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Posts Tagged ‘lousy customer service’

This is a true story; a true story of customer care … ohh sorry … I mean a true story of customer ‘we don’t’ care!!

While waiting for the customer care representative in one of the most popular bookstores (it is not only a bookstore!) in the Kingdom to help me with something that should not take more than 2 minuets (it actually took about 20 minuets!!), a couple of expatriates stood by with an item they just bought in one hand and the invoice in the other hand. As far as I can tell, they were Americans, at least from what I caught from the husband’s accent. I was standing right there, so I could not help but hearing this conversation:

“The price tag on ‘X’ is saying that it worths 55 SAR, but according to this invoice, the cashier just charged us 69 SAR!!” said Mr. Customer.

Mr. We-do-not-care responded after taking a quick look at the invoice without even care to have a look at the price tag “Yeah … yeah … the computer is correct.”

The couple looked into each other eyes and then the husband continued “but this is misleading, you should’ve changed the price tags”

Without even looking at them, Mr. We-do-not-care said “Yes, we should.”

The wife put her hand on her husband shoulder urging him to leave, and without words she said “Let’s go, let’s just not waste our time.”

If I am analyzing this situation correctly, the customer was expecting nothing but some respect. It is like saying “I am paying you money here, could you please respect me enough and stop telling me lies with your price tags.” Yes, 14 SAR difference is not that big of a deal, but there is the principle! Will this customer trust this place again? I doubt it! Will he tell his friends and his wife tell hers? I have no doubt they will!

There is no need to comment on the customer-do-not-care response. It is obvious that although there is something clearly wrong with their pricing system, they just do not care!! A simple apology and showing interest in the customer complain could’ve saved the whole situation and that customer could’ve left the place satisfied.

Small things matter and distinguish the elite brand from those who only care about money! Mistakenly convincing themselves that this could last forever. Once an alternative is available in the market; I can guarantee that this place will suffer … a lot!

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A Saudi businessman is suing Saudi Airlines after purchasing an ill-equipped aircraft (Arabnews). I thought at first that he was suing the Airlines because of a missed important meeting or over a lost investment opportunity caused by their well known off-time scheduling. But hey, everyone has his own reasons!!

The point is that this piece of news made me wonder about the whole idea of suing service companies; will it make any difference in Saudi? It is not unusual in Saudi Arabia to be faced by poor services provided by a number of major players in the market. Saudi Airlines just happens to be leading the list!!

Although I do not have hard numbers to support my claim, I can comfortably argue that Saudi consumers in regard to poor business performances have always been known to be … what should I say … loud-but-with-no-action kind of people. That means they could initiate a scene and get loud whenever faced by a poor service, but that’s it!!! No further steps.

Now, let me rephrase my question above; Do you think companies’ fear of being sued by customers who understand their rights would eventually push them to provide high quality services? So no Airlines would manipulate its schedules because they were poor planners since the start by having central reservation servers in one city with no back ups elsewhere? No telecom company will fool you with you nice advertisements about the huge X Mbps Internet connectivity you could get upon subscription and when you do, you find out that you can only get 20% of that because of technical reasons! No contractors will leave the street in front of your house full of holes or improperly asphalted and force you to take your car to mechanics every 15 days! No hospital would prefer low waged so called doctors without much of background check ups, and just out of the sudden you would read about one of them causing a medical mistake related death?

Just a note before leaving you here; I said in my question above “sued by customers who understand their rights,” so may be the right question should be: “Do Saudi customers understand their rights?”

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Although the country is going through tremendous telecom and communication networks developments, the waiting at any point of sale to get your ATM card or credit card processed is still suffering and way … waaaaaaaay behind many countries with less potentials than Saudi Arabia. The slow or even complete absence of service is the normal rather than the exception!

However, even with accepting that the repeated disruption of service is beyond the control of any retail products or service providers, to some extent at least, dealing with consequences, if the service is actually down, is certainly within their circle of influence.

I am not sure how a branded retails store where you could end up buying with 1 or 2 thousands riyal would simply tell you that the ‘credit card machine’ is not working the moment you reach the cashier; especially when you are shopping at 8 PM and the machine is actually down since the early morning! And restaurants are making it even worse; after going through the whole bunch of formalities; table for two, non smokers, let me show you the table, the soup of the day is such and such, there it comes; sir … I just would like you to know that we do not accept credits cards today!!!!! you could save yourself a lot of trouble by telling me that simple information at my first steps in your restaurant!

