[Lifestyle] Why is customer service so terrible in Singapore?

Greeted with a scowl by the immigration officers in the ‘World’s Best Airport’ is probably what most passengers would experience. It may most probably be that ‘Customer Service’ was not one of the considerations taken into account when deciding this international award. Looking at passengers dragging their heavy feet and luggage bags, some taxi drivers do not even bother to assist. Those that actually do, cater mostly to Caucasians.  Why the discrepancy? Are local counterparts or other foreigners less deserving to be served and be provided a better customer service?

Why exactly is Singapore’s customer service so bad?

Is the management of the company to be blamed? It may be true that some bosses do not comprehend the importance of good customer service, which more often than not, matters more than the products they sell. Should customer service be deemed as a ‘luxury’ or an essential necessity? Training should start from the top so that bosses would take the importance of good customer service as priority instead of solely focusing and counting the number figures.

As much as Singaporeans love to complain, if for example, the food is good and cheap but was served by a staff with a sucky attitude and terrible customer service, would one actually make the effort to feedback about this to the management? Or would they merely make do with it so long they get to enjoy and fill their tummies with yummy food?  If so, would this then deter businesses in taking customer service seriously at all?

Most jobs that require customer service are held by foreigners due to the nature of the job and its offers. However, as much as we think that most foreigners such as Filipinos and Thais whom we once had the impression of friendly, courteous and gracious is long gone. Now, it does not even raise brows to encounter rude and unfriendly foreigner staffs. Apart from the lack of training and emphasis by the management of the company, could this also be caused by our local counterparts? It may just be true that these foreigners have been negatively influenced by them and it provides less incentive for these foreigners to be all cheery and friendly when they are not treated the same. Singaporeans have set a standard for the quality of customer service in Singapore, which is not high to begin with. Consequently, foreign staff follow suit.

Are Singaporeans face-conscious and do not like to be treated as ‘inferior’ while serving customers? To self-seeking Singaporeans, a job is merely a job which brings home the dough. It is hardly ever seen as serving customers with graciousness and courtesy.

Because Singaporeans love complaining, should they encounter any staff, especially locals, who provide excellent customer service, they would still treat it as being pretentious or having an ulterior motive behind. Could this be actually true, that the service staffs are only friendly and polite because they want to gain something, mostly financially, out of you? Sales-driven commission-based staffs may be the perfect fit for such categories. Take for example, beauty salons and spas, apart from their pushy attitudes which are more often than not annoying, their obvious displeasure and disappearance of smiles comes to light when a customer rejects their offers to sign on beauty service packages with them. Should good customer service only materialise with commissions and monetary incentives? Staffs do not realise that their basic salary actually attaches responsibility to provide the essential customer service.

On the flipside, commission also relates to tips where a country such as Thailand is infamous for their tipping requirements. It may not be explicitly done but the Thai culture has adopt this tipping approach whereby tipping box are placed at obvious areas such as the cashier counters with huge fonts stating ‘TIPS’.  In fact, where tipping is commonly practised, staffs are more motivated to provide great service as the tips can actually exceed the basic salary by a greater margin. Hence, it could be that in Singapore, we are incentivising the wrong attitude as we provide incentives for sales and not great service, which may actually result in staffs acting naturally this way.

With the standard or the lack of it already set by local counterparts, it does not provide foreign staff any incentives to offer great customer service as well since they may think that this is an over-requirement. Either that, Singaporeans’ expectations may be too high or that they are over-demanding to be treated as superiors.

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