Fri, 05 Sep 2003

High hopes abound on Customers Day

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Mastur, a customer of PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom) in Papua, was impressed when the state-owned telecommunications company gave him snacks and drinking water on Thursday, which has been declared National Customers Day.

Other Telkom customers who were waiting at the company's office on Thursday to pay their telephone bills voiced similar comments when the company offered them snacks.

"I hope Telkom gives such treats not only on customers days, but also on the other days," said one of them as quoted by Antara newswire.

Without much fanfare, the nation celebrated on Thursday the first National Customers Day which was meant to raise awareness of the country's business community on the importance of customers and as such to urge them to keep improving their service.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri presided over a ceremony to mark the day.

On Wednesday, in a press conference prior to the inauguration of the day, officers from 15 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), including Telkom, which were the participating companies for this year, gathered and made speeches about their companies efforts and plans to improve their services.

For example, state-owned electricity company PLN pledged there would be no mistakes in the bills to be paid by its costumers monthly by the end of 2005.

Indeed, all SOEs as well as all private companies in the country have a much work still to do to satisfy their customers, and a day is of course not enough to reverse the situation.

Sandy, 30, a customer of PLN and Telkom, doubted the day would offer real solutions to improving services.

"The aim of the Customer Day is actually fine with me, but we also have the National Children's Day, for example, but look what has been done to improve the lives of our children," she said.

Non-governmental organization Consumer Protection voiced the same concerns.

A press release made available on Thursday stated that the day should not be merely an empty ceremony, or lip service for customers, whom later are only treated as objects of profit- taking.

"The National Customers Day should not be a day when companies treat customers with snacks or discounted products," it stated. "The important cause is how to best serve customers and fulfill their rights."

The public has often complained about the poor service provided by Indonesia companies in general and SOEs in particular. There is no clear indication when customers in Indonesia will be able to enjoy a helpful and fast public assistant without having to search deeper in their pockets.

One thing is for sure, tomorrow travelers arriving at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport will still most likely have to deal with a taxi driver "refusing to use their meter and demand astronomical prices" and "endure the inevitable haggling and harassment by aggressive taxi drivers", as stated by a foreigner in a letter sent to The Jakarta Post some months ago.