Sunday, November 29, 2009

Namawee? Modern Crusader or Loudmouth Hill Billy?

One thing you've got to hand it to Namawee, he got guts. Looking at his video, people will either love him or hate him. While many of us can emphatise with the notion that Malaysian service providers and utility companies including the civil service is more often lacking, its a question whether the method he went about it was the best method.

We all have our share of power cuts though people in the Klang Valley will not truly understand the crux of the matter compared to people living away from the urban center. I was in Sabah for five years and I can tell you the service there was terrible. Often blackouts occur nearly every single month and god help you if it occurs at night, then you can expect no service till the next morning. Though this may have improved things there as of now I still wonder. For consumers it is a right to question why service providers cannot deliver when customers are paying their bills and yet the same excuse time after time is that 'best service available' policy which literally means 'it's not our fault we keep on getting subscribers and later complain out rollout of infrastructure cannot meet peak demand'.

Should we stand for this? Take for example my Astro has problems every time it rains and I cannot watch, meaning in a tropical country like Malaysia, say bye bye to your telecast during monsoon season. This after they have promised better service transmission with the launch of the new satellite and digital system, not happening. Streamyx is another thorn in the foot, for years this monopoly has provided subpar service and while other neighbouring country are heading forward with better broadband and faster speed, we are still crawling and Streamyx imposing bandwidth capping citing '20% of the users are using 80% of the bandwidth'. So What do you expect? Files are getting bigger, online tools such as streaming videos and filesharing programs are the norm, if they cannot keep up with people's need, give the job to someone else. But having said that while there are headaches, and some very chronic indeed, not all their staff are bumbling idiots.

Citing an example recently, I had problems with slowdown of internet in my home and called the call center a day before Hari Raya, they said they will rectify the problem by Monday. To my surprise they came on a Saturday, checked the system and resolved the problem. Kudos to the two fellows who came.

Nowe back to the video, first of all again while I emphatise with the grouse he had, trust me if this happened in KL every single datuk will be ringing up the TNB chairman to get power up within the hour so realistically being in the dark is no fun period. Secondly three blackouts within the year is not a small problem, question begs as to why this has occurred as in the case of Muar for Namawee's case, is it due to inadequate maintenance, sub-standard equipment or as he claimed TNB staff not doing their job?

While Namewee tends to be rude, okay very rude, I believe he is quite brave to do what he did. How many Malaysians actually stand up and get down to the matter of things? How many qould question why things happen such as blackouts and why action in getting power back on are not as efficient as it should be? How many people would make formal complains and ask for an explanation for which as a paying customer he has the right to? Most probably none. While the manner of his is not diplomatic, I can emphatise with the fact that desk officers are not often the most friendly bunch, more often the norm rather than the exception. To be more efficient and beholden to the customers I believe that the companies should be more responsive. We all don't ask for much, we want to know of the explanation when something happens so that we can ascertain if its a reasonable enough explanation. We would also like to see service providers ensure that the customers are getting what they paid for. Would TNB be more efficient if say they have to compensate customers for downtime? I've experience before TMnet Streamyx service getting cut for a week whereby I couldn't do any work and still the same amount of bill came at the end of the month. Should I have been given a rebate for loss of service? Yet all I got was a phone operator telling me, we are trying our best to solve the problem, that is if they can be reached at all.

Bottom line is, customers all want quality service commensurate to what they pay. Should Namawee be blamed for his outburst? No really but I did cringe with the language he uttered and how he treated the TNB workers, he had a legitimate claim but the way he put if forth made them hostile. What can we learn from this? We all should bring along a portable camera when we go and meet service providers to complain and ascertain how they actually conduct their job. Namawee will most likely make as many enemies as he does admirers. But Malaysians should also take his video as an eye opener that we should not just sit down and take whatever service providers dish out to us and not bat an eyelid. If they are not keeping up the quality of their service, exercise your right to complain, we have consumer associations, we have politicians, heck even the service providers have complain desk (when they actually work), so go through the proper channel first. If that don't succeed, well Namawee has shown us another outlet to vent your anger right?

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