So We’re Bashing Up Customers Now?

If you can’t serve your customers, bash them up. A method practiced by a certain KFC employee; allegedly of course.

But you can’t refute the video evidence. Even if he was provoked, this is still no reason for an employee of a global fast food chain to get all Bruce Lee with anyone; let alone a customer.

But strangely, I wasn’t all too surprised.

That’s because I’ve been noticing the lowering standards of customer service in Malaysia for many years now. I’ve also written about my own experiences and the possible reasons behind such dismal customer service.

The KFC tagline these days is “So Good”. I guess they are not only referring to the chicken (again, allegedly), but also to the whacking that one would get from disgruntled employees.

But that’s the problem isn’t it. The brand spends millions to say something and the employees – who are probably working long, unforgiving hours for pittance – say another. There is hardly any synergy between what you see and what you get from Malaysian businesses these days.

KFC is Smackin Good
He was, after all, a Colonel... don't be charmed by that smile!

And the worst part, no one is bothered.

Like the many customer service mishaps of the past, this video will be forgotten and conveniently dismissed as a one-time-only incident beyond the company’s control.

But I would really like to see is Ronald McDonald kick someone’s ass though… that would be awesomely funny!

Lose the Ego or Lose Customers

You hardly get a ‘thank you’ these days. Service with a smile? Forget about it! Being served up to expectations is as rare as a working public payphone. Yet we let companies, businesses, service providers and brands get away with it.

The truth is we have become so accustomed to shoddy service that we don’t really care anymore.

“Just give me what I want, and I’ll be out of here” we say to ourselves.

30-minute service
Damn! It never crossed my mind to do this... but my time will come. Wuahaha!

Don’t businesses know that customer service is way too important to neglect? Businesses do know it, but the people who deliver the service don’t.

A business can make its employees wear as many “Service 1st” or “I Serve with a Smile” badges for the sake of improving service levels. But if the person delivering the service is not bothered, the badge may well be another piece of office accessory, and nothing more.

Humans, by nature are proud. We want to be recognised for our efforts and every mini achievement is celebrated like a roaring success. Over time, we think we are better than the people around us.

A simple example; how many of you think you are better-than-average drivers?

My guess would be that everyone thinks he/she is a good driver than the next person. It is this kind of thinking that has killed customer service.

“I am doing my best already”

“Nobody can do it better than me”

“You think standing behind the counter is easy?”

The practice of overestimating our ability actually serves as a confidence booster. This egotistical behaviour is great for overcoming challenges or problems but only makes one look disinterested and nonchalant when delivering service.

And a customer service personnel that looks or talks like he rather be somewhere else is exactly the kind of stuff we customers hate.

So get your customer service guys or front-liners to lose the ego or get ready to lose customers.

This was a slightly long community service message brought to you by a freelance copywriter who’s pretending to represent all customers.

10 Reasons Why I Hate Astro

When just one company controls a particular market segment, it’s called a Monopoly. And nothing says monopoly better in Malaysia than cable TV operators Astro.

As a consumer and an ad-man, I like competition.

When companies compete, consumers win. Usually with cheaper prices and better value; think about the hypermarkets and how they slash prices like crazy to pull-in customers.

And we freelance copywriters, art directors and designers get more work to do when companies compete; because they then have to run aggressive promotional activities that require our services.

Don't be an ass, Astro!

Of course with Astro, there’s no such thing. Their only competition is free-to-air TV, which might as well not exist.

I’ve been a bill-paying customer of Astro for close to 10 years, so I think I have earned the right to speak my mind. Hence the reasons why I hate Astro:

  1. I now pay double in fees for the same package I have subscribed since day one. Remember, more channels does not mean more value; I can only watch one channel at a time.
  2. Astro always cite the rising costs of programming globally when increasing their prices. Why not pass on these costs to advertisers rather than us consumers?
  3. Sometimes it feels like I am paying to watch ads. There are way too many ads for a subscription-based service.
  4. The programming is much left to be desired. Repeats after repeats of old programmes. If you’re a fan of Jamie Oliver, you know what I’m talking about.
  5. Absurd packaging of channels. Only one or two decent channels in a package. The rest is garbage. Why not let us choose the channels we want, individually?
  6. Rain, solar interruption and sometimes even when it’s just very cloudy; you get the very familiar “services currently not available” message.
  7. Even the 45-mins of watching a live football match is littered with on-screen running tickers, cross-promos and ads. My 32-inch TV is often reduced to a 21-inch!
  8. The Box Office packages are a rip-off. They often show old, B-grade movies on regular movie channels and charge a premium for decent movies.
  9. I’d probably have more luck getting an appointment with the prime minister than getting hold of someone on the other end of their customer service hotline.
  10. They say Tutor TV helps school children learn better; but in actual fact they are just turning kids into TV addicts.

Ahhhhh… it’s nice to get stuff off your chest. Now where’s the damn remote!

Sleep More, Consume Less

There’s a reason why your mum always told you not to stay up late. Because the longer you stay awake, the more money you’re going to spend by being a consumer.

Remember Citibank’s “The City Never Sleeps” tagline? It suggests that Citibank will serve its cardholders round-the-clock. But that’s not all. It also says why sleep when you can stay up and do all sorts of fun things with your credit card all night long. It made not sleeping cool, and getting into debt hip.

