When Service Really Sucks!

Don’t mind me, it has been sometime since I bitched about service at a restaurant or is it is because it is the weekend again.

Read these first:-


(I have walked off from restaurants couple of times before when there was no service or when my orders delivered late but it was a bit hard difficult to do the same when you have a family in tow. Image source: http://www.insightwithpassion.co.uk)

I did not realise that eating sushis for lunch (which was excellent and my son had a good run on the available choices) can make you really hungry later in the evening.

When we came back home, it was just nice for a quiet afternoon nap. And some hours later, my wife and my son was soon feeling hungry again. But since we were going off to see one of our aunty who were not well, we decided to go for dinner on the way later. Just then my mom and my sisters had came back from their Deepavali shopping and since my wife had not cooked anything for dinner, they asked if we can “tapau” some food back.

Someone mentioned thosai and the Indian restaurant just near the house where we once had our usual fare of good thosai, roti naan and roti canai did crossed my mind. However the problem is that their level of service is nothing to shout about – its sucked big time (a norm in some restaurants). You actually need to remind the morons at the restaurant several times on your orders and I have kind of had avoided going to the restaurant for some time. Which was unfortunate because the place is clean, the food is great and the price of food is quite reasonable. It is also quite near to the house and have plenty of parking spots near to the restaurant. These days we pick on another Indian restaurant couple kilometers away where their service is better. Unfortunately it is far from where the aunty resides and since my son now had started to complain that he is really hungry and could not wait another minute more, I had to make the dreaded decision – to head to that nearest restaurant where service is known to be bad. My wife tried to protest but since my son’s complaint had become louder, she kept quiet, hoping for the best.

As we pulled in to the parking spot in front of the restaurant, we could see that the restaurant was packed – the reason was due to another restaurant nearby (with the same level of service that sucks) had closed for the day and its patrons had decided to eat in this restaurant. I looked at my wife and told her that it looks like we need to wait longer for the food. That did not go well with my son but somehow he understood the situation. Despite the crowd, we found empty seats. Trays, plates and cups from the previous patrons left on the table. We took our seats and I immediately waved my hands asking the waiter to clean the table but no one came. One guy passed our table and only remarked “wait”. We understood that the restaurant had more patrons than usual and it will be slow. Sensing that someone will come over later to clean, we decided to wait for the table to be cleaned. But then on the other side, another group of patrons had left and to my irk, the waiter who told us to wait, was soon got busy clearing the plates and cups whilst the same remained on our table.

I was losing my patience – why they don’t clean tables where patrons are still waiting? They can’t be that dumb, right? We understand if they are busy with patrons who came before us. I waved to another waiter and he only came after I had raised my voice. He cleared the plates and cups but left his rag cloth on the table without cleaning the table. He left us rather abruptly to take order from another table. We saw another waiter but he seemed busy chit-chatting with the cook. The restaurant was crowded and the workers were very busy no doubt but it looked like they were not interested taking our orders. To make things worse, they were entertaining patrons who came in after us. If they are too busy with the existing patrons, I completely understand their situation and I will patiently wait for our turn. But seeing patrons who came after us getting their orders done did struck the right cord with me.

I had enough of the nonsense – I somehow regretted coming over to this restaurant in the first place. I should have just listened to my instinct and go to our usual place for our dinner. Never mind the traffic or the distance or my son saying that he is very hungry. I told my wife in a loud voice that if no one come over and take our order in the next minute, we are walking out from here – I did not realise I was loud but I guess I was rather annoyed with the level service. It was loud enough to be heard by the patrons near to where we were seated. Despite the need to disappoint my son who was complaining, we decided to have dinner at our usual place. It seemed this restaurant was “rich” enough to turn away customers.

Just when we was about to walk out and head to our usual restaurant, the earlier waiter then came back and asked us on our orders. His rag cloth was still on the table. My wife was about to tell her order when I stopped her. I looked at the waiter rather annoyingly and told him to clean the table first. We kept quiet until the table was really cleaned. Only after he had properly cleaned the table, we gave him our orders, expecting another round of waiting for the order to come (somehow I regretted this decision). But it was not the case. The food came without much delays – probably because I was keeping an eye on the waiter and the kitchen. Or perhaps the waiter knows that if the food was delayed or if patrons who came after us got their food first, we would have just walked out (it is not the first time I have done that).

