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Reject arrogance and shoddy service

 | June 25, 2013

Pos Malaysia needs a complete overhaul of its services and a genuine desire for its staff to provide decent service.

COMMENT

When profitable state-owned institutions like Pos Malaysia, Telekom Malaysia and Tenaga Nasional Berhad were privatised, many of us knew that the Umno Baru-led government and their cronies would stand to benefit; service would decline and prices would rise.

At a time when the mobile phone takes care of our telecommunication and social needs, one would have thought that Pos Malaysia would treasure its public role and provide a good, reliable service, especially for the poorer, deprived members of the community.

At one time, Pos Malaysia like several other institutions such as the police force and judiciary, were respected and efficient. When former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad ruled, many of these institutions were compromised. They lost their independence. They became political appendages of the ruling party. They abrogated their public service role and responsibility. These institutions became a means to make cronies richer, and the rakyat poorer.

When I was living in Sarawak, a Norwegian friend sent an air-mail letter with my name, the name of the company I worked for and the words “somewhere in north Borneo” on the envelope. He omitted to put my full address, the town, the east Malaysian state and country.

The letter reached me, with an apology on the envelope to say that the Postmaster General Malaysia was sorry the letter had taken three weeks. I was grateful the letter arrived at all!

Last week, an FMT reader called “Saravanan”, a Malaysian living in Europe, wrote to FMT to highlight the shabby Pos Malaysia ‘registered letters’ service. The link is here.

Saravanan claimed that a registered packet posted to a friend in Pahang, never arrived; however, Saravanan was able to monitor the movement of his parcel, with a tracking number. He claimed that the parcel left Kuala Lumpur around 23:30 hrs on May 31, 2013 and was returned to him.

Pos Malaysia had earlier blamed the European mailing service for not sending the parcel to Malaysia. So, why was Saravanan able to track his parcel in Malaysia? Why was it not delivered to the Pahang address? Why did Pos Malaysia not handle Saravanan’s complaint promptly? Why was the parcel returned to sender? Do Pos Malaysia staff not understand tracking numbers?

Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence. Saravanan may have given Pos Malaysia the benefit of the doubt for the first offence, but soon after the first incident, another letter containing important documents meant for his lawyer in Malaysia, was also mislaid.

Like the first parcel, this letter was complete with tracking number and the correct postal address.

In both instances, Pos Malaysia claimed that an incorrect postal address was provided.

Lacking professionalism

Saravanan is not the only victim of shoddy customer service from Pos Malaysia. The stories of post being opened and valuable items taken, or of letters being dumped are common; postmen who throw your letters on the ground, despite there being a mailbox; postmen who do not leave a notification of a letter that has to be collected from a sorting office because no one was at home to receive it; postmen who throw parcels around carelessly, even when they are clearly marked “fragile”.; delays in the local postal services and letters which get misdirected.

At some Pos Malaysia offices, some counters are closed despite long queues at the few which are open for service. Some people complain about officious employees who argue about the colour of the brown paper covering a parcel, with the excuse that it is not the Pos Malaysia approved brown-paper.

Some postal employees in provincial post offices, tend to treat the counter office like their drawing rooms, with members of the public roaming in to stop and chat, whilst everyone else is kept waiting.

How does one deal with bureaucrats who make the rules as they go along? How can Malaysia achieve a developed status whilst post offices lack professionalism?

Malaysians have been subjected to shoddy and incompetent customer service. It is a very rare occasion, when an establishment offers truly commendable service.

Most of us, when faced with a surly employee, a recalcitrant waiter or an unhelpful civil servant, simply walk out and do nothing. It is our “tidak apa” attitude which contributes to a decline in customer services; because we refuse to take a stand.

If more people were like Saravanan and complained, demanded compensation and an apology, then Pos Malaysia, and other similar institutions, would not take us for a ride, but would force a change in the attitude of their employees.

Pos Malaysia needs a complete overhaul of its services, its website, staff training, complaint and investigation procedures, a fair compensation scheme and a genuine desire for its staff to provide decent service. Underperforming staff and dead-wood should be sacked.

A colleague once posted a parcel of 60 Malaysian story books by Pos Laju to England, but his securely wrapped and labeled parcel was damaged and its contents lost during transit. There was a tracking number and the parcel of books should have arrived one week later, by air. The English postal service claimed that the parcel had been damaged before it arrived in England.

Despite a detailed complaint, Pos Laju refused to compensate my friend, and they rejected claims for reimbursement of the postage, never mind the contents. He had paid over a thousand ringgits for the postage and insurance.

What is the point of insuring the parcel with Pos Laju if they will not honour their end of the agreement? My colleague found that his package had been opened en-route and the contents replaced with 10 religious books.

Like my colleague, Saravanan would be lucky to receive compensation and it would be a miracle for him to receive an apology from Pos Malaysia. The word “sorry” does not exist in the vocabulary of those in authority in Malaysia. Other words they are not familiar with are ‘accountability’ and ‘responsibility’.

Hurting the crony companies

Our daily lives are wrecked by abysmal customer service, be it private companies or government institutions.

Why does the government want to privatise a public service? What difference has privatisation made, other than a noticeable decline in service?

Admittedly, there are some very good employees in these organisations, but they are in the minority.

The rakyat needs to be more demanding when it comes to the receipt of goods and services.

Only a concerted and united effort by all will force these institutions to improve. The impact of shifting our allegiance to courier companies will hurt crony companies where it matters most.

Recent events have shown that the rakyat realises the government could do much more to improve the country. The same goes for crony companies.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.


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