Sunday, 31 January 2010

Complaining about unsatisfactory service

On Thursday, Rocky Bru picked up on a blog post by Singaporean journalist Reme Ahmad about the latter's unpleasant experience while waiting for a flight home on Malaysia Airlines from New Delhi to Kuala Lumpur. Apparently, the New Delhi airport was covered in thick fog at the time of departure and this caused many flights to be cancelled. Reme's dissatisfaction with MAS stemmed from the airline's miserable handling of the situation especially with regards to the passengers' welfare. To further highlight the poor service, the blogger wrote on how SIA's ground staff efficiently took care of their own customers.

You can read about it at Rocky's post that links Reme's original story -> Apalah Mas?

I am not writing this post to complain about my own experiences while flying with MAS. In truth, I don't recall any bad experience while travelling on our national carrier. I am fairly satisfied with the service but I must admit that MAS need to be modernising their fleet to keep up with their competitors.

This post is actually on the subject of complaining itself. All of us have faced bad service in one way or another. Lousy service at restaurants, slow response at government departments, terrible waiting at bank counters, long queues at supermarket checkouts, unscrupulous taxi drivers, etc. etc. etc. But what do we actually do about it?

If our expectation level is not high, then we would most probably dismiss it as a normal thing. More often than not, we grumble about it... we tell our family and friends. Some of us write letters to the editor of newspapers. Some people make a scene on the spot. Nowadays, if we have a blog, we can even blog about it! And if our post is picked up by another prominent blogger like Rocky, then our complaint gets a good chance to be read by the intended party. In Reme's case, MAS Head of Media Relations acknowledged the issue by leaving a response in the blogger's comment box.

I have made complaints about poor service before, or to put it a nicer way, given some customer feedback. The intention is always to help improve things. Having been on the receiving end of complaints as well, I know it is not a very nice feeling. That is why, when I make a complaint, I try do it in a proper manner. The approach is as important as the substance.

In these days of IT awareness, many companies have websites that include a customer feedback section. Feedback can be relayed in various ways... normally in the form of a feedback questionnaire or an email address. I have made use of such method because it is quick, convenient and goes directly to the party responsible. So far, the response has been quite prompt. I will write of one example.

There was this one time my family and I stopped by a Pizza Hut restaurant at Tebrau City Mall in Johor Bahru. It was a weekend and as expected, the outlet was crowded but we managed to get a table. After placing our order, we settled down for the wait. The soups and drinks arrived first. After waiting for half an hour, the pizza had not arrrived, so I asked one of the waiters to check. He replied that the kitchen is still processing our order. I waited for another fifteen minutes and still nothing... no update and no apology.

I went up to the cashier's counter and spoke to a young woman who I assumed was the supervisor (she wears a different uniform when compared to the waiters). I asked her about my order and was surprised to hear an indifferent reply.

`Nanti dulu encik. Orang lain pun belum dapat.'

Whoa... wrong answer, young lady! I almost blew my top. I immediately asked for the bill but they had trouble how to charge for the soups and drinks because they were part of a whole meal package. Once they finally worked out how much to bill me, I paid and we left the place to eat somewhere else.

Once I got home, I went online to the Pizza Hut website and fired off an email complaint. The very next day, I received a phone call on my mobile from a lady identifying herself as the Area Manager of a few Pizza Hut restaurants within JB area. She politely asked me for details and then profusely apologised for the incident.

Whether my complaint brought any improvement or not, is another matter, but I'll give credit to Pizza Hut for responding in double quick time. At least now, I have the number of the Area Manager stored in my phonebook. The next time any of her restaurants fall below the mark, I'll call her direct.

For readers who have something to gripe about, do try to check for a website with a customer feedback section and make use of it to send in your complaint. I am sure the responsible party would appreciate your feedback and respond accordingly.


Aizan Suhaira said...

I think I know Pizza Hut's JB area manager. If I'm not mistaken it's Ms Zarina. She used to be an ex-school mate one year my senior.

How is this relevant to your post? There's no relevancy, actually.

Baharudin said...