Lesson well learned – 1. no point giving some people a second chance. Some people does not know what a good service means and take things for granted 2. just follow instinct and go to places known for good food and good service and 3. simply walk out if service turns out to be bad


Best Car Service Center?

Read the previous posts on car and car maintenance:-

(The last thing you expect to see in a car service center. Image source: http://hooniverse.com)

It is heartening to hear that Proton have come up with a 60 minutes express service but in my opinion, they should have done this a long time ago.

Sending your car for car service can be a sticky thing. When you buy a new car and if you think the car as something that gets you from A to B, you probably will not be so worried of sending your car for the periodic service (some of you may even get your dad or brother to send the car for service on your behalf). You will send it to the nearest authorized service center, drop off the car and go home after telling them to call once the service done.

But on the other hand, if you think of the car as something more than a tool to get you from A to B, you are going to have a headache. After all, since the car is brand new and you have paid so much for it, the last thing you wish to see is for it to be “man-handled” and getting back the car with scratches and dirty patches here and there. And for those who have done their “homework”, you will know that not authorized car service centers belongs to the car manufacturer. Quite a number belongs to private car service centers.

When I got my very first car, I sent it to a car service center belongs to Proton Edar. It looked like it was the right thing to do. Back in 2004 – 2005, Proton was still struggling in getting out newer models and quality of their cars sucked big time. Their service centers had the same problem. I practically was spending the whole day just to do a simple service and I was rather annoyed and angry at the frequency of the mechanics taking their short breaks. But my complaints to the service center manager fell on deaf ears and the so-called customer service did not improve. All that changed when the warranty expired and I was free to service my car in any car service centers.

A lot of changed since then. Proton’s cars are better built these days although their QA side can use a good overhaul and service centers have now become more customer service focused. I have been to two authorized but private service centers that handle Proton cars in recent times and the experience was quite different than those times in 2004 – 2005.

But then again, how you will define the criteria that make a good car service center? What are the things you look for when deciding that you want to go to Service Center A instead of Service Center B? I don’t know about others but here are some of mine (in NO specific order):-

1. Bring Own Lube

If you head over to some websites like Lowyat, this seems to be the key criteria for most of them. Proton Edar service center which I went to for my first car often uses engine oils from a large container instead of using the usual smaller packages but they do allow their customers to bring in their own lube if they wanted to. Bringing in your lube is nothing to shout about – most service centers allows it, as long as it meets the car’s specifications. The good thing about bringing your lube is simple – there will be leftover after they have used for your car. A couple of services later, you will enough leftovers to fill one whole bottle.

2. Cleanliness

I am not talking about the cleanliness of the workshop or customer waiting area. I am talking about how clean your car will be once the mechanics have done with it. Perodua for example, places disposal papers on the floor and wraps the seat with plastic bag so that the car remains clean. I am not sure about Proton though – my recent service (which was done in a private authorized service center), the mechanic placed a disposal paper on the floor but did nothing to wrap the seats. But the good thing is, they provided quick wash for that and I did not find my car dirtier than before.

3. Waiting Period

How it takes for the car service center to service one car? Proton in their latest announcement says 60 minutes. Pretty good accomplishment if you ask me – I have spent hours in the past. But the trick, I guess it is knowing which service centers have less cars for the day and which day and more importantly making appointment before

4. QC Area

How many of you have seen how your car being serviced? The usual happens – you meet some customer service representatives, explain your problems with the car, the worksheet then get passed to the mechanic who is available (not necessary the best or skilled), the mechanic gets to work and once he done with your car, he parks it and pass back the worksheet back to the customer service representatives who then inform you and collects the payment. Who to check whether the mechanic did a good job?

My first service of my new car, I was outstation and decided to go to the nearest service center and was surprised to see a QC area. My car got serviced and the mechanic instead of parking it in customer’s parking parked it at QC area where a more senior mechanic double checks the worksheet against the work done by the mechanic. He noticed some shortcomings and calls the mechanic over – they go through something and the car then got sent back for the mechanic to complete the job. The car then sent back to the QC area for another round of checking before it is considered work done properly.

