Sunday, May 24, 2009

Customer service. An oxymoron.

There was good news the other day, that the recently announced consumer arbitration courts will be up and running by the end of the year.

The plan is that instead of having to battle with the long-winded and prohibitively expensive legal system, consumers will be able to take their complaints directly to the new arbitration courts.

It's said that the judges will be specialists in the country's consumer protection law. The law covers the supplier’s responsibility to replace damaged goods and display prices clearly, and the consumer’s right to compensation for personal or financial damage.

Hopefully it will help to lift the game of suppliers here, but I'm afraid it will only help in the specific areas of shoddy goods and price cheating. I'm doubtful that it will help in a general sense to ease the frustration so many of us have in our dealings with companies.

The constant complaints about the lack of customer service delivered by our banks is an obvious one that I'm sure isn't covered.

I'm particularly irritated with Showtime TV at the moment, and again it's not something that appears to be covered by the consumer protection laws. It's just old-fashioned customer service that's lacking, a don't-give-a-damn attitude, complete disregard for the paying customers - much like the banks.

We buy one of the packages offered by Showtime which lists the channels included in the package. On a regular basis channels disappear and others appear, totally unrelated to each other. For example a news channel might disappear and a National Geographic channel appear.

There's no warning, no announcement, no information sent to paying customers. They simply do it.

Likewise the programme schedules are all over the place. Neither the information given by Showtime to the print media nor their own online programme guide can be relied upon to actually give the correct programmes or the correct times.

The attitude is summed up by the response of their telephone help (another oxymoron) service I called a while ago - I forget now exactly what my particular complaint was at that time. Anyway, after hearing my complaint the answer wasn't what they could do to solve my problem but was: "If you're not satisfied you can always cancel your subscription".

The corporate version of 'if you don't like it here you can always leave'.

Right now I can't even get the online programme schedule on the screen, I get an error message and the whole thing freezes. I have to switch off, switch back on and I can then get into the channels - but I can't get the programme schedule.

Will I call the 'help' line? I can't be bothered. They've achieved what I assume so many companies set out to achieve, make it so difficult, so frustrating that we just go away and stop annoying them with our complaints.

Research regularly shows that there's huge disatisfaction with the level of service provided by retailers and businesses here. There's much talk about how companies understanding customer service leading to customer loyalty will thrive while those which don't will struggle.

I see no evidence that things are improving, but maybe the new courts will at least help in one small area.

The report on the new courts is here.


Anonymous said...

At my end there is a slight hope that there will be adherance to some standard in Dubai for customer service.
Bamks, Cable TV providers or even the Dry Cleaners.
It will take ages for this place to reach what you were pointing at, no court like the one announced can do a magnificant job in my opinion.
Unless it is driven by the business owners themselves it will always be a substandard customer service place.

Dave said...

Up until recently so many businesses in the UAE were able to make money without even trying. Most made money in spite of their poor systems and management.

A positive effect of the downturn will be that customer service should gain more focus as businesses, restaurants, retailers (etc) actually have to compete for the consumer dollar.

But whilst we have virtually monopoly on telecommunications I do not see the telephone, internet service provider or cable TV areas improving too much.

Dave said...

Plus, what ever happened to Fox Sports on the E-Firstnet Premium TV Package..... it is now "Baby TV" with coloured shapes and kids music on the screen..... I am still waiting for the official advise from Pehla despite the fact it has been about 3 months now........

Anonymous said...

fly-by-night is the word that comes to my mind for the way things work in dubai...everything from the govt. to private businesses. dont care a damn as long as money is being made, the customers are REALLY transitionary in uae as most people stay on average for 3-5 yrs, new ones keep flooding in who can be chaeated all over again. it is like a hotel that knows that news customers will always be coming in, why care about ones already in and not going to be visiting again.

moryarti said...

You'd be surprised how far a well crafted complaint letter, sent to the right people, can do...

Seabee said...

Moryarti you're right, I'd be very surprised.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Dubai and for that matter UAE customer is last. I wonder if all the people decide to pull thier money out of the banks or call showtime and ask to be disconnected how would they behave then.

My experiance and also warning to all who care

I had Lunch today in Wafi Gourmet and ordered one of their displayed ready meals. When they brought it over to my surprise it was soup plate with 4 pieces of stuffed zucchini and grape leaves with just barely enough sauce. I figured OK light meal for lunch. Then when it came time to pay, the bill was amazingly 58 AED for the meal and 27 for Juice + service which was not so great totalling 93 AED. Now, I have had meals for the same if not less in 5 star restaurant in Dubai and am surprised that they are charging the same or more than 5 start hotels. For the same I can this would have been the cost for two lunches.

The complaint here is what they offered for the money charged is a rip off. They are robbing people and that is not good for them and their client. I will never eat there again and will always let people know what a rip off restaurant they are. I guess that is the only thing they learnt from the original Lebanese Goodies franchise that used to manage it before, how to rip off people.

Be warned to ask for how much before you eat there, they have a habit of stiffing you. This was not the first time by the way. Over all their prices are just as high as some of he 5 start dinner outlets in UAE and UK but not worth it.

I dont care about the cost but dont like people getting more than what they deserve. In this case they got much more.

Anonymous said...

two years on since this change to anything..things have probably become worse with everyone setting up Call Centres..there is no way one can escalate an issue or determine the status of a complaint... Etisalat, du, RTA, wasl..u name it