Salam Oldstock, sorry nak mencelah sikit...
In Service Marketing, we have the so-called Service Recovery after a service failure, and how company responds to this will make a lot of difference to how the different types of customers who took the trouble to complain, will or will not patronize the business again. And the cost of getting a new customer is five times more than that of maintaining an existing one. Nothing could be more frustrating to most customers who experienced service failure than having called a toll-free number or sending an e-mail to a customer service address, but not getting any response... a great majority of them will bad-mouth their experience to at least 5 friends or relatives, and the bad "publicity" will spread silently and exponentially... the company will only know this when the sales start to decline... and usually, by then it would be too late... and btw, most great companies actually seek customers complain and act on them... this is the hallmark of a trully customer-driven companies... do we have any in Malaysia? MAS? TM? Maxis? Proton?... most Malaysian companies belum sampai league ni lagi... they tend to become customer-phobia and blame customers for their service failures... Apa berita kawan kita Badiq?

HLiza said...

Pizza Hut restaurant in Ipoh has bad service too but they're lucky that I'm patient enough to still come back many times..he he..we don't have any other pizza outlets here in Ipoh! I had tried complaining about Tesco once in their website but the respond came late and I didn't get what I wanted.

Zendra-Maria said...

Saya tak reti nak ngomplen but grumble pandai.

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Oldstock, never complaint or be rude to restaurant staff. You'll never know what 'extra' ingredients they'll put into your dish after that :)


Oldstock said...


Yes, that is her. Small world... :-)

Oldstock said...

Salam Baharudin,

Now, you've got me wondering who you are. If you know Badik, then I must know you too, right? Last I checked, our friend is still hanging on.

Thanks for the clear explanation about customer recovery. I couldn't have put it any better. Most Malaysian companies have a long way to go in terms of responding to customer feedback.

I've also previously sent an email complaint to PLUS about an incident at the Jln Duta toll plaza. I got a phone call from the supervisor the next day.

Oldstock said...


I guess Pizza Hut Ipoh is complacent because they don't have competition. But still, you should try sending in some feedback.

As for your Tesco experience, I would continue complaining if I feel strongly about the issue.

Oldstock said...


Sekali sekala grumble tak pe la... asal jgn makan hati udah le :-)

Oldstock said...


Complaining and being rude are two different things. As I said, the approach is as important as the subject.

If I don't care about the poor service in the restaurant, I won't complain. As Baharudin has noted above, I simply won't come back.

Patricia said...

I had a similar experience to yours at Svenson's in the Mid Valley area. After waiting and waiting, and not wanting to make a scene, I bundled up the family and walked up to the cashier and calmly asked for the bill.

'Why, ma'am? he asked.

I told him - without raising my voice. Without flaying my arms.

He apolised, refused to charge us anything (we'd had a round of drinks), and gave us close to RM50 worth of vouchers to use at a later date!

It took the edge off my seething, so I managed a smiling 'thank you'. It really wasn't his fault.

And I hope my complaint reached the correct ears.

You are right. When it comes to complaints: The approach is as important as the substance.

zafi said...

well as malaysian im not saying this because i hate it but i saying this because i care.. concern...
Services in Malaysia is rather far behind... we are saying about vision 2020 about getting world class city. the service implementation for me still not up to the par yet. (i.e you buy something and you want to get refund - it may take you ages to get anew one/money) Phone customer service - i had an experience calling one of Telephone service provider in Malaysia. 3 different people saying 3 different procedure from the SAME manual!Gosh... i spent liked GBP50 just to listen to their advice(activate my phone number). So bad... so embarrasing.. its happened to me! I think these people should learn. "put yourself in my shoes and see what would you expect" am i doing wrong by saying bad things? entahlah..

Oldstock said...


At least we are seeing some establishments that are really concerned about customer satisfaction. In this case, I'm sure you wouldn't mind coming to Swenson's again.

I had a similar experience at Manhattan Fish Market. The soup that I ordered did not arrive by the time I had finished eating the meal. When I asked for the bill, I noted that I was charged for it. So I told the waitress about it. She reported the matter to her supervisor who revised the bill amount, apologised and then gave us a complimentary dessert of ice-cream. And I've been a regular at MFM ever since.

Oldstock said...


I'm sorry to read about your bad experience. So far, I'm quite happy with my telco... although I feel they are not doing enough to take care of their loyal long-time customers. I might just switch to another telco, because I've heard friends say they get a better deal.

Anonymous said...

Did the same thing with Pos Malaysia. Surprisingly, somebody did get back to me for details of the incident, ran an investigation and reverted with an explanation and an apology. And then a polite request to consider the case closed. So 'un-sangka-rable'! Yeay pos malaysia!!

Oldstock said...


Good to know that Pos Malaysia is responding to customer feedback.