5. Technical Explanation

Your car has been serviced and the customer service representative explains what has serviced and what has been replaced and he/she is speaking in Greek. Sounds familiar? They use unknown jargon and technical and if you are not a mechanic yourself or have done your homework, it does not mean anything to you. The best car service centers will actually explain in lay terms of what have been changed – what was the cause of the fault and the impact if the part was not replaced.

6. Customer Waiting Area

Even a simple car service will take at least 30 – 45 minutes to complete. If you have more complaints on the car and they may need to change parts, the waiting time is going to be even longer. So, how you plan to spend the time whilst the mechanics are working on the car? Most authorized service centers have dedicated customer waiting area, fully equipped with a TV, newspapers, magazine, coffee/tea making facilities and well maintained toilets. Most do indeed but some have small waiting area – a couple of sofas (which is not enough for the crowd and most had to contend with standing up or walking around until they get back their car) and that is about it.

One of the best waiting area I have seen is a Perodua service center – the waiting area is not big but it is just next to the service area so we can see through a glass wall what the mechanic is doing without coming out from the air conditioned waiting area.

7. Access to Food & Drinks

I am not talking about the complimentary tea and coffee but a real restaurant or food stall for breakfast or lunch, depending on what time your car service is expected to be completed. Image stuck somewhere at some industrial area without any food stall in the morning, having nothing but complimentary coffee, sitting rather boringly at the small customer waiting area. Damn, I rather sit down at some Mamak Shop, having a hot teh tarik and a smooth roti canai.

8. Complimentary Car Wash

Frankly, this is nothing to shout about but you know what, it is like that cherry on top of the ice cream. The car been serviced, it sounds good, it drives good and with a good car wash, it looks good too.

9. Ability to Identify Problems

You driving your car and you heard a funny sound coming from the left side of the car. You decide to tell about it on your next car service. You explain it to the customer service representative and hope that they will make clear to the mechanic and the mechanic will be able to identify the problem but when you get the car back, the problem is still there. What had happened? Did customer service representative heard your problems wrongly or misunderstood you? Did the mechanic misunderstood the worksheet or was not skillful enough to know what need to be done to fix the problem?

Hmm, that’s about it for now until the next car service. I am pretty sure that others will have different criteria in determining which service center is better (like an uncle I know – he wants to stand next to the mechanic when the mechanic is working on the car)

Tale of 2 Restaurants

I will be traveling over the next 2 weeks and may not be blogging but here’s one before I go…

customer service

(Something that is lacking in Malaysia but hardly anyone makes the attempt to improve it. Image source: http://www.tennentstrainingacademy.co.uk)

There is plenty of restaurants near my workplace and their services differs one from another. So are their prices. After a long time, I settled to 2 restaurants and here is the story of the 2.

Restaurant No. 1

Famous for it’s roti canai and creamy teh tarik in the morning, it is one of the newer shops around. One of the reasons, it is doing quite well is that the price of the food is considerably cheap. And wide open area at the front makes it rather easy place to lepak for a hot teh tarik in the evenings. Plenty of oily dishes during the lunch time but if you are careful enough, you can get good, fresh fish for lunch.

Restaurant No. 2

Compared to Restaurant No. 1, this restaurant has been around longer but it has it’s share of regular customers. It has less choice of food but it has it’s own style and presentations. The food is slightly pricey than the rest but overall reasonable. In my opinion, serves the best teh-o limau panas around.

I go to both restaurants on different days of the weeks and when I get bored with the other restaurants. Lately the Restaurant No. 1’s service has been turning to bad. You sit down and wait for someone to take your orders. No one comes until you call. And after telling them what your order is, you patiently wait for the meal only to find that it is not coming. The lady who took your order is seen taking order from someone else and later wiping the tables. I had to call another and repeat the orders and pray that this time, the person gets it right and bring my meal. The owner is busier chit-chatting with the restaurant workers than attending to the customers.

When I go to Restaurant No. 2, things are different – the owner himself waits at the entrance and welcomes you. He wishes you “good morning” and sees that his staffs attend to me immediately. And if I go in and sit down, the staffs brings me the menu and puts on the table before I even sit down on the chair. The food looks fresh and the drinks are served at the right temperature. And it is served without any delays. Unfortunately, the price of the meal is not cheap but as I take out money to pay for the meal, I at least, get a “thanks”. Unlike Restaurant No. 1 who takes your money as if you owe them something big.

