Monday, August 31, 2009

Foreign customer service staff should speak English in Singapore

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I called up a service provider today, enquiring about some matters regarding service delivery.

Though I started off my enquiry in English, I was startled to hear the man on the other end of the line, a Chinese PRC, answering my enquiries in Mandarin.

Well, though the customer service officer might have known that I am a local Chinese from my voice, however, should he not converse in English with English being the official common language of Singapore?

I persisted in talking to the officer in English, however the latter insisted in replying my queries in Mandarin to my indignation that I have to speak to him in Mandarin too, as his spoken English, however few, was also hard to bear!

Should Singapore aim to raise the standard of spoken English here, the Singapore Government should really ensure foreigners fronting customer service desks be conversant in good spoken English and to use English as the medium for interacting with customers as the norm.

It is really no joking matter for the case I highlight above was definitely not my first experience. In departmental shops in major local shopping centres, I was really appalled to hear Chinese PRC customer service officers telling me that he or she cannot understand English and whether I can speak in Mandarin instead!

Hello, Customer Service Officers should learn to interact with customers and not the other way round: we customers have to learn to interact with the customer service officers! I believe tourists who visited Singapore and had experienced the same experience as I, would leave Singapore with a negative impression!

While I do not mind Singapore opening its gate to the flocks of foreigners, I hope the government can ensure these foreigners are able to communicate with Singaporeans and not dilute the standards of our common language, English. Beside Singlish (Singapore English), I do not want to see an emergence of a 'Chinasinglish English' or hybrid English.


eastcoastlife said...

We Chinese Singaporeans are supposed to be bilingual in English and Mandarin. Take it as an opportunity to polish our Mandarin and practise it with the China nationals.

The Chinese language will be commonly used one day.

qa said...

You are right. But I wonder why the shops want to employ them if they think it would not be good for their business. There must be some good reasons, don't you think so?

But when they are able to speak English, it would be harder for locals to compete with them. I guess they are more hardworking and service-oriented.

Singapore Short Stories said...

Ya I understand EastCoastLife, but its so getting popular these days, the use of Mandarin. Even when I was in university, the China lecturers or post graduates would tend to speak in Chinese 'after sometime' with Singapore Chinese students.

QA, I believe one of the factors is that generally Singaporeans do not like customer service jobs as it entails long hours of standing and smiling, serving from the heart. Another point is that these jobs may not pay well, but to foreigners, due to the good currency exchange rates of SIN $, they are attractive to foreigners.

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