Customer service in Brunei...

I just had a good read about this lady's experience of getting an iPad 2 back in Brunei. Needless to say, those who have stayed and shopped in Brunei can easily relate to her frustration especially when it comes to customer service. Having the experience of being trained in the hospitality industryrunning a retail store back home few years back and currently working part time as a retail assistant over here in New Zealand, i can honestly say the customer service back home is a little behind. And i'm not referring to only retail stores. This is for those involved in the service industry back in Brunei.

Since i haven't been back for a little over a year, i am not entirely sure if the customer service in Brunei is still as bad as how it was when i left. But based from the experiences i've gone through and learned from being in the hospitality and retail industry and as a customer, i can easily share what i've learnt that might be useful for those back home who are involved in the service industry.

The main important thing that i've learnt after being a part time sales assistant here for almost a year now is not to judge your customers. Yes, some might be a pain but that does not give you any right to treat discriminate them and give them a mediocre service. Having said that, i know we in Brunei tend to discriminate people base on their race, status and appearance. Whether you like to hear it or not, this is sadly true especially on the race factor. If you're a Filipino, Bangladeshi, Indian, Thai or Indonesian residing in Brunei, the first thought that cross our mind is you're either a maid or a laborer. Yes, majority of these people are working as a maid or laborer but not all. Regardless of what they do for a living, why would most of us feel like there is a need to treat them differently as if they do not deserve the same service like everyone else?

A few months ago, a group of Filipino customers walk in to the store where i work here in Auckland. Having trained to greet anything that walks in the store within a few seconds, i'm not going to lie but i did felt like my attitude suddenly changed the moment i picked up their strong accent. First i told myself in my head that they're probably just window shopping. And then suddenly, one of them decide to try on a pair of shoes. At this instance, the Brunei side of me felt confused cause normally it's the other way round. They should be providing me with the service not me serving them. Then the other part of me just bitch slapped my prideful Bruneian ego and screamed "Go do what you're paid to do and serve your customers!" Eventually one of them ended up buying a pair of shoes from me and was happy with her purchase. After this experience, i've started analyzing why i felt what i felt that day. Again, it is sad but it leads back to what how we view and treat others back home. In our mindset, we Bruneians always want to be superior than the minorities back home to a point where we start treating them differently to show our superiority. Some do it openly but some do it discreetly.

"Aku orang Brunei kali ah. Kuning I/C. Ko apa? Hijau?? Balik tah!!"

But even among those holding Bruneian citizenship, you will find arguments trying to prove who are more legit Bruneians. I'm not going to go into that direction since it's a totally different topic here. Don't get me wrong though, I'm not bitching about my country or people here. I love Brunei and the people because i think we genuinely have nice caring people - but most of time only towards each other and tourists. If you're a tourist or an expat residing in Brunei (specifically if you're white), you'd probably find us treating you like you're Charlie Sheen or something. Everything you say and do are...

I remember a while ago, while paying for my electric bills back home, i got the moodiest lady serving me like as if i was the main fault she's missing out on her morning tea while behind me, a white guy was queuing waiting to pay his bill too. The minute i got my receipt and stepped away from the counter, the lady behind the counter stood up, smiled and greeted the guy with the nicest, friendliest "Hello!" that could've make Lionel Richie beam with pride.

Another problem why customer service in Brunei is slacking is because we simply do not appreciate them. Sure we'll feel good about ourselves when we've been served properly but we'll just end up walking out and forgetting about these people who did their best to provide a decent service. To put it bluntly, we think we are supposed to be treated like kings and queens. Yes, as customers we have rights (at least it most countries...not sure if there are such rights in Brunei! Lol!) and we deserve good service but that doesn't mean we should start treating them like servants first. Growing up in Brunei, i know it's quite a rare to compliment stranger or people you barely know. Even among friends, we tend to compliment each other sarcastically. In the long run, these people who work hard to provide the service would probably give up and not try anymore since they might feel unappreciated. Once that happens, then we'll start complaining about how crappy the services in certain places are. The next time you feel like you've been served properly as a customer, try tipping them if it's in restaurant or just telling them how great of a help they've been. This can easily make their day.

I'm sure if there is a lot of potential for the service industry in Brunei to brush up on their customer service skills. I've experienced a few favorable moments before. To name a few, i remember TelBru did a really great job when they ran their customer service month few years ago. Standard Chartered Bank Brunei and HSBC Bank are constantly on top of their game when it comes to providing customer service for their banking customers. The now defunct Zunic Wellness was always welcoming whenever i stepped out of the elevator in Plaza Athirah which made me full heartedly commit to coming almost everyday for a year to workout.

There are so many different ways the service industry in Brunei can do to improve their customer services. Over here we have mystery shoppers coming in every month to mark us on our service skills, proper training by management during the very start of employment, weekly feedback from the employers, etc. But most importantly, the change will have to start with the individuals themselves that are involved in the service industry and also with the customers not mis-using their rights. If we treat others like how we expect others to treat us, i'm pretty sure customer service in Brunei can be...


Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for your support and input.
After a quick look at the Attorney General's Chamber's website,, I discovered that Brunei has no laws yet protecting consumers and their rights. Fortunately, this is currently being drafted by the AGC, but still, just because it's not law, does not mean we have to tolerate shoddy service.

While I was a student in the UK, I worked as a Castmember at the Disney store, so I know very well how good customer service is important especially when you're representing a global company with a set image.

Thanks again for coming to my defense. Stay well and healthy in New Zealand. :)
kangta164 said…
No worries! I would do the same if i were you. In fact, i wouldn't even bother giving them business if they treated me that way. Going through the comments, it seems like there are others giving you a hard time but wait till they themselves get a taste of bad service, then they'll probably think twice.

It is hard for the country to implement a law backing up consumers cause we're so used to using 'names' to threaten retailers or to get what we want. But i really do hope the law will come through soon. Over here we have a consumer act guarantee to give consumers a piece of mind when they purchase things around.

I hope AV will sort out your issue professionally otherwise, i wouldn't bother going back. Thanks for popping by! :)
Nurul said…
Hi. I am a Hospitality student in the UK, and I am currently in my final year doing my dissertation. I am doing a research based on how hospitality industry employees use different methods to deal with difficult customers in particular and how customer service also plays a significant role. I am also going to be talking about how bad Brunei's service is (even though I love my country but I cannot deny that the service provided back at home are horrible, and sometimes embarrassing - especially if the whole cause of a bad service are Bruneians to begin with. I wish I could change it and help Brunei develop on so many levels. I also believe that it all links to the ability on how managers train their staff. We need proper recruitment selection and training process. Most managers employ applicants based on their high qualification from school but not based on their skills or whether they are capable of doing the right thing! I am sorry but I am just as emotional as you. Even worse, perhaps. But seriously, If I could, I would. I am so tempted in using your blog as my reference, but I don't think my supervisor would think this is "academic" enough. Or I could ask. Thanks again!!! :) You're awesome.

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