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The customer is often wronged

June 24, 2019

TITA C. VALDERAMA

PUBLIC utility companies nowadays don’t seem to care anymore about customer satisfaction. They only care about profit. They’ve deliberately ignored or conveniently forgotten the slogan “the customer is always right.”

Public utilities have become lucrative private businesses without much regard for customer welfare. Worse, regulatory agencies tolerate inefficiencies, allowing the customers to be treated unfairly and unjustly.

Take a look at the services of water, electricity, telecommunication, and transportation companies in the Philippines. Talk to the consumers and you’ll surely hear endless complaints about poor, sometimes non-existent, services.

When these services were privatized under the liberalization policy dictated by international funders, the public was promised improved services and cheaper rates. That didn’t seem to happen and services continue to deteriorate because these utility companies could not keep up with the growing demands of increasing number of consumers. Yet, they keep counting their profits by the billions of pesos each year.

Try calling the hotlines of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) for repair and you’d be lucky if you get past the automated answering machine and have your concern addressed. Or you’d have to stay on the line for several minutes to have your complaint recorded, but still not addressed. Worse, your call will be passed around and your complaint still remains unacted on.

Yet, PLDT reported last March a core net income of P26.2 billion for 2018 and a 44 percent increase in its reported income to P19.2 billion. It said in its annual report that 2018 was a breakthrough year for PLDT with all of its main revenue businesses – Home, Enterprise, and Consumer Wireless businesses – registering robust growth.

The telecom giant said it spent P58.5 billion in infrastructure that drove its network quality ahead of the competition. It said its growth momentum would pick up this year given a capital expenditure of P78.4 billion “to further advance network lead and support vigorous revenue push.”

How come the PLDT service that I get in the first half of this year has become worse? With a monthly subscription of almost P2, 000, my landline at home was often out of service and wi-fi connection has been crawling slower than a worm. In April, my neighborhood did not have PLDT service for more than a week. When I called for repair, I was told that the construction of the MRT-7 line on Commonwealth Avenue had hit a major cable. Two weeks after service was restored, we lost it again for almost two weeks. When I called again, I was told that cables had been reported stolen.

Asking for a rebate for the days we had no telephone service tested my patience. Twice, I had to stay on the line for more than an hour each time. I got a P700 rebate on the first time, but nothing on the second because I gave up after being passed on from one unit to another.

Because we had no landline at home, I had to use my mobile data more frequently for work-related browsing and to my surprise, my bill shot up from less than P1,000 a month to P1,500 and P3,300 in April and May.

How many had the patience to deal with PLDT’s inefficient customer service and got rebates for those days they did not have telephone service? Is that how the company earned its huge profit?

We experience the same inefficient, if not worse, service from Globe, Manila Water, SkyCable, Meralco, and other public utility companies. Regulatory agencies don’t seem to be of any help. Bank services are just as bad, if not worse.

SkyCable, for instance, has reduced the number of television channels subscribers have access to, and yet the signal is far from satisfactory when you are lucky that it is not cut off. Try to complain and you’ll only be asked to upgrade your subscription.

The customer may not always be right, but businesses engaged in public utilities should see to it that they deliver services that would satisfy their consumers. Customers may not have much choice because these services are somehow monopolized, but have the conscience to serve them well.

Manila Water posted P6.5 billion income in 2018 but consumers experienced long hours without water from their faucets. Maynilad’s income also rose to P22 billion from P 20 billion in 2017.

Incompetence and inefficiency in government and private businesses in public utility services are squeezing blood from customers. Services ought to be improved. Regulatory agencies should flex their muscles to ensure that customers get the services that they pay for. It is not right that customers are always wronged.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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