If you have seen my previous post on my experience at Starhub’s Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE pre-launch event, you would have read that I was going to write another post about what went wrong with this event and how it could have been improved. I’ve written the letter below to Starhub’s Customer Service department using the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would suggest that all of you who feel the same way as I do to please contact Starhub at the same email address to voice your concerns and post a comment here as a permanent record for all to see.
Update: Oct 25 – Starhub have replied to my email. See bottom of this post.
I would like to provide some feedback on your recent pre-launch event for the Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE.
My existing HTC Desire Z was getting close to two years old and looked rather slow and outdated when compared with my wife’s Samsung Galaxy S III. Thus, when the Samsung Galaxy Note II was announced in August I was looking forward to the arrival of the phone in Singapore and hoping it would be available from Starhub. As soon as I found out about Starhub’s pre-launch event for the Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE I registered online and waited for the confirmation email.
Upon receiving the confirmation email I was dismayed to see that I would have to queue with possibly thousands of other loyal customers and that the accessory pack would only be available to the first 1,000 in the queue. I understand that there was limited availability of the accessory pack, but surely Starhub could have allocated the accessory packs to customers who registered first? The people who missed out on the accessory pack could then decide to purchase the phone on the pre-launch day, or wait until a more convenient time.
I understand the desire for some photographs of long queues to show the demand for Starhub’s service and Samsung’s product. However, this could still be achieved by providing an additional incentive to everyone who registered, such as 5 chances to win a $200 Starhub voucher for the first 500 people in the queue. This approach provides an incentive to queue for the people who received the accessory pack notification and those who did not. What’s more it’s a case of under promising and over delivering. Whereas what actually happened was the exact opposite.
Further, the confirmation email failed to provide a few critical pieces of information:
- Were there enough phones to cover the presumably more than 1,000 people who indicated they would like to get the phone?
- How would the queueing system work?
- In the terms and conditions there was no stated cost for the micro-SIM.
Luckily I was free on Friday and able to come to Plaza Singapura to check out the queue at around 3 pm. At that stage the queue had split into two parts, the first by the Starhub area in the atrium and the second along the old Carrefour entrance. I still hadn’t decided to join the queue, but I’d rather join a queue in an air conditioned shopping centre than being stuck outside, so I asked the staff monitoring the end of queue 1 what would happen when queue 2 filled up. The staff had no idea and said they would have to wait for instructions from management.
If Starhub is holding an event where thousands of people will gather at a shopping centre I would think it prudent to hold a staff briefing before the event. This allows everyone to understand what the plan is for the event, what their own responsibilities are and to ask questions to clarify any details. If everyone knows the plan then anyone can communicate the relevant information to customers, or at least know who can answer the customer’s question.
I decided to walk around Plaza Singapura for a while to determine how fast the queue was forming. Upon seeing that the second queue had already grown significantly when I returned I decided to do a quick head count and work out how long I’d need to wait. With twenty counters at the Starhub area in the atrium I concluded that at 15 minutes a customer the maximum processing rate would be 80 customers an hour. With more than 100 people in the queue I would have to join the queue now, at 15:30, or risk being at Plaza Singapura until the wee hours of the morning.
This begs the question, of how on earth Starhub planned to process a minimum of 1,000 customers with 20 counters? That’s twelve and a half hours! I’m sure that Starhub monitors the average processing times for different services at its service centres and would know full well that 15 minutes is probably being generous by the time you deal with customer questions, trade-ins, etc. Quite frankly, from this point alone, the planning team appears completely incompetent.
While waiting to purchase my phone a lady re-organised the queue with the help of junior staff. This was a positive step to try and maximise the space inside the shopping centre. Later on in the evening we were supplied with some food and water, which was thoughtful, but would have been unnecessary with better planning.
At around 18:35 a staff member started to hand out tickets with queue numbers and asked us to walk around the shopping centre until our number was called. This was an excellent idea that relieved sore bottoms, tired legs, full bladders and hungry stomachs! However, why couldn’t this have been done at 18:00 or even before hand?
I quickly ate some dinner and came down to see that the queue numbers were indeed being processed at roughly the rate I had calculated. I then sat down in a cafe next to a fellow Starhub customer who shared similar frustrations that I have expressed here, as did the majority of other people I talked to on the evening.
After overstaying my welcome in the cafe I decided to look at the length of the queue and whether it was outside. To my dismay hundreds of people were waiting outside Plaza Singapura. I talked to the people at the front of the queue and asked them if they knew what was happening. No one had talked to them, so they had no idea what was going on! I told them what I knew, including the current queue number and roughly how fast it was moving.
Eventually my queue number appeared on the screens and I received my phone at 21:28 (according to my receipt). The lady at counter 13 was very pleasant and helpful. Upon investigating my package I found, to my dismay, that the accessory pack was not even available at the event. This was the justification for waiting for 6 hours and I have to wait almost a month to collect it from Samsung?! How many people would have waited for such a long time if they had known that the accessory kit required another trip into town and another queue? I certainly would not have bothered.
This brings me to Starhub’s communication for the event. From the initial email to the responses on Starhub’s Facebook page, communication was unco-ordinated, incomplete or mostly non-existant. This resulted in thousands of people spending their valuable time confused and frustrated. From Starhub’s Facebook page I even noticed that someone received their phone at 5:30 am after queueing for 12 hours and another gave up after 8 hours! Better communication would have allowed customers to make informed decisions about whether it was worth it to join or even remain in the queue.
Singapore is a stressful enough place as it is and there have been demands from the government to increase productivity and try and promote a better work/life balance. Starhub has clearly disregarded this call and angered many loyal customers by wasting hours of their time, all for the purpose of creating a photo opportunity.
Starhub’s mismanagement of the pre-launch event for the Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE demonstrates unprofessionalism. This is further highlighted by the successful execution of a similar event by Singtel. Starhub needs to learn from the poor planning and execution of this event to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
Finally, I’ve found Starhub’s customer service has improved over the last two years, especially the technical support and commitments from staff to call back at agreed times. I trust that this letter has provided some constructive criticism which will result in ongoing improvements in customer service and satisfaction.
Update: Oct 25 – Here is Starhub’s reply to the above email…
Thank you for writing to us with your concerns.
We are sorry for the inconvenience you faced in this matter. For the Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE pre-launch special event, we decided to explore a new way to serve our customers. We admit that our usual decentralised approach, where we allowed customers to make purchase at multiple outlets across Singapore, is more efficient.
Please rest assured that we have learnt from this episode, and will aim to offer our customers a better user experience with StarHub. We thank everyone for your patience and support for StarHub.
If you have any questions, please e-mail to this address or fax in to 6720 5000. We will be glad to assist you.
That looks like a pretty standard reply for everyone who complained about this event, but at least there is an acceptance of a better way of doing the event and that they have learned from it. I would have to say it’s a typical statement that you would expect to see from a big company, where there is no fault or blame put on anyone, just the “not as efficient” nonsense. Everyone gets to save face, as they say.