Discussing good service in Singapore without mentioning the sovereign city’s multi-award winning airport would be remiss. Changi Airport, voted the world’s best airport many times, and is often mentioned on many traveller’s favourite airport list. It seemed fitting to save the last task of the visit for my departure from the city, a little retail therapy for some duty-free goods.
Anybody that has passed through Changi will almost certainly be impressed, it’s a more pleasant experience than the average airport. It is remarkably efficient, passing through check-in and security is painless, and quick. However, it’s beyond security that the airport really shines, with a fantastic shopping area, and some great places to dine.
Terminal 3 in particular is as good as many shopping malls, there is a variety of shops, and it’s possible for any traveller to buy all their souvenirs here on their way out of the destination. There’s even a durian outlet for those that want to make themselves especially unpopular on the plane.
Once finished shopping, the wise will leave enough time to enjoy a snack, or even some fine dining in one of the numerous dining options. Yes, there is plenty to recommend about Changi Airport.
I decided to buy some Cohiba cigars, as a special treat for myself, but to my surprise when I asked the advice of one of the sales representatives, they were of little help. In fact, they were actually dismissive, too busy sorting out a display to devote any time to advising me on my potential purchase. She barely looked up, only just managing to string a sentence together about a special offer, which I had little interest in.
Maybe she wasn’t the cigar specialist, but she did not even recommend a colleague that would have been able to offer more advice. I bought some cigars regardless, the checkout girl was more efficient than friendly, she also hardly glanced in my direction while she completed my transaction.
This was not the experience I’d anticipated, already feeling slightly aggrieved, and this caused me to change the plan. Originally intending to try one of the classy restaurants, I opted instead for a snack and some coffee. The theory being that good service is expected in a fine dining outlet, it would be more interesting to see how a slightly less expensive outlet performs.
I chose a coffee bar, buying yes a coffee, and a sandwich, service was again efficient, but at least this time my custom raised a smile. The assistant wasn’t very chatty, but pleasant enough, this left me feel a little happier, but still short of the experience I’d expected.
It’s possible that too much was expected of the service in Changi. So much read or heard about how good the airport is, that I’d already built it up as a shining beacon of excellence. This is possibly unfair, but it is difficult to defend the attitude of the sales representative in the duty-free area, service of any kind was completely non-existent. Although it left me feeling slightly disappointed, it did not tarnish the visit to the city.
In the end this experience at Changi airport had been typical of the visit to Singapore; mixed levels of customer service, and sometimes better service was received in the places least expected. It had been a worthwhile experiment however, and the sovereign city had been an ideal laboratory, though thankfully not a sterile environment.