If the article in the Straits Times is anything to go by, I am a complain queen. Apparently, Singaporeans like to complain, but just amongst themselves and not to the organization involved. This was shown to be true by a survey done earlier. Simply Jean, however, does carry out her words when the service level is really bad – which probably gave a lot of PR people a lot of additional work that they don’t really need. Very soon, Simply Jean will find herself left out of many soft launches, product launches and other PR events. =(

But… Simply Jean really feels that if service levels are really that bad, then some attention should be warranted, no? Then again, most replies are usually politically correct statements that seem to be taken out of templates; and what does on behind the scenes could be something similar to this:

PR manager: Eh, Ah Tiong… you kenna complained for the 6th time this month already. Why your driving so bad? Why you never wait for the passenger?

Ah Tiong: No la… I cannot see the person running to the bus mah. Moreover, you all always want us to stick to the bus timing. Now you all go and install all those dunno-what Iris crystal ball thing at the bus stop. How to be late?

PR manger: Still, that doesn’t mean that you can don’t wait for passengers right?

Ah Tiong: Eh, lao ban, you want 1 complaint from 1 passenger who cannot get the bus or 10 complaints from people who are waiting for a late bus?

PR manager: Er… ok. You may sure you really can’t see the running passenger next time ok?

Of course, the above illustrations is fictitious and does not represent any particular company… no, not in Singapore. =)

FROM kopi-swigging punters whingeing in coffee shops to armchair critics spewing diatribes on their blogs, casual griping is a beloved Singaporean pastime.

But does the average Joe here put his money where his mouth is?

Going by the findings of a recent national survey, no. The poll found that only 6 per cent of people here will lodge a formal complaint to seek redress, say, after experiencing below-par customer experience.

The rest prefer to whine privately.

This ‘talk only, no action’ trait contrasts with that of consumers elsewhere.

A similar poll in the United States, for instance, revealed that 14 per cent of Americans would file a complaint about poor treatment.

The results of the Singapore survey, called the Customer Satisfaction Index for Singapore, were released two weeks ago.

More than 12,000 people here, 17per cent of whom were tourists, were polled in this first wide-ranging survey of customer satisfaction. Its results are being taken as an indicator of service standards.

Observers who spoke to The Straits Times pointed to the difference between complaining and whining.

Sociologist Terence Chong of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies said Singaporeans prefer to indulge in ‘informal private whining, rather than formal complaining’.

Lodging a formal complaint, he added, is regarded as a ‘rigmarole’, and Singaporeans, being non-confrontational, are conscious of ‘losing face’.

Dr Chong added: ‘There is a line between the individual and an authority, or citizens and institutions, and many Singaporeans don’t want to cross the line.’

Dr Marcus Lee, academic director of the Institute of Service Excellence at the Singapore Management University, which released the study, agreed.

He said: ‘I think Singaporeans do like to complain – but not to companies, just among themselves.’

This, he said, could come from the cultural mores that discourage people from calling attention to service lapses.

Some respondents in a straw poll conducted by The Straits Times agreed.

Undergraduate Dionne Lau, 22, is one who would not file a formal complaint ‘because it is very troublesome’ and because ‘I look bad, the staff look bad, so there’s no point’.

To mobile phone dealer Quek Kim Huat, 47, complaining takes too much time – and it may not even change anything.

‘You have to go and talk to the manager, fill in forms or write in suggestions. Sometimes, you don’t even know how effective your complaints will be. The best way would be to just not patronise them any more.’

Most of the 50 people polled by The Straits Times said they were surprised at the low number of complaints.

Mr Irwan Sahrul, 32, an executive director of a non-profit organisation, said his impression was that Singaporeans complained a lot.

‘I guess that is in our culture. We all tend to take things for granted and like to complain here and there because we expect things to be done a certain way.’

Consumer-rights vigilante Tan Geok Hoon, 43, who made the news in February for having won her David-versus-Goliath fight against mobile phone giant Nokia over a faulty cellphone, said many Singaporeans were unaware of their consumer rights.

Said the sales manager: ‘I also feel that we have very little consumer rights.

‘The Government should do much more to promote good service and consumer rights. If it can do this, we can make Singapore into a more successful country.’

twong@sph.com.sg

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LEE PEI QI

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 21st April 2008



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