Service lapse? Respond fast and be sincere

SWIFT APOLOGY: Ms Cassandra Chiu posted a Facebook note on Monday on how she and her guide dog were turned away at a Haagen-Dazs outlet. The chain posted an apology on Facebook yesterday.


    Sep 11, 2013

    Service lapse? Respond fast and be sincere

    COMPANIES should respond swiftly and sincerely when they encounter negative incidents, to prevent the online community from crying foul.

    This is especially so on social-media platforms.

    That is the advice of social-media experts, following a recent incident where a blind woman and her guide dog were turned away from an outlet of ice-cream chain Haagen-Dazs.

    They told My Paper that, in general, companies should nip such incidents in the bud by putting out a first-response message and then following up with a more detailed explanation or apology.

    Mr Aaron Ng, a part-time instructor at the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore, said: "If you don't make an effort to communicate what you have been doing (to rectify the situation), there's an information void.

    "That's when more speculation will grow in the online realm."

    On Sunday, psychotherapist Cassandra Chiu visited Haagen-Dazs' Holland Village outlet with a group of friends and her guide dog, a Labrador Retriever called Esme.

    She was turned away by staff, despite presenting the manager with the relevant papers proving her need for a guide dog. This included a photo-identity card supported by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

    Ms Chiu then posted a note about the incident on Facebook on Monday.

    Haagen-Dazs yesterday posted a detailed apology on its Facebook page for its "mistake".

    The company added that it had been in contact with Ms Chiu, and is reviewing its "long-standing" practice of serving customers with guide dogs with all staff.

    Some netizens felt the apology was too little, too late. Others lauded the company's sincerity.

    Facebook user Lillian Wang said: "Haagen-Dazs has admitted its mistake without making excuses. I do hope that, with (its) brand and influence, it will lead the way in improving how all businesses treat the visually impaired and their guide dogs."

    Mr Josh Goh, assistant director of corporate services at human-resource consultancy The GMP Group, said employers should ensure all employees, especially front-line staff, are up-to-date on company policies.

    He said: "This way, there's less chance for miscommunication like this."

    Ms Chiu, 34, told My Paper yesterday that she does not mean to single out specific companies by posting about her experiences online but, rather, to raise awareness of guide dogs here.

    There are only three guide dogs in Singapore.

    She said: "I just want the 'privilege' of being able to do normal, everyday things."