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A willingness to accept poor quality?

 

MIKE WOOTTON
MIKE WOOTTON

RECENTLY, I seem to be suffering from a spate of buying things which don’t work as they should or which just break down after a very short time. The challenge of either trying to get defective items replaced or enforce any customer favorable conditions which may just be buried in “warranties” is frequently just too much to contemplate.

As to any attempt to try to enforce the Consumer Act—well! So you just end up struggling along trying to make the best of a defective item or swallow whatever legal rights might be available and get a replacement.

 

I now realize why there are so many new cars on the road. Maintenance and repairs of older vehicles is a total minefield. So many shops around and so few people who actually can accurately diagnose a fault, and even fewer who could fix it in a way that is in the customer’s best interests, i.e., at a reasonable price in a pragmatic sort of way. When I was a younger man in the UK, I used to take cars apart and put them back together again so I do have some idea of the basics and potential problems. Cars are now more complicated, of course, than they were 20 or 30 years ago but the basics remain the same. To listen to some of the diagnoses from so many of the “experts” around here just makes you wince. To just unquestioningly accept the diagnosis and proposed cure is foolhardy in the extreme—work will be done (eventually), the bill will be enormous, and it will most likely not solve the problem. Complaints will be made and confusing defenses given to them, blaming you, the customer which, after much to-ing and fro-ing, will lead to the customer just having to find somewhere else and do further research to get the job redone. And the costs are not cheap. To take the car to the “casa” might indeed get a correct diagnosis and the work would be properly done, but at a cost which the average secondhand car owner would find prohibitive.

Nobody really seems to care. Reputations are frequently meaningless—sell something or provide some “service,” get the money, and then just defend your position when it turns out to be defective or deficient in an environment in which the sucker buyer cannot do anything about it. This approach is common in many areas of Philippine business. So much of business operates like banks, run by lawyers who rely on the words of whichever law or contract suits them to enforce their self interest to avoid any suggestion that they may have a responsibility to their customers. The contract is the thing and we will enforce whatever rights we have to the hilt in order to maximize our own position at the expense of our customers. Delivery of whatever is supposed to be provided under the contract becomes a subordinate issue to the enforcement of legal rights. It can only be assumed that the owners of the organizations that so vigorously push their legal rights down everybody’s throat support this “business style,” otherwise why would they allow it—do they do business just by browbeating their customers, and if so why would they get any new customers?

In manufacturing, or the provision of retail items or services for quality, if a customer complains that some item or other doesn’t work as it is meant to, there should be an unhesitating provision of a replacement. Marks and Spencer operated this way in the UK; in fact they still do. It was always known that if you wanted to exchange something for any reason—even if you just decided that on second thought you didn’t like it, that an exchange would be done unquestioningly.

The innate Filipino defensiveness and absolute need to avoid accepting that a mistake has been made doesn’t support a quality-based service approach. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s human nature. And there does not need to be draconian penalties for making simple errors. To say “Sorry it broke so quickly” or “Sorry I didn’t check that when I was doing the work, here is a replacement and if it doesn’t work well just bring it back and we will replace it again” or “I’ll just do it again and do it correctly this time,” should establish a reputation for quality service that will bring repeat customers. Shouldn’t a sound business plan aim to operate in such a way that customers do come back?

I wonder why people don’t set up facilities here to manufacture things for export or provide services on an international basis, of high quality. The Japanese did it after their period of producing bad quality copies following the end of World War II, and they now have a solid quality-based reputation. Manufacturing cheap, that can be left to the Chinese, who operate that way in order to capture markets in which people think they cannot afford to pay or simply don’t want to pay for quality and long lastingness, including their own domestic market, but even their game is slowly improving, quality-wise. Banks shudder if you propose using Chinese rotating equipment in energy projects, with the result that the short-term approach of manufacturing in the cheapest possible way is, in the long-term, detrimental to the export market. I heard the other day that the Chinese are keen to export their nuclear technology—it may be a while before they have many takers for that!!

The buyer market here should complain if provision is bad and show appreciation if it is good; the seller market should accept its mistakes and rectify them and develop and depend on reputations for good quality, rather than on their undoubted ability to force people to accept second-rate goods or services. Not too difficult, hopefully.

Mike can be contacted at mawootton@gmail.com.

 

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