It comes down to who can provide a better service. Price is a secondary issue. For those having restaurants or in the industry of service, this is something for you to ponder. And why I raising this is because I find, more frequently, a lot of restaurants are having this – take it or leave it attitude and soon, they are run out customers and had to close shop.

That is sad because their food and the price are great – they have a good chance to make it big but their service sucks big time. It does not cost much to improve on service – it does not take much to say “good morning” and “thank you”. Restaurant No. 1 may be surviving for now but keep up the bad service, you may find customers looking for other place to eat.

Perhaps, this is where Najib should be focusing on – building a developed and matured human resource and service level in Malaysia, instead of the dreadful Warisan Merdeka

Being Polite Part 2

Read Part 1 here

(Customer – does it sounds familiar? Cartoon source: http://www.whalecottage.com)

I still recall stand-up comedian Kumar’s joke – when he walked into a high class boutique, the salesgirl looked at him from head to toe with a puzzled face that asked “do you have money to buy things?” He of course got annoyed with the treatment that he got from the salesgirl that he proceeded to buy something very expensive and paid for it with coins.

Kumar’s joke may sound funny but it is reality in some places. Just how many of the business places that you been to (say a restaurant, shopping complex, workshop, etc) have been very polite and treated you like a real customer? Have you been to places where you were treated like a stray dog from the street and as if you owe the business the money? Where the very clothes you wear – colourful flip-flops, short pants (with torn edges) and dirty looking T-shirt is looked at rather suspiciously (despite you are paying for the items with hard cold cash)? Where words like “thanks” and “please” are looked up as it is some kind of forbidden words?

I have been to restaurants where you have to wait for a long time before somebody comes along to attend you (and in case you were wondering, the restaurant is almost empty). There is one time, I went with couple of my friends (one was too drunk to say anything, others just sober enough to be decent) to a restaurant. We were so hungry and this was one of the places that were still opened at time of the hour. We tried calling the staff to take our orders but no one came. My friend who was too drunk say anything earlier immediately got annoyed and started to shout vulgar words at the restaurant staff. That brought 2 – 3 staffs rushing to our place to take our orders but we had enough of this nonsense and we walked out (RM50 – RM70 of potential business lost).

Sometimes the staffs get the orders wrong but do nothing to apologise for the mistake. They even insist you eating the wrong dish and pay for it. And when you go up to the counter to pay, you end up facing an arrogant looking man who take your bill and your money (some even counter check the note several times in front of you – as if you have given them some counterfeit notes) without a smile and without even looking at your face and then double, triple count the balance to return (as if we are trying to cheat the shop for couple of cents) and put it on the counter for you to take it (try going to some of the mamak restaurant counters and you will see what I mean).

Sometimes, the problem with staff is not that they are rude people by nature (some looked too nervous to smile) but the problem is there may be a lack of training or supervision or lead by example to get these lowly ranked staff to be polite and courteous to the customers. Like the example of the Chinese restaurant in Part 1 – I gathered that because the owner is always try his best to be very polite to the customers, that somehow got stuck with his staff as well – a classic case of leadership by example.

For those places where we are not treated with some respect and where words like “thanks”, “please”, “sorry” are considered “forbidden”, we often say “screw them” – we do not go back to the same place twice and we even tell others on our bad experience with the business. It is not like we are asking for items or services for free. We are paying for it with our hard earned money and we deserve some respect. So, sorry to say this but for those places where they are simply rude to the customers, we just hope that these businesses lose more customers and end up closing shop permanently.

Being Polite Part 1

(How often you have people behind the counter treating you like you owe them something? – Cartoon source: http://aviationblog.dallasnews.com/)

Just the other day, I watched the movie “Invictus” and noticed that Nelson Mandela (excellently acted by Morgan Freeman) was a very polite man. He was courteous and well mannered even to his “ex-enemies”. In case you missed Invictus, the movie was about a leader who was trying to get his country united – bringing people from various background, culture and race as one nation (this movie should be watched by some so-called leaders in Malaysia – they can learn a thing or two if their ego is not bigger than their brain) through the game of rugby (played by a majority white).

