Conversations with Singaporeans Part 3

I just experienced the worst customer service experience in Singapore yet, which put my previous articles “Conversations with Singaporeans” and “Conversations … Part 2” to shame …

Below is our five-week saga to get a new mobile phone subscription. Where I put quotation marks, the text are exactly as written in the original e-mail, or exactly as the way they said it on the phone.

12-13 October: My husband filled up an order for an iPhone with a two-year subscription plan, and submitted it via e-mail to the customer service (let’s call her Katie) that handled all accounts from his company.

16 October: Katie gave us five numbers to choose from, and on October 19 we confirmed the number that we wanted (let’s call this number 9833 xxxx).

There was no further communication from Katie since then, despite follow-up e-mails on October 23 and November 3.

4 November (more than three weeks after the initial e-mail): A different customer service (let’s call him Mo) e-mailed us, asking “What is the number you choose? I shall give you some new numbers for choosing and if you are getting an iphone, can you send me a form as well?”

[We were starting to wonder … “Don’t these people have one common database and talk to each other?”]

On that same day, my husband re-sent the order form, confirmed that we had asked for 9833 xxxx, but would go for 9644 xxx if the original number was no longer available.

November 5: By this date, we have started to lose our patience because the printing of my business cards, which had to be done by end of November, had to wait for the final mobile number.

So I called Mo to inquire the status of my husband’s application. His answer, “Oh, I’m not the contact person for your husband’s company. You should go to this other girl (let’s call her Jane)…. Her number is xxxx and e-mail xxx.”

[And we wondered even further … “If he’s not the contact person for us, then what was he doing sending us e-mails, and then throwing our case to a girl that had never made an attempt at contacting us????”]

Well, anyhow, so I rang Jane, inquired about the case, to hear, “Oh, this case ahh? I haven’t got to it…”

[WHAAATTT??? Don’t these people learn telephone manners????]

A few minutes after the call, Jane sent us an e-mail saying, “Apologise for the delay. The number 9833 xxxx which you had chosen earlier is not available anymore. I have 3 numbers on hand to offer you: A, B, C. Do advise asap.”

To which my husband and I replied to both Mo and Jane, “Hi Mo, thanks for your help. Jane just wrote to us offering yet different set of numbers to choose while yesterday we have confirmed to you that we wanted 9644 xxxx in the event the original request was no longer available. So could you please liaise with her to let her know that we wanted 9644 xxxx?”

So at 5:34 pm, Mo called my husband to FINALLY confirmed the order, then wrote a follow up e-mail (to my husband) saying, “As per our conversation, the delivery of your iPhone will be 6 Nov between 2:30 and 6pm. The sim card 52xxxxxx for number 9644 xxxx will be send in morning 10am-1pm. Thank you …”

And he also cared to write me a separate e-mail on 5:39 (I don’t know why he felt obliged to write two different e-mails instead of just cc-ing me on all e-mails …), saying, “I had follow up with her (Jane) and the iphone delivery was set for tomorrow afternoon 2:30-6pm. In fact, the follow up was plan to be around this time as there was 5 order in processing before you. Thank you for your understanding and miscommunication due to the processing team in your delivery. We also apologize that iphone was out of stock for a period of time and we were clearing the order according to the queue and it have reach your turn today even if you did not follow up with us. Cheer.”

[Yeah right]

You would think that after such agony, my husband and I would FINALLY get our 32Gb iPhone 3Gs with the number that we wanted, right?


On November 14, I arrived back in Singapore, excited about my new iPhone that had been loaded with my favorite apps and movis. I tested the SIM card, asked my husband and son to call 9644 xxxx only to find out that the number had not been activated!

I then called them from my new phone and SIM card. The caller ID which appeared on their screen is 9833 xxxx, the number that we dropped because Jane mentioned in Nov 4 that it was no longer available.

By this time, I had ordered 10 boxes of business cards and 5 rims of letterheads using the the 9644 xxxx number. Plus announced to some friends and families that my number would change to 9644 xxxx by Nov 15.

This time, furious that Singtel had yet again messed up, both my husband and I wrote Mo and Jane another e-mail asking the SIM card to be exchanged with the correct one ASAP.

The e-mail mentioned my home address, home phone number, and my Starhub mobile number. I also mentioned that I would only be in Singapore until Tuesday November 17 and expect this to be sorted out before I go.

November 16 – I called Mo and Jane several times only to get an answering machine that hung up the call after 30 seconds if the phone wasn’t picked up by a customer service. Great!

So at 11am I made my way to the Singtel headquarters to get this sorted out. A nice young lady listened to my case, checked my database, and then said, quite naively, “Oh, but this 9833 xxxx number is already activated and used.”

In my best attempt not to snap, I said, “Do I have any choice in this matter? I got a new SIM card, of course I wanted to test it out by making some calls.”

She then asked me to wait while she talked to some supervisor….. 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes …. and finally, after half an hour of waiting, this young lady showed up … not with solutions. She said that Jane is taking an “urgent leave” and they needed to get her to clarify the matter with her boss, and then her boss would give me a call to sort things out later on today.

So I got home, trying to think positive that the manager would give me a call.

At around 3:00pm, my husband (who is in London) sent me a 10am e-mail from Mo, saying, “I would like to first apologize sincerely that the number 98644 xxxx was taken when we try to process it as another user had process that same number just before we could get it for you and thus had emailed you that we would revert to the older number which we had kept for you which is 9833 4022 on that same evening on 5/11/09, I had process for you for the delivery. I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you . Sorry about the incidence and thank you for your understanding.”

Mo, of course, did not cc me the e-mail. Instead he wrote to me separately (I simply don’t understand this redundant habit of his), saying, “We apologize that the number 9644 xxxx is not available at the time we try to process you application and that same day 5/11/09, we revert back the previous choice number  9833 xxxx which you had chosen instead. I had informed him on the same evening. Sorry for the inconvenience cause and some printing company should be able to make the amendment for you.

Great. Blame my husband for it, and speak on behalf of the printing company as if the company is his.

To which I replied, “Then please show me the November 5 e-mail which you said you had sent, and my husband’s approval to go ahead with the number 9833 xxxx.”

He almost immediately sent me the e-mail which did say that the number was no longer available when he processed the order. But my husband had never given him a go ahead to deliver a SIM card with a different number. Mo had made an independent decision, without the customer’s approval or a read-receipt, to change our mobile number order!

What kind of company would teach their customer services to confirm the goods and delivery time BEFORE processing the order and ensuring that the goods are still in place???

In fact, going back to November 5, then we had made up our mind that should there be another mess-up, we would cancel the order. My husband missed Mo’s last e-mail on November 5, which was why we were rather overjoyed to see a new iPhone and a SIM card arriving, to then be disappointed yet again.

All this could have been prevented had Mo cc-ed me on every e-mail, because my husband is away a lot on business and don’t have all the time in his life to check petty e-mails like this.

All this could have been prevented had Mo checked the availability of our preferred number before actually confirming it to us, only to have it changed some 15 minutes later, when my husband’s computer had been turned off and he’d gone home.

At around 4:30pm today, I made my way back to the Singtel headquarters, this time not to demand our preferred number, but to cancel the order altogether! Such a GREAT beginning for a new customer, there’s no way I would chain myself to another two years to some lousy service providers. Definitely not after I found out that Starhub will start offering iPhone at the end of this year!