it, do not seem to be much better in terms of customer service. benchmarking with telekom probably spoilt them 🙂
we were with O2 for broadband and landline via voip. every time when we were calling people or they were calling us, the person on the other end could hear echoes of her/himself. which was quite annoying. i called O2. twice. the guys i spoke to (technicians!) did not offer any solution. “it s probably due to voip. we cannot do anything. sorry”. because of that, we wanted to get rid of the contract. but, a day or so, before we wanted to mail the cancellation, the echoes had disappeared. out of a sudden. i called them once more to ask what the actual problem had been. just because i was being nosy. but they said they had not done anyhing about it. so, O2’s service is not that good either. but they made me believe in miracles again. that s at least something great which telekom had always failed to deliver.

Comment by peggy

we have another kraut on this blog? fuck me, theyre taking over things that arent theres again. hang on. peggy is a cynical kraut. fuck me thats rarer than rocking horse shit. youre welcome here my euro friend

Comment by andy@cynic

Does every brand have to strive for the passionate fandom? Tesco seems to do quite well by just being good and reliable (much as I hate them).
Amazon seems to do okay by incredible service.



Comment by northern

northern? is that you? you’re alive!!

and fair point too.. i saw a great billboard the other day: “we’re reliable, dependable, regular – exciting aren’t we?”. it was either for a bank or a real estate agent (both of whose jobs i would rather not have at the moment) and they’re probably not any of those things if they have to take a billboard out about it, but i did like the sentiment that “ZOMG!” isn’t always the best approach for everyone.

Comment by lauren

Where the hell have you been NP [never Northern]?

You don’t write … you don’t call etc etc.

Anyway I agree with you entirely. Too many companies have brand ideas that are created to feed the ego of the CEO rather than to appeal to the masses. One of my best bits of work was for a bank that basically said “It’s good to be slower” … which might not be as sexy as many of the [now bankrupt] banks, but a damn sight more attractive to Mums & Dad’s who wanted the excitement taken out of their investments and insurance.

I remember LOTUS notes did some lovely ads a few years back that basically just showed a bar chart / pie graph but had a headline that said, “Microsoft spend millions on glossy ads and all we can come up with are these charts”

As shit as Lotus Notes are, it made me feel more towards that brand than Microsoft [till Mr Gates showed his good side and I met some of the next generation of MSNers] mainly because they celebrated their boring dependability, which is – in email terms – all someone actually wants.

There’s so many more categories that could benefit with this ‘real life’ approach rather than this ‘marketing ego’ – telecom for one – but if they all did that, I’d have nothing to complain about and we all know that just won’t do.

By the way, have I told anyone HOW FUCKING FREEZING I AM! I am wearing a jumper for the first time in almost 12 years. A jumper. I almost bought a bloody fake fur trimmed parker today – but the thought of looking/feeling like I was 8 years old again was too much to bare. I guess I could stop wearing the Birkies, but that’s way to sensible.

Hope you’re all good – speak soon.

Comment by Rob

how fucking freezing you are? serious? you’ve gone soft rob. even i haven’t whinged and i’ve gone from a heatwave in melbourne to mid-winter in west yorkshire. c’mon..

Comment by lauren

You want to know how cold I am?

Well put it this way, ‘going soft’ is a more apt descriptor than you could ever [or would ever want to] imagine. Don’t blame me, you started it Lauren, ha!

Comment by Rob

brilliant. i now have an image of you as a soft cock. andy would be so proud 🙂

Comment by lauren

Sorry, can’t comment… about to go to the beach… 41 degrees today, wooooooot!

Comment by Age

proud of campbell having a soft cock? proud? theres many fucking things that campbells reduced member makes me feel but proud isnt one of them. dont think mrs c would be too fucking enamoured with the news either.

campbell you soft cock, put on some fucking shoes

Comment by andy@cynic

Another mature response from Andy. 🙂

Comment by Rob

haha, thanks for the welcome andy! don t worry! i m not trying to take over the world. not ready yet. still planning. andy, are you pondering what i m pondering? 🙂

Comment by peggy

Believe or not Peggy, Andy has just paid you one of the highest compliments. Twisted bugger isn’t he.

Great to have you on here – you are adding a mature element previously missing, ha!

Comment by Rob

That’s not a jumper that’s a tank-top.

And NP et al, fandom isn’t fanatacism and doesn’t require you to be all bells, whistles and extravaganzas. Just being reliable and better than the rest is the sort of performance that can make customers passionate about you. Which is why I think everyone should aim for it. Otherwise you’re just happy to be run of the mill.

Comment by John

thanks for the welcome rob! great to be here! i guess, i will be adding some rather immature elements too in the future. just because it s fun sometimes! 🙂

Comment by peggy

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