Showing respect to your customers’ time should be part of your whole service experience design. Choosing a proper reaction in such situations would emphasis your position as a customer service pioneer. There are many ways to absorb customers’ frustration in such incidents instead of that plain, matter-of-factly tone of ‘the credit card machine is down and you have to bring us cash’ … actually I do not have to bring you anything buddies!!

I would love to hear your perceptions of such incidents if you had been through any; for me, I gave up on two restaurants and a retail store because of their lousy response in these situations!!

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Companies that have any kind of live interaction with customers are better to train their employees not to complain about the company itself or customers in front of other customers!! What kind of a message they would be delivering when you hear the sales agent behind the counter complaining about another customer and accusing him of being stupid because all what the customer did was asking him about different products and then bought nothing! or when you hear a customer service agent complaining about his/her own company policies and procedures.

This is all part of the service experience the customer is having by being present on your premises or talking to your staff on the phone. The way your company’s staffs interact with customers should be part of your holistic brand design. It is all about the image you would like to leave on your customers’ minds, the message you would like to deliver to build a loyalty ground so customers will come back again and again!

And just to let you know, I witnessed the above given examples in both a restaurant and a pharmacy!!

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In the title of this post, I am mimicking the title of the infamous business book ‘Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround’ by Louis Grestner. The author was the chairman of the board and CEO of the well known international giant IBM from 1993 up to 2002. In this book, he is telling the story of reviving ‘the elephant’ that was going through a near death experience.

Anyway, I won’t be talking about IBM. I already changed the title to camels, right! And by that I mean our big, boring, weak, slow and dull company; ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to introduce the camels of the show, Saudi Airlines!!

Don’t you just love Saudi Airlines. They give you all the reasons to love hating them! I bet my last can of soda (it is getting expensive and I am starting a healthy program any way!) that you are bored to death of Saudi Airlines stories. But you better bear with me; I have another story for you; a story about how a company does not respect its customers. Whilst most companies work hard to make you fall in love with them; Saudi Airlines work harder to earn your hatred!  And if you are wondering why I chose this particular post title! Wait till the end …

For my trip to China last month; I made the mistake of using Saudi Airlines. Internationally, I used Cathay Pacific; from Riyadh to Hong Kong, but I made the mistake from Jeddah to Riyadh. On my way back from China, Jeddah flood had already taken place and the robustness of the Saudi Airline’s IT network had already been exposed. I am trying to suppress the engineer in me from taking over this post and describing how lousy a network would be without the A-B-C of  technical building designing and 101 of  network protection (wait a minute; it does not even take an engineer to figure out that there is something called back up.)

Anyway, when I landed in Riyadh, there were about 90 minutes before my next flight to Jeddah. I do not want to bother you with the details. I am sure you already been through some of them. Simply put, the terminal area was a mess. A lot of flights have been canceled (including my own) and some people were camping at the airport for more than 12 hours. The funny thing was that no one from Saudia staff was able to answer any inquiry from passengers. They kept repeating ‘I do not know’ and ‘this is not my problem.’ Even more, one of those managers with the nice Saudia suit and tie said, and this is a direct quote, ‘I do not know anything, I am just coming from home after being asleep for the whole day.’ Just to double confirm, this was a direct quote!

Interestingly, three flights to Jeddah have been canceled and surprise … surprise, they only have one airplane that can go to Jeddah. So Saudia came with a very innovative idea to solve the problem. They asked, do I have to say very rudely, everybody to stand in a line (I was one of the lucky people standing up front). Of course that took some time and when all passengers stood in line; the show began. Another Saudia manager stood there and started shouting ‘families … families … come here’ … >>> I will leave the mental image for you to draw your own conclusions!!

The end of the story that I was lucky enough to be among the few who found a seat after the airplane has been filled with families. And I won’t start talking about the 2 hours in the plane waiting for Saudia to load the baggage manually for each and every passenger!!

Should I comment on customer service, customer respect, brand image, brand values, service processes, etc … I won’t,  because I am sure you got the picture.

Now, why the title of this post has been influenced by the famous book about reviving a company? The answer is that I really wish that, someday, a book will be written by some Saudi Airlines executive describing how he/she/they managed to turnaround the miserable status of Saudi Airlines at the moment to a highly competitive airline!!

Don’t you wish to read such book?

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