HSBC “Rgerts to Onform”

I’m always amazed at how much money companies sink into sparkling advertising and PR, but so little into ensuring the emails their staff send and receive reflect the same sheen.

Especially when they call themselves the “world’s local bank”.

Take this recent email exchange with HSBC. I’m a customer, and sometimes use their Premier lounge at Jakarta airport. I’m one of those annoying people who make a point of submitting comments to companies about my experience, even if they’re not solicited.

A few months back I was impressed enough with the Jakarta lounge to send an email to a generic customer relations email address I found here on HSBC’s global site where the page says:  HSBC customers are invited to email

I can’t remember now what I wrote, but it was complimentary about the initiative of one of the staff, a guy called Musli. I got this back a few days later:

Thank you for your recent e-message.
I have forwarded your email to Jakarta, Indonesia so that your positive comments can be feedback to Musli and their manager.
Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Great. Just what I wanted. A slap on the back for the little guy.

But a few months later—last week–I had a quite different experience, so I fired off another email to the same address:

Hi, I thought I’d follow up my earlier message about HSBC lounge in Jakarta. Since my last email I feel standards have slipped a bit and the place could do with some attention.

I then went on to detail the slippage: my Premier card, it turned out, wasn’t in itself good enough for Premier lounge, and the staff seemed keener on getting rid of me than seeing whether I carried the magic card. The lounge felt more like a lower tier massage parlor, with four females sitting around the front desk, chatting, giggling, singing karaoke and exchanging backchat with male staff. It got so raucous I and some other travelers went to another lounge to get a bit of peace and quiet.

Anyway, I fired off what I felt was a constructively critical message. I got this back today:

Thank you for your further e-message. I am sorry you have had to contact us under such circumstances.
I rgert to onform you that I am unable to assist you with your complaint.
As you have contacted HSBC UK, we are only able to access accounts held within the UK.
Therefore may I suggest that you contact HSBC Jakarta for them to investigate the issues you have and provide you with a full response.
I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you.

I wrote back:

Thanks for this, it cheered me up no end. The first time I send complimentary remarks to this email address, and they’re passed on right down to the staff, but when I send criticism you “rgert to onform” that you are unable to assist me.
Lovely stuff. Couldn’t make it up if I tried.

I’m a bit flabbergasted, actually, but I shouldn’t be. It’s pretty amazing that the global email address for customer relations for what is now one of the world’s biggest banks can spew out ungrammatical and misspelled dross like that, but more important, but that the staff member feels able to shunt responsibility back to the customer is shockingly shoddy.

Repeat after me: Every email sent and received by a member of your staff is an ambassador at large for the organization. Mess it up like this one and your whole brand suffers.

(Also being sent to HSBC PR for their comments.)

Poffertjes and Power

Continuing my search for a place to plug in and work at airports, I was pleasantly surprised to find that HSBC has laid out the red carpet for its Premier account holders, at least at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport. If you have one of their fancy accounts, anywhere in the world, you and your partner can partake of their lounge services.

It’s all a bit new, and, dare I say it, charmingly Indonesian: More people (three men watching one female doing the work) were involved in making my poffertjes (a Dutch batter treat popular in the former colony) than there were actual poffertjes:


HSBC’s Poffertje-Making Team (4)


HSBC Poffertjes (3)

But that’s not to say I wasn’t pathetically grateful. Food is never good at these kinds of places, so that the HSBC PMT (Poffertje-Making Team) took such care with my poffertjes was in itself a cause for celebration.

What impressed me, though, was that there was ample room there to work — several little cubicles, a couple of actual offices, and, blow me backwards, lots of power outlets — either in the walls, or in the floor. Like these, which pop up at the flick of a little switch. No Wi-Fi or anything, but you can’t have everything. Well done, HSBC.


Rogue Dialers – The Plot Thickens

The premium dialer, rogue dialer, Internet dumping problem (which I just happened, shameless self-promotion follows, to do a piece on which ran on a few weeks back, and on the BBC World Service last Friday) is a weird problem, not least because it would seem to be an easy one to stop. Surely the sleazeballs who are diverting people’s modems to high-paying international telephone numbers should be easy enough to catch, since the money is drawn by the less-than-sinister means of adding it to your phonebill?

It seems to be more complicated than that, at least according to a company that handles the billing  for some of these sleazeball sites. New Hampshire-based Premier Premium Communication has attracted much of the flak over rogue dialers because it is its name that appears on victims’ bills. But while the company remains quite secretive (understandable perhaps; there are a lot of people mad at them out there), it has shed some of that secrecy in a press release issued on Monday in which it seeks to put some distance between itself and its clients:

Premier Premium Communication provides the billing for a number of pay- per-view websites and is not related to “modem hijacking,” or other unscrupulous web practices, company officials said Monday. The company provides only the billing for the UK sites.

PPC’s argument is basically this: Because it handles the billing for a UK company that in turn runs the websites that are causing the problem, it doesn’t directly own or control those websites, ergo it’s not responsible:

Premier Premium Communication is owned by an investor group in New Hampshire that also owns National One Telecom and One Web Direct. The company sends out about 15,000 invoices a week for their client, a UK company that manages a number of pay-per-view websites. Of those, about 4 percent are contested, below the average for the industry. The UK websites, which are neither clients of nor under the control of the N.H. billing company, provide gaming, sports information, entertainment and similar services via the web.

An interesting argument, and PPC must be feeling the pressure to be coming out and saying this. Iit doesn’t, however, go as far as providing an address, contact name, email address or phone number on the press release to allow me to easily follow this up. Which is a shame, because actually their press release merely highlights how complex and messy this whole business is: PPC says that what is upsetting users are the international charges (as separate from the charges for visiting pay-per-visit websites) for which it cannot be responsible: “Consumers who use these websites also incur an international long distance charge from their phone carrier, which is separate from Premier’s billing”.

That said, PPC is offering refunds to those contested charges that prove to be sleazeworthy, and, somewhat charmingly, offers some tips to avoid these scams:

The company is processing each billing dispute to determine which requests are from victims of modem hijacking and will receive a credit or in some cases a refund.

I’m going to look more closely at all this, because I don’t think the phone companies seem to be doing much about it, and I’m guessing that the whole business may be even more complicated than PPC make out. For example, what of the role of the telcos (and even governments) from those remote destinations that victims find themselves calling? PPC, please get in touch if you read this, and I’d be delighted to hear from victims, or, indeed, anyone with light to shed on this scam.


News: WiFi To Go

 Now you don’t need sniffers and chalk anymore. The Premier Online WiFi Location Directory, launched a free searchable database today, featuring over 8,900 WiFi HotSpot locations representing 136 Network Providers worldwide. 
Of course one person’s ‘worldwide’ is another person’s ‘Hey! Why d’ya leave out my country? Not WiFi-ey enough for ya?’. I couldn’t find anything in Singapore, only one place was listed in Thailand and the Philippines threw up a ‘records not found!!!’ [sic] message. Sadly, this kind of thing is a mug’s game: Getting an uptodate list and keeping it uptodate with something like WiFi is a thankless, neverending task.