Customer service: where's Andy Lau when you need him?

If you've sat on a bus in the last month or so, you've probably seen the short video clip where Andy Lau encourages staff in the local service industries to go the extra mile and offer excellent service to their customers. We could have done with his help last night ...

Mr B headed to the Dung Wong restaurant in the Tsing Yi Shopping Mall, to join his friends who had arrived a few minutes earlier. The table cloth set the scene, it looked as though it had been walked over ...

Mr B : Have you already asked them for a clean tablecloth?

Friends : This IS the clean table cloth!

Hmmm. Well the food was ordered, and started arriving -- and tasted pretty good, but ...

Friends : Hold on, that's the second beancurd dish -- this set meal only has one. (This was noticed after we'd started eating both).

Waitress : Oh, we've given you an extra dish by mistake, we'll just add it on to your bill.

Friends : Whoa, that's your mistake ...

Waitress : Hmmm, you've ordered a set meal, plus a chicken dish. How about I give your extra chicken dish to the next table and you keep the beancurd?

Friends : No way! We want our chicken. If you're going to insist on cancelling something, cancel the eggplant that was part of the set meal.

Waitress disappears scowling. A couple of minutes pass, and from the next table we hear ...

Guest : Waitress, we're still waiting for our beancurd dish. Where is it?

Waitress : We gave it to the next table. I can give you this eggplant instead.

Guest : We did NOT order eggplant.

Waitress comes back to our table:

Waitress : They won't accept the eggplant, so I'll have to charge you for the beancurd ....

Summary : nice food, lousy service. If you've had worse service, or some great service that would make Andy proud, please leave a comment and let us know.


I am special

It's been an odd couple of weeks for customer service. This week's gnashing of teeth has been directed at Hang Seng Bank.

First you need to understand that I am special, I only select the best, and I expect a truly prestigious experience. I've long suspected this was the case, but only knew it for sure after reading the bank's web-site for their Prestige Account holders. Other truths listed on the site include 'Best rate for Time Deposits'.


Their website shows two rates for the time deposit I had in mind, 2.65% as their standard rate, or a 'preferential' rate of 2.85% if I create the time deposit via the internet instead of at the branch. I opened the time deposit online, to get the higher rate.

But then a few weeks later I was visiting their local branch and learned there was a higher 3.2% rate available if you have the Prestige account. BUT you can only get this rate if you create the time deposit in person at the branch. What happened to the promise of best rates? It wouldn't be hard to have the website note my account type and apply the higher rate, but instead you have to stumble across the rates at the branch. And what happened to the story of online rates being preferential?

It wasn't possible for the bank staff to make any change to an existing time deposit, so instead I had to wait for it to expire, then visit the branch to open the new time deposit. Which I did today.

Hold on, the teller's printed sheet of rates also showed a 3.5% rate next to the 3.2%. Luckily the sheet was in English, so I could see that the lower rate was in the column 'Old money', while the higher rate was called 'New money'. Meaning the bank gives a better rate to new customers than to their long-term customers! It's all a very strange way of giving the customer a truly prestigious experience.

They helpfully explained that 'new money' just means a payment made from another bank's account. So I can make a payment from Hang Seng to another bank, then once that cheque clears make another payment back to Hang Seng to get the higher rate. Bizarre!

My guess is that there isn't anyone looking at my whole experience as a customer. More likely I'm in the middle of three warring camps:
- an Internet marketing team that wants to keep customers out of branches, and are rewarded by the amount of online business they generate,
- a Prestige marketing team that wants to get customers into branches so they can sell them more things, and
- a 'Growth' marketing team that is rewarded by how much 'new money' comes into the bank each month

If you work for one of the local banks, I'd love to hear if that guess is anywhere close to the truth.

Or maybe the bank is just confused about whether they should be more like HSBC or BEA?


stupid, stupid, stupid

See if this makes any sense to you (warning, banking-service rant ahead).

I want to refinance my mortgage, adding around $850K to the loan to take some cash out. I want to keep the same bank (Hang Seng), the same type of mortgage (Mortgage Link), and just extend the loan amount. Easy.

I visited the head branch, and the helpful Customer Relationship Manager called their mortgage helpline.

No go. "That type of mortgage has a minimum amount of $1M, and you only want $850K".

Hold on, the total mortgage will be over a million, I just want to extend the existing one.

"Nope. Must be $1M or more"

But..., I did this last year. The letter says: This additional loan amount will be consolidated with the Previous Loan to form a new loan... That's all I want.

"But how much extra cash did you take out last time?"

About $1.5M.

"Aha! more than a million, there you go".


After a bit more to- and fro-ing over the phone, a possible solution was found. I should go to another bank and apply for a new mortgage for the whole amount, get an offer letter, and bring it back. THEN there would be a good chance they could consider my application.

Why? Because then I would be a 'customer about to withdraw their business'. That means my request would get sent to another department, presumably with the power to do something about it.


Hang Seng management, who thinks this up? Either you upset your customer enough they change banks on the spot, or by forcing them to get offers from other banks you help them find something better and they end up changing anyway.

Even if you keep the customer, internally you are paying for a whole extra fix-it department whose sole job is to fix the screw-ups caused by crazy rules in another department.


Readers - go on, make me feel better. Tell me an even crazier tale of reverse salesmanship in local business.



I expect Hang Seng get it from their owners - HSBC - we had a little run around with a time deposit earlier this year with very similar situation to yours, some of the rules (and the jobsworthiness of the employees) sometimes make you want to cry for the total lack of logic.

Hang Seng / HSBC

Well, funnily enough I moved most of my banking from HSBC to Hang Seng around ten years ago, frustrated with the difficulty of getting my first mortgage at HSBC. You're right, I should have paid more attention to the family characteristics!

The Hang Seng saga continues. I called the Customer Relationship Manager back on Friday, asking her to have her supervisor call me. Late this morning (Monday), and still no call, so I called her again. In another example of the hoops they have to jump through she explained:

 - she had spoken to her supervisor
 - and the supervisor had called back their mortgage team
 - who said they couldn't really help, as this supervisor wasn't my customer relationship manager (apparently only the customer relationship manager, CRM, at the branch where my account is held should be talking to me)
 - so the head office CRM had called the branch office CRM on Friday and asked them to call me

But of course they haven't.

In an ironic twist, I visited an HSBC branch last Friday and they can offer a similar mortgage product at the same interest rate I currently have with Hang Seng. It'll be a hassle to change banks and the standing orders, but it seems there's a high chance I'll be heading back to HSBC again!

Hang Seng to HSBC

AND think of all that "new money" you will have to take advantage of the time deposit offers at HSBC ;-)