Bangkok Phil

How's the 'decorate' and the 'supervise'?

The joys of filling in customer feedback forms

In my last article I touched on the topic of sales brochures containing poor written English, with new condominium developments being among the worst offenders. Personally I'd be very wary of splashing out three or four million baht on a brand new apartment if the management can't even see the point of proof-reading what goes into their sales literature. But perhaps that's just me.

What I find even more unforgiveable is when customer comment cards are badly written. The information that customers enter on those comment slips provides invaluable feedback to an organization. One hopes that the feedback is taken seriously. I certainly go out of my way to spend five minutes filling in a card whenever there's one available.

Last week I was eating at the Sri Nakarin branch of a popular Thai Japanese restaurant chain. I won't mention the company but let's just say it shares its name with a well-known Japanese mountain.

My wife and I enjoyed a decent meal. The service was reasonably fast and efficient and I thought the food represented good value for money. I wouldn't say the experience was worth shouting from the rooftops about but when I noticed a small pile of customer comment slips, I grabbed a biro and took it upon myself to say a few nice things. At least I would have done if I could have fathomed out the damn English. So let me walk you through each of the four sections.

As is traditionally the format on these customer questionnaires, each section and relevant sub-section required a check or an ‘X' depending on whether the customer considered it excellent, good, average or poor.

The first section was ‘quality of food' This was divided into two sub sections; ‘taste' and ‘fresh'. I had no problem with ‘taste' because either the food tastes good or it doesn't. So I marked that down as good.

Critiquing ‘fresh' was a whole different ball-game. I would presume that they meant ‘freshness' anyway. This was definitely the place for nouns. Word choice aside, how the bloody hell would I know if the food was fresh unless I was standing at the delivery bay, idly sucking on a pencil as the food truck was unloaded? Then I would need to follow each delivery item into the kitchen or storage area and make a mental note of how quickly the produce got used. There's only one man who truthfully knows whether that day's food can be construed as fresh or not - and that's the head chef.

I was going to write all those opinions on the customer feedback form but there just wasn't enough space. And let's be honest - no one would have read it anyway.

Back to the questionnaire and it's section two where things got really interesting. Actually you can substitute interesting for confusing. The word ‘services' as a title for the section was confusing enough but how do you rate ‘courtesy'? OK, they mean ‘politeness' I think. But you rarely encounter a Thai waitress who is blatantly impolite. Rating politeness strikes me as a waste of time. The guy who designed the form obviously thought the word ‘polite' was far too humdrum in this case, so he flicked through a thesaurus and came up with the word ‘courtesy'. He'd probably seen it on the side of a hotel shuttle bus as well. It had to be the right choice.

The next sub-section I had to rate was ‘supervise'. Should that be ‘supervision' or ‘supervisor'? Was I supposed to rate the actual restaurant supervisor? Was I evaluating those that do the supervising as opposed to those who are supervised? Forget it. It doesn't matter. It makes no sense whatsoever. And neither did the next section - ‘serving'. What's that all about? Are we talking about the size of the servings? I assume the word choice should have been ‘service' but you can never be absolutely sure. Perhaps they do mean the size of the servings because if they meant ‘service' then how does that differ from ‘politeness' Oh to hell with the damn feedback form. I'm not wasting another second on it. Hang on.....what's this?

The third section is ‘atmosphere'. This should be a laugh. The restaurant wants me to evaluate them in three areas - ‘decorate', ‘cleanliness' and ‘utensils'. I'll start with the easy one. Yep, the restaurant looks pretty clean. Let's tick the excellent box. ‘Decorate'? Not sure about that one. It's a typical characterless Japanese restaurant made up entirely of glass and stainless steel but I guess one or two pastel-colored prints wouldn't go amiss. The ‘Utensils' section struck me as being a tad redundant, especially if you had marked restaurant cleanliness down as excellent. I've never been in a restaurant where the walls and floors have been scrubbed to a shine but I've had to pick through mouse droppings and pubic hairs to fish out a couple of chopsticks.

The problem I have with all this is simple. Why should I, the customer, be bothered to give feedback when you, the company, can't be bothered to produce a comments form that I can read and understand?

I had an idea to call up the restaurant that shares its name with a famous Japanese mountain and speak to someone in their customer service department. I was more than willing to re-write their customer survey forms for an obscene amount of money. But you know how it is. They would have kept me hanging on the phone for ten minutes and I would have gone through at least five members of staff before they found someone who could string together "May I help you?"

I'd suffered enough.


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