Category Archives: Customer service

Choosing an airline for travel with family

I had been lucky to experience minimal flight delays or missing flights in my travelling experience.  If it ever happened, it was during business trips where I would be alone or with colleagues.  However, the hassle of rerouting was always annoying.  This “One Night in Paris” post had been going around on Facebook and I truly felt sorry for the poor passengers left stranded at the airport.

I would not want to be caught in such a situation with Z and X in tow for sure.

The lack of customer service was appalling but not surprising.  I shall not talk about the few European airlines I had brushes with and that alone made me feel very determined about one thing.  No matter how Singapore Airline’s service had seemingly declined over the years, it was still a great way to fly.

Back in 2009, when the gynae had first banned my flight travel due to fear of ectopic pregnancy and it was at the peak of Swine Flu/H1N1 Flu period, all travel operators, despite their no-refund policy had graciously refunded 90%-100% of what we had paid.  The only operator which refused initially and eventually grudgingly refunded approximately 25% of the air tickets’ cost was the airline.

At that time, SQ was the only airline which was generously offering free cancellations/postponements/re-routing, simply due to H1N1.  Here I was, stuck with my silly decision to save $100 per ticket (and missing out on the then-awesome Krisworld), diagnosed as unfit to travel and had to forfeit 75% of the ticket cost with no other options to delay/re-route.  I wished I had booked SQ instead.

From that lesson, I learnt that the savings on taking other airlines could translate to greater wastage in future.  Besides, loyalty was would be rewarded in the form of air miles which was always relevant.

Now that we travelled with young children (Z clocked 8 trips & X already clocked 1 trip to date), attentive care and customer service were important.  How many times had I seen the gracious air stewardesses playing with young children and even reliving travelling parents of their fussy kids?  Or helping to babysit while the solo-travelling mom could go to the toilet?

How about the times when I needed hot water to sterilize milk bottles, warm up milk or to make formula milk?  They were ever so prompt with getting us the water.  I shall not even talk about other airlines where I could wait 2 hours on the flight and not even get a cup of water which I had asked 3 times for.

How about the time when I erroneous forgot to choose a meal option for Z and the air stewardess still managed to pool some baby food for him despite the lack of allocation?  How about all the times when they broke the monotonous drone of the journey by talking to the children?

There were so many more instances where the flight crew made flying with children such a pleasant experience.  Z had long associated travelling with flying via the blue air plane and the friendly air stewardesses in their kebayas, so much so that when we took a different airline once, he had a shock when he found the seats were of a different colour and his personal entertainment system was missing.

Hence, child-friendliness was the most important factor for us when choosing the airline for travel.

The Operational Challenge of Ordering a Cake

It seemed more businesses were opting for either or instead of seeking ways to optimize both.

I tried to order a Belgian chocolate whole millie crepe cake for the next day and was informed over the phone that a minimum of 2 days was required for pre-order.  However, they sold the sliced versions on site.  I was not impressed with the inflexible answer.  I had actually liked this bakery very much, walked in on many occasions to buy the sliced versions and seen other customers buying flavoured whole mille crepe cakes off the shelves.  This 2-day preorder rule was new to me.  They actually expected customers to settle for the original flavoured ones.  Yes, I knew they wanted to minimize operational hassle by reducing the variety but to offer only one standard flavour?  The cake would have cost S$70+.  I asked if it was possible for them not to cut the whole cake into slices and was informed that the cake was cut at factory level.  What about the times when I had stood at the shop and waited for the staff to cut?

It was not the first time this bakery had overwhelmed me with their inflexibility.  The last time I walked in and reserved the whole mille crepe cake, I was not allowed to pay for the deposit via credit card or NETS card because they were not able to track.  I offered to pay by card in full.  My offer was rejected because they could only account the money towards the sale of product only when the cake was collected.

Thus, I would have to pay a deposit via cash and I had insufficient cash on me.  Thankfully, they had a flexible-thinking staff on the ground who told me that had I called in, no deposit was required.  Hence, she would record it as a phone order.

I was flabbergasted.  Topped with today’s experience, I had ruled them out of future ordering considerations.  Dear business owners, please do not make it so difficult for your ex-loyal fan to purchase your pricey cakes from you.  For the bakery industry, wasn’t it the norm for customers to walk in and buy standard whole cakes at any time, on a while stocks’ last basis?  In the first place, the said bakery only had 2 sizes and 4-5 flavours to begin with.

I was able to place an order with my next favorite cake shop which thankfully took in my order, despite the fact that it was also a small setup.

The bonus miles

“Good News!” chirped Ms A of UOB.

Ms A was a customer service officer who had spent the last few weeks checking something out for me.  I had switched from KrisFlyer Gold to the UOB PRVI Amex card earlier this year.  There was a once-off promotion for new cardholders who had clocked $x within first 3 months of receiving the card and they would be entitled to an additional bonus of 8000miles per principal card.  This set of bonus miles would be credited by 31 Aug 2013.

I had called UOB on a few occasions to confirm that I was considered a ‘new’ customer and that I fulfilled the requirement.  All I had to do was to wait a few months for the bonus miles to be credited.

However, 31 Aug came and went.  There was no sign of the bonus miles.

I called in and was attended by Ms A.  She wasn’t sure what I was referring to as the promotion had been removed from the website.  Thankfully, I had captured a screenshot of the promotion and emailed to her.  With this information, she spent a few weeks tracking down the relevant departments to verify my claim.

Last evening, she called me and verified that I was indeed eligible for the bonus miles but there had been some operational delays.  She would call me again to confirm when and where the bonus miles would be deposited.  Well, after an initial few unpleasant experiences with UOB Amex call centre earlier this year, I’d to say I was delighted with the gradual turnaround in the service.

Some background for readers who are unfamiliar with me in person or online – I am a fanatic when it comes to collecting air miles.  Instead of collecting credit card points which might be left unforgotten, I choose to collect air miles.  This is especially helpful if you love to travel with your family.  Unabashedly, I like to travel.  Correction, my family likes to travel.

In order to minimize the initial capital outlay (or defray the travelling costs), I usually used air miles to redeem air tickets for Mr H (my husband) and me.  In the recent trip to Europe, I also redeemed the air ticket for Z.  X was travelling on infant ticket and that could not be redeemed with miles.  In summary, I only had to pay fuel surcharges for 3 persons and a full infant ticket cost.

When Mr H saw the cost estimate, I earned the green light rather easily.  Now you would know while I would be so concerned over the bonus miles.

Takeaway message:  Good & sincere customer service rocks, thank you Ms A!  And yes, I followed up with a positive feedback for her.

Tip of the day:  Printscreen and save the promotional information till the awarding date, if it is critical to you.