Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Service with a smile? I'd be happy with service!

It's not all bad. In fact, Israel has made tremendous strides in customer service over the past 20 years. From a country of monopolies, (Israeli money used to even be referred to as monopoly money), customer service used to be, well, non-existent.

To order a phone line 20 years ago, you used to have to wait...and wait...and it could take up to 7 years to get a phone line (and that was with proteczia).

Go to the bank, and the teller would take a "felafel break" -- in your face while everyone waited on line, as he chomped away on a techina drooling felafel.

Rich enough to afford a car? No such thing as sticker price + options. You could choose from two models; manual transmission or the deluxe exclusive model with automatic headlight wipers (and vehicle color was pot luck).

That was then.

Today, with the onset of a previously unheard of word, "competition" -- customer service has improved. Of course, the monopolies that still remain still lag far behind. Israel's Electric Company is an example; they charge outrageous prices to be hooked up to the electrical grid, have zero accountability when there are power outtages from too much consumption, and the best part is the workers for the Electric Company are the highest paid in the public sector! As a special perk, IEC employees are entitled to...FREE ELECTRICITY! Makes sense, right? So what do enterprising IEC employees do? They hook up all their neighbors as well, to their OWN (free) electrical grid connection...and charge their neighbors (off the books).

Cool, eh?

But that's not what bugs me today. When my son's mobile phone was cracked beyond acceptable usage a few weeks ago, I went to our cellphone provider, "Orange" and asked how much it would cost for a repair. The first service rep quoted me 40 NIS for a repair, but their second rep quoted me 80 NIS. When I asked about the discrepancy, she asked me to wait a minute, she checked with the first rep and came back with the following answer: "The first rep made a mistake, and she should have quoted you 80 NIS. However, since she already quoted you 40 NIS, that's how much we'll charge you."

I. Was. Impressed.

We've come a long way...till I got smacked in the face last Newpan.

EL-AL and Newpan have an special "Fly and Buy" deal, where you can purchase items on the plane, and they get sent directly to your house; no shlepping involved. I could go on and on how much ELAL has improved over the past few years, and I try to fly with them at every opportunity -- but that's another posting. Besides, my gripe isn't with ELAL -- it's with NEWPAN. On the brochure on the plane, they clearly write:

"At Newpan, we are a quality company...(blah blah blah)

Your order will arrive directly to your home! If the item you have ordered is out of stock, Newpan promises to provide an item of higher quality or value."

How could I go wrong? As a surprise gift for my wife, I ordered a 19" flat LCD screen. Expecting it to be delivered any day, I didn't tell her about it -- so it could be a surprise. The surprise came last week when Newpan called me and said, "The item you ordered is out of stock...we can supply a slightly different monitor instead." My caveatemptorometer started buzzing and I asked for the new model number. I looked up the model number, and mercy be! It was a 17 inch monitor instead of the 19 inch one I ordered! The service rep on the phone didn't seem perturbed...she said I could have the 17 inch model for the EXACT SAME PRICE as the 19 inch one!

WoooHooo - this must have been my lucky day!


I took out the brochure I saved from my flight...and quoted their "promise"...and asked if they had a 20 inch model. The customer rep smiled into the phone and said, "Sure, we have 20 inch models in stock...but they will cost you more."

This person really didn't get it.

"But what about your promise?"

She said, "This is your choice; you can wait till we get the 19 inch model back in stock in a few weeks, you can get the 17 inch model for the same cost as the 19 inch model, or we can cancel your order" (she said, brightly)

I told her she should speak to her manager about the expression, "customer service", and get back to me with a better solution. A solution that would make me happy. She didn't understand; "What's the big deal if it comes a few weeks later?"

I said, "It's supposed to be a surprise for Rosh HaShana...not for Asarah B'Tevet"

She said, "But we haven't charged your credit card yet!"

I said, "HELLO? Don't you know what a customer is? From my perspective, the second I paid on the plane, I ordered it! Don't you care about your own promises?"

She said she spoke to her manager and there was nothing else she could do; no better model, no discount, no reduction of shipping charges...nothing.

Since I wanted that particular model, not the smaller one, and had no time to deal with the idiots there...I'm waiting for the model to get back in stock.

They called me today to say it will arrive next week on a day I won't be home, so I had to coordinate with my wife that it's coming (ruining the surprise), its 3 weeks late, and their promise is totally worthless.

Newpan will NOT be receiving the Muqata seal of approval for customer service...and they have yet to experience that wrath of the Muqata.

heh heh...we'll see what happens...we'll see.

They haven't heard the last from me...

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Scraps said...

Oysh...that's just a nightmare. No Newpan for me.

Lion of Zion said...

"As a surprise gift for my wife, I ordered a 19" flat LCD screen."

A gift for you wife? Hah! That was the funniest part of the whole post. Like this wasn't really one of those expensive gifts you buy for yourself, but to justify the price to your wife you tell her its for her.

Chana said...

Story about service it seems you will appreciate...

My mother and I went shopping today. Shoe-shopping, to be exact, at Carsons. I was there by myself while my mother was elsewhere in the mall. I tried on black pumps by Kenneth Cole REACTION and liked them. So I asked a saleslady to put two different sizes on hold for me, and handed her the boxes. She told me she'd have them right there for me when I came back.

I went over to my mother, and later returned. There was a LONG line by the shoe-counter, because there were only two people working it, and they weren't incredibly efficient. (Oh, they might have been trying, but...) After waiting about 10 minutes I see my saleslady and say, "Look, I put these Kenneth Cole shoes on hold, my name is X, could you please give them to me?" She bends down, looks for them, states that she can't find them and "someone" probably the manager must have moved them, and then proceeds to work the register, completely ignoring me.

