Qwality Service

by Terence

It’s late, so I’m not going to explain very much. Basically, I finally got a response from HDB regarding this earlier email, and it got me mad enough to fire off an email to their CEO. His email address is quite dubious though… hdbceo@hdb.gov.sg… but let’s hope that this time the matter is at least handled by someone with more EQ than a packet of milk.

And in case you were wondering… QSM stands for Quality Service Manager, the pre-assigned go-to guy whenever you want to make a complaint to a government agency.

Dear Mr Tay,

I am writing to complain about the appalling responses I have received from HDB in response to my appeal for a waiver of a parking fine.

Whether you decide to waive the parking fine is no longer very relevant to me. What I want addressed is the shoddy and indifferent handling of this case, and the lack of attention to quality. Please read through the emails sent by your staff and you will know what I mean.

I was fined for parking in the loading bay below my flat on 12 October 2008. I wrote in on 14 October 2008 to appeal against the fine, and I received a response from [Officer A] on 17 October 2008. He replied to inform me that the waiver had not been granted. Originally, I was to have settled the fine by 31 October 2008, but his email generously informed me that the expiry date of the notice had been changed to 12 October 2008! He was obviously using a template and did not check his email before sending it out.

Sensing that I was getting a canned response from someone with so many cases on his hands that he didn’t even have time to check his work, let alone give the circumstances a second thought, I re-appealed on 22 October 2008, hoping that with a bit more explanation in my email this time (and copied to the QSM just in case), that my appeal would be more thoroughly considered. Naturally, my email this time wasn’t exactly cordial as I was already quite irritated, but nothing prepared me for what was to come.

I don’t know what HDB’s service standards are for responding to emails (I checked, but couldn’t find it anywhere on your website), but I waited for 4 working days, and there was still no response to my email, not even an interim reply. There was also no out of office message to indicate that both [Officer A] and your QSM were on leave. Since it had already been 4 working days (7 calendar days in all), I decided to send another email to the general QSM email address on 29 October, hoping to get at least an automated response. You’ll be pleased to note that at least the automated response system is working fine.

On 30 October, I received not one, but two emails from HDB. First, I received an email from [Officer B], referring me to [Officer A]’s reply to me on 17 October 2008, and helpfully instructing me to make payment immediately. No reference to my email of 22 October, no explanation why my appeal was rejected, or why the response took so long, or any correction of the incorrect due date of the notice in [Officer A]’s email. Again, obviously an overworked employee who can’t even be bothered to start her sentences with capital letters, use a proper salutation or maintain consistent font sizes. The first two sentences of her reply read:

“Hi good afternoon Mr Lee. herewith our reply letter to you dated 17 October 2008.”

The remainder of her email provided instructions on making payment. What kind of response is that? What was the point of the email?

Later that afternoon, I received another email from [Officer A] himself. Again, no explanation, just this:

“We refer to your email of 29.10.2008. We wish to inform you that the Branch Office had replied to you on 17th October 2008. Attached is a copy of our reply for your perusal.”

Why on earth would I need to be informed that HDB had already replied to me on 17 October 2008, when I had obviously responded to that very email on 22 October 2008?

It is obvious that nobody took the trouble to read my re-appeal email on 22 October 2008. Not [Officer A], not [Officer B], not your QSM, or anyone in her department. I am at a loss to understand how [Officer A] and [Officer B] could craft such terribly inadequate replies that would frankly insult anyone’s intelligence, and not expect the recipient to respond negatively.

I am totally appalled by the level of indifference displayed by HDB, despite the email being surfaced to the QSM. From my understanding, QSM stands for Quality Service Manager, and I am sure you will agree that there was neither quality nor service in HDB’s responses thus far, and this is all the more shocking because HDB was previously an SQA award winner. Both acronyms share one word in common, “QUALITY”. The same quality standards should apply regardless of whether your staff are frontline customer service officers or backend officers. What kind of assurance do I have that your field officers didn’t exercise the same level of indifference when dishing out the fine on 12 October 2008 when they allegedly found “no sign of loading / unloading activities”?

I look forward to hearing from you regarding my waiver appeal, but more importantly, what is being done to improve the quality of service from HDB.