CNET : Internet : Regional Dispatches
You can guess what happened nextů

The guy never showed up and a week passed without any communication from the vendor.

She finally had the problem fixed on her own initiative. Losing patience, she carted the CPU over to the store herself and made them remove the defective CD ROM drive. Then she was made to wait for three weeks while they sent it back to manufacturer who had to acknowledge the defect before issuing her a new drive. All for free, of course. But much time was wasted just waiting.

And she was among the luckier of the people I know. Some folks never got their defective computer parts replaced. Others paid to get their problems fixed and many more are still using flawed machines months after the initial purchase.

Poor technical support and bad customer service is a serious problem among users and vendors. Malaysian computer vendors certainly have a way of ignoring problems faced by their customers. Even though computers have become popular and even gained recognition among policymakers here, the level of service has not improved over the last 20 years.

A personal experience is the best example. When Internet was introduced here, I went down to Singapore to buy a modem as it was cheaper there than here (that is another story by itself.) My new 14.4kbps modem did not give me any problems but was damaged out when a bolt of lightning hit a nearby power line. This happened during the same week I was scheduled to visit Singapore so I took the burned-out modem with me and had it replaced by the store from which I had bought it.

The Singaporean clerk behind the counter asked no questions when I asked for a replacement as the modem came with a five-year warranty. She just checked the paperwork, pulled a new modem off the shelf and handed it over.

Over here in Malaysia, if your modem is busted, it is advisable to just go out and buy a new one simply because it would take three months or more to get it replaced. To add insult to injury, the computer vendor would ask a million questions. Worse yet, some would delay replacing it for reasons only known to themselves.

You must by now be wondering who is to blame; the computer vendor who takes advantage of the situation or the docile consumer who prefers to complain instead of being firm about the matter. Regardless of who is culpable, what is certain is that the majority of Malaysia's computer users are resigned to poor service. Lousy service has become a fact of life. They prefer to passively gripe about the situation rather than take the bull by the horns.

Would it be too presumptuous to expect decent service? After all, everyone has, at some point in life, encountered poor customer service, be it from restaurant waiters, pump station attendants or cute bank tellers. More often than not, there are reasons behind slack service. Maybe the computer at the bank was down, the waiter had a fight with his neighbor's dog or the pump attendant had a bad hair day.

So what, you think, life goes on. Everything and everyone can only get better the next day. Let's all put on a smile and grin through the rest of the day. But the fact of life is, it should not work that way.

Why should consumers of high tech machinery be kicked around like a ball? Why should anyone put up with such poor service? We are entitled to kick up a fuss.

Even if Asians are known having a gentle manner, being more forgiving and less aggressive, that does not mean that we deserve to walked over. Unless we begin to stand up for ourselves, we will never be treated decently as customers or human beings.

When a CD drive is faulty, it should be replaced immediately. After all, a PC undergoes a burn in test for the purpose of eliminating these problems. Why customers wait three weeks or longer for paperwork to be shuffled from the retailer to first a distributor and then a manufacturer ---just to resolve a simple matter?

For a small enterprise that depends on just one PC, a three-week delay can create severe income losses. Computer vendors should not even dare to differentiate the level of service offered for companies and individuals. This, more often than not, is the case more as corporations are big spenders and are given more attention.

In order to maintain corporate relationships, an otherwise insensitive vendor provides generous time and support to managers who buy IT products in bulk. But how many people enjoy that privilege and are able to order a PC for home at a discount while enjoying good service?

Even if all the world's researchers declared over and over again that the largest market is the home user market, most PC vendors are oblivious to that apparent statement. In the mind of many Malaysian IT vendors, today's bulk orders take precedence over the bad word of mouth that chiseling scores of small customers eventually creates. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. When satisfied customer tell their friends about the exceptional they received, this constitutes the freest, most positive powerful advertising available.

On the other hand, word of a bad purchasing experience will also circulate quickly. You can be sure that my friend's associates will never a PC from the vendor that mistreated her. That little voice in the dark could jolly well have been one that would have delivered repeat sales to the vendor ---if my dear friend had been treated well.

Hence, even when the retailer takes into account only his own narrow interests, home users deserve proper consideration. From small spenders speaking good words behind a vendor's back are future bulk sales created.

After such an annoying experience, she swore never to buy anything from that particular manufacturer.

Email your comments to us.

Dispatch from Malaysia

Here's a nation that has built a first-world infrastructure. But can the country truly lead its people down the Yellow Brick Road to the smart city of tomorrow? Our Dispatch from Malaysia taps into the collective mindshare.

Check out previous dispatches from Malaysia:

Real world Net cynicism in a wired world

The art of resistance

Surfing on the Sulu

High-tech utopia or myopia?


Links: CNET USA CNET Singapore CNET Malaysia CNET Hong Kong CNET Taiwan CNET in Asia About Tricast Jobs at Tricast
Get our Newsletter FREE
   Home | Search | Contact CNET Singapore | Contact Ad Sales
Join CNET Singapore, we're hiring!

Back to top Copyright © 1998-2000 All rights reserved. Privacy Policy.
Copyright © 1995-2000 CNET, Inc. All rights reserved.