I waited for THIRTY-TWO minutes as TEN other customers were served/ helped with either their purchases or sizing. I kept on asking for my shoes. She sent me back to find them on the actual sales-floor, and when I brought them to her did nothing.

Then my mom came over. Let's say...she wasn't too happy. She demanded to speak to the manager, but the manager wasn't in. Then some other woman got into a shouting match with my mom, claiming that she had "no respect" and that "someone needed to tell her to shut the hell up." This was because my mom had said that the two workers telling her "we're the only two people here" wasn't an excuse for not getting me my shoes.

I continue waiting until FINALLY all the customers are served and register-lady wanders around and finds the shoes I had put on hold, which apparently had been "taken back" by "the manager." By that time I was in such a bad mood that I wasn't going to buy anything.

This isn't a one-time thing...this shoe section is ALWAYS understaffed, and always makes people wait.

Anyway, my mom and I complained to the head of the department, who simply stood their dumbly and claimed she was "working on the problem," etc, etc. When my mom demanded to see her resolve the situation, she explained she couldn't confront employees on the sales floor. My mom explained that she'd effectively lost our business because of the unhelpful attitudes of the sales-people. After all, the whole point of my coming here and putting the shoes on HOLD is because I want to quickly grab them, try them on, and decide whether I want them, NOT wait in line behind 15 other people and watch you fight with the cash register.

Anyway, my mom demanded a written apology to be sent to us in the mail. Next time this happens, she'll have something to hold up as she sweetly says, "I thought you were planning on fixing this problem?"

*evil laughter* :)

Customer service. Ah, customer service. Watch as it bursts into flames...

FrumGirl said...

Israeli and customer service just do not go together...!

JoeSettler said...

Oh don't get me started on customer service.

Bezeq is now offering free ADSL upgrades so that you don't jump over to HOT. I actually had to threaten them with going over to HOT after they heavily overcharged me when they kept losing part of my order form 2 years in a row.

On the other hand my recent experience flying El Al was extremely unpleasant. There was no comfortable solution for where my kid could sleep and exhausted he finally found a comfortable position on the floor under my legs which the stewardess decided was dangerous, but she gave such nonsense reasons to prove it, such as he might get hit by the cart (when he was in the middle row), he might hit the ceiling if we drop (while he was lying under my legs, while the child lying unstrapped in the official bassinet next to me obviously won't hit the ceiling first, etc.).

We said if we move him he will wake up, cry, and wake the whole plane.

She demanded we move him and threatened us if we didn't.

So we moved him, he woke up, and woke the entire plane.

She then had the nerver to tell us to keep him quiet.

Lion of Zion said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lion of Zion said...

Ok. Does it have to be the foreigner who will defend Israelis? On an Israir flight this August I brought 3 baby bottles to the back of the plane and asked the flight attendant to fill them up with water so I could mix in formula. He took the bottles and, without me asking, first washed them out.

I thought that was an nice touch. (Though everything else on Israir is horrible.)

JoeSettler said...

I was thinking of going Israir next time. The treatment we got on El Al was horrible.

tafka PP said...

Israir are fantastic: They might fly old, collapse-any-second planes, but at least they send their air stewards to Stand-Up classes!

Looked at the "Newpan" site- in view of their tagline, your story is even more ironic.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ari: My wife really, really, really wanted the monitor! Seriously! If she reads this, maybe she can say so? (She sounded happy when I told her about it...and besides, I only use my laptop, its for HER computer!!!)

Chana: Perhaps the shoe salespeople you encountered studied Customer Service at the Newpan School of Business Management?

FrumGirl; They are getting better...seems like Newpan just needs a smack in the head.

Ari: Hey, I defend Israel -- and I think ELAL is a great (well, improving on the right path) airline, and they deserve a lot of credit. As a business passeneger there definitely tried to improve their service for me.

Joe; Serves you right for flying with kids! (We try to avoid it at all costs) In fact, after my brother's wedding, we promised never to fly again with little kids (and we havent flown with kids since). Little kids ans airplanes just don't get along.

TAFKA PP: Is Israir a subsidiary of ELAL? What makes their service better than ELAL? And ELAL's fleet is getting better and better as they get rid of their old planes. I even fly from London to TLV on a 747-400...

tafka PP said...

No- although I think it buys their old planes, and employs their ex-staff (El-Al don't keep stewards on past a certain age)

They're much cheaper, and far less pretentious. Anyway, you should like them for the colour scheme!

Lion of Zion said...

"although I think it buys their old planes"

my israir flight was on a narrow body (2-4-2 seating arrangement) old plane bought (or leased?) from Icedlandic Air. the plane was in terrible condition, much worse than any el al plane i've ever been on. but contrary to taka's observation, i found the stewardesses to be, uh, much younger than what i remember from el al.

"Anyway, you should like them for the colour scheme!"

i much prefer blue and white when i fly to israel.

Oleh Yahshan said...

your Barak issue is a well known one. I actually left them for the exact same reason over a year ago. Since then i have moved to 012 (Kavei Zahav) and have had nothing but good service from them - they answer fast, they solve my problems when needed in no time at all and are always nice - I also took there VoiP phone and it seems to be working like a charm. You should give it a try see how it works out for you.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Aaron: And I'm kicking newpan's butt on google fights:

218,000 for me and only 40,400 for them. (And you can bet their advertising budget is a million times more than mine ;-)

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