Sleepy Dude
Skip the RedBull and get some sleep, dude!

Even new products – like RedBull – were introduced to cash-in on the Sleep-Less phenomenon that swept across the cities of the world. Now there are probably hundreds of sleep-depriving. caffeine-loaded  drinks that are discreetly labelled as ‘energy drinks’.

The recreating, eating, shopping, partying and what-have-you till the wee hours of the morning presented businesses with a goldmine. The less we consumers sleep, the more money businesses make.

So it this just a case of businesses meeting consumer demands or is your friendly neighbourhood 24-hour mamak stall taking advantage of your insomnia?

Fine, we all could do with a midnight snack once in a while. But what about 24-hour gyms? Are people seriously pumping iron at 4 in the morning? Lately, hypermarkets have started extending their operation hours to 1am. Do we really have that urgent of a need for potato bread at that hour?

And that’s why they say “don’t sleep on it”, because if you do, then you are going to miss out of the bargain, deal or offer.

Sleeping consumers are no good because they not only can’t be sold to, but also can’t be advertised to.

But I’d rather my consumer have a good night’s sleep so that I am not selling to a groggy, sleep-deprived person with an attention span of a wasp.

So go to sleep guys and wake up refreshed to another day of buying or selling; whichever it is that you do.

The Sale Is On!

I’ve helped sell many things in my years as a copywriter; from loans and LCD TVs to toilet seats and trucks. Now, I am about to embark on the ‘sale’ of my life – myself.

I have recently liberated myself from the rat race and made the plunge into self-employment thanks to a couple of old friends; and now unofficial partners at 1am Studio. Not having a job is quite liberating but also comes with its own set of pressures; like having to market myself and the new business to potential clients.

The Office
The new minimalist digs; needs an un-minimalist chair though...

So forgive me if this blog seems a little self serving in future. After all, I got to get paid don’t I? And trust me, one of the hardest things for me to do is to write about myself.

Let’s hope this doesn’t turn out to be as bad as the work I did for the toilet seat guys.

P.S.    For some of you, this may be your first glance at my rants; enjoy and feel free to share your thoughts. Cheers!


“The Consumer Is Not a Moron, She Is Your Wife”

Ladies, chill for a sec. Nobody is calling you a moron. The quote above illustrates that wives – who often shop for the whole family – are whip smart consumers. Yes, you can lower your pitchforks now.

This was one of the business advise of a certain David Ogilvy. We’ve all heard of David Ogilvy. We know his famous works. We even aspired to work for his company. But David was not only an advertising legend; he was a revered businessman too.

Ogilvy On Advertising
One of the ugliest book covers ever; but beautifully written.

Here are his advice on building and running a business, as told to a Fortune Magazine reporter some time back:

  1. Remember that Abraham Lincoln spoke of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He left out the pursuit of profit
  2. Remember the old Scottish motto: “Be happy while you’re living, for you are a long time dead.”
  3. If you have to reduce your company’s payroll, don’t fire your people until you have cut your compensation and the compensation of your big-shot
  4. Define your corporate culture and your principles of management in writing. Don’t delegate this to a committee. Search all the parks in all your cities. You’ll find no statues of committees
  5. Stop cutting the quality of your products in search of bigger margins. The consumer always notices — and punishes you
  6. Never spend money on advertising which does not sell
  7. Bear in mind that the consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Do not insult her intelligence

I don’t want to spoil the eloquent beauty of these points by adding any of my 10 sen opinions. But I will say this – if there’s one thing you take away from this list, it better be No.6. Kapish?

Businesses are bad for consumers

In the 12 years of convincing (or misleading) consumers, and being a consumer myself for as long as I remember; I have learnt quite a bit. But none as important as this: businesses are bad for consumers.

Why? Because giving your money to someone who says he or she is “doing business” means you are not getting any value whatsoever.

Imagine this scenario; let’s say you are a chef who owns and runs a restaurant. If someone asks you the inevitable “what do you do?” question, what would be your answer?

a)    I run a business

b)   I am a chef

If you were someone who’s passionate about food and thinks the kitchen is your second home, then your answer would be (b). But if you stumbled into culinary school as a bleary 18-year old and then slogged to become a chef only to realise that your real passion is to become a ventriloquist, then you would answer (a).

See how answering a simple question can shed light into one’s motivations?  A business’ objective is not to serve you, but to maximise profits at the lowest cost possible. A business is only interested in your money, and will only give you goods or services in exchange. And sometimes, the good and/or services delivered may not be up to par nor fulfill your needs.

Bad Businessman
Your friendly neighbourhood business may not be so friendly afterall.

On the other hand, if you were to deal with someone who is really passionate about what he or she does, then you are not only getting value for money but also good quality and proper attention. Simply because money is not the only motivator in this person’s life and he or she is genuinely interested in giving you the best for the amount you pay. No shortcuts, no overpromises, no cutbacks and definitely no off-the-shelf solutions.

So the next time you meet someone who you know might be eyeing your pocket, ask the question. If the answer has anything to do with he or she running a business; then say thanks and steer clear. You might just save yourself some Ringgits and future heartache.