Somehow after watching the movie, something about Nelson Mandela being polite stuck with me. And I start to reflect on my daily encounters with people. No need to look at how some people behave on the road – using the emergency lane, cutting queues, changing lanes without proper signal, hogging the road, using no-entry lanes, etc – they are nothing but selfish filthy bastards. No, I am not talking about them – for them, we need the strong hand of the law to deal with them (either increased in traffic fines – screw that for now or one hard whack on their bare buttocks once caught red-handed).

No, I am talking about the people who provide goods and services. How they treat us, the end purchasers or users? Do we get to hear the all important “please”, “sorry” and “thanks”?

2 weeks ago, I took my family out for dinner – we decided to go for the Chinese Restaurant near our house (we love this place – the food is good and reasonably priced and if we order takeaways, we get free drinks). Unfortunately when we arrived, there were no empty tables. The restaurant was so pack with large families. We were about to leave when we noticed one large group had finished their dinner and was leaving. We quickly took over the table. On the table, it was a mess, left by the earlier group – we wanted the restaurant staff to quickly clear the table.

However due to the crowd, the restaurant staff was busy but the owner had noticed us and came apologising to us and explained on the situation and asked us to be patient. He said he will get someone to clear the table as soon as possible. He apologised again. Soon after one staff came over, apologising for being late to clear the table and immediately cleared our table. Another came down and took our orders and we did not really need to wait long for dinner to be cooked. We did not mind waiting for our dinner as we understood that the kitchen had to cope with large orders for the night. We did not mind because we felt appreciated.

A week earlier, I took my car for service to my usual workshop (the place where I am usually known as the boss). After I had parked my car, I came out and told the mechanic that I wanted to service my car. The mechanic looked back at the number of cars at the shop and asked whether I was willing to wait for my turn. I said I had no problem. The workshop owner came in and decided to help out to clear the cars – soon he was working on my car. Advice and suggestions were given promptly and he even pointed out to my tires which was almost bald. I wanted to also add the fuel booster and I informed him and he thanked me. Service was done up fast and during that time and until I left the shop, I lost count of the “thanks” that I got from the owner.

The above is two simple examples where the businesses are simply being polite to its customers and in return get customers who wishes to go back to the same place in the future (even if at times, the cost of items in these places can be more expensive from other places).

To be continued…

Is Proton still cheating you?

If you felt cheated on the price and quality of Proton cars, I don’t blame you. It is a fact that Proton sells cars at an exorbitant price in a government protected sector. It is a fact that you can buy better (and cheaper) cars if Proton was not protected.It is a sad fact that most of us have no choice but to buy Proton

The question is do you still feel cheated on the after-sales services? My Proton’s 60,000 km warranty expired recently and I was able to take my car to the car service workshop near my house.

A quick comparison of similar items between private workshop (CKW) in Puchong and Proton Edar Service Centre Puchong (PES) is as follows:-

Labor Charge
RM20.00 (CKW) [2 full time mechanics]
RM100.00 (PES) [includes PES mechanic going for his teh tarik 2 times in the mid of servicing my car]

Oil Filter
RM9.00 (CKW) [Original Proton Parts]
RM11.85 (PES)

Brake Fluid
RM25.00 (CKW) [Change of entire brake fluid]
RM24.00 (PES) [Just top up]

Note the differences now? If I convert the time spent at the service centre at RM1.00 per minute, the differences is going to be like this:-

CKW – parked my car at 10.00 am (on Sunday) and service all done by 11.30 am. Total minutes spent: 90 minutes = RM90.00

PES– parked my car at 6.30 am (must be working day! PES do not do any services on Sat or Sun) and service all done at 2.00 pm. Total minutes spent: 450 minutes = RM450.00

Extra minutes wasted in PES are 360 minutes = 6 hours! (not including the cost of 3 teh tariks and 2 nasi lemaks during my waiting time at PES)

Do I feel cheated on the after-sales service? Look at the above differences and tell me…sigh

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Too many Protons owners in the house. There is another Proton car key lying on the table. Too much for comfort (damn need to change car already!)