The Two Halves of KM And Why I Partially Agree with Don Tapscott’s View on KM

I stumbled upon Don Tapscott’s article on KM in Mckinsey website. In his interview with Mckinsey, Tapscott reiterated his views that he described in his book: Wikinomics about how social collaboration can boost productivity at work by reducing the need to meet face-to-face.

I liked the way Don Tapscott articulated clearly on the value of KM to the organisation, which is improving productivity though collaborative tools such as wikis, shared calendar, document library, etc. But I think he is being bias towards his own work, which is about promoting the use of collaborative tools at work. He didn’t put enough emphasis on the importance of having quality conversation during face-to-face meeting. He may not see how KM can improve the quality of conversation.

What’s so important about the quality of conversation? Low quality conversation is also a productivity killer! You are probably have experienced being stuck in an unproductive face-to-face meeting where the participants are locked in their respective views and they are unable to decide on the best approach to reach a common goal. In this kind of meeting, you and other participants did not collaborate and did not learn. To put it simple, you and the other participants aren’t practicing KM.

What would happen, if you go ahead and implement the social collaboration tools in the organisation that doesn’t have the habit of high quality conversation, is that you’d only gain few believers (i.e. early adopters) and – even with CEO’s blessing – the practice of using collaborative tools will not spread beyond the small band of believers.

Furthermore, you will not be able to bring the practice of social collaboration to its pinnacle of excellence: Information Findability though best practice Information Architecture and Staff Engagement through active discussion forums, wikis, and blogs. The reason is simple: what the staff practice on face-to-face platform will be “projected” onto social collaboration platform.

Here are some illustrations of behavior projection from face-to-face platform to social collaboration platform:

  • No habit of meeting project deadlines? Then forget about using collaborative tools (e.g. shared calendar) because people don’t see the need for using the tools.
  • No habit of presenting ideas in coherent manner? Then forget about information architecture because their mindset is fixed on “doing information download and leaving it to the audience to interpret”. People will not embrace the idea of organising information and especially the practice of tagging for future findability. People would just stick to their habit of uploading documents and then forgetting where the documents are stored.
  • No respect/trust on others’ ability? Then forget about collaborative tools because they would rather create something new from scratch than build upon others’ work – even if that means they would be unproductive. And people will not seek others’ knowledge in the social collaboration platform because people don’t trust that their colleagues can produce anything that is useful.

I hope I have convinced you that you can’t advocate and successfully inculcate the habit of using collaborative tools if you haven’t inculcate the habit of having good quality conversation. And that you can’t get others to cooperate and to collectively use the collaborative tools unless you cultivate the culture of openness where people are willing to discuss and test new ideas.

You probably have heard the above argument before and are agreeing that cultivating knowledge sharing culture is important. But I’m encouraging you to pay more attention than just cultivating the right culture. I’m talking about having a coherent KM approach. I’m encouraging you to synchronise both parts of KM when implementing KM.

Understand that both parts are meant to reinforce one another. Attempt to implement one without the other, and I can guarantee that you would, at best, achieve partial and limited success. I can guarantee that you would fail most of the times. Link both parts of KM and communicate the interrelation between the two. You will see KM comes to life and becomes part of the organisation’s DNA.  

Good luck! Any thoughts?

The Rock That A Social Business Is Build Upon


Perhaps you have been reading this blog for quite some time, and you can’t quite figure out what’s this blog is about. I probably talk about too many things that I confuse you, dear reader. Fret not, the day of reckoning is here. I’m going to share the ties that bind the vast topic that  I have been talking for the past four years. The one thing that unites topics in this blog.

First thing first, you are probably wondering about what do these terms have in common: social media, social intranet, social business/organisation, social collaboration, knowledge management (KM), and gamification?

Well, the answer is (drum-roll please) people! 

Pardon me if the answer seems so obvious. I know. I have ranted about how the KMers shouldn’t just emphasise on people just for the sake of talking about it. Putting people at the centre of all the big terms mentioned above requires action. Action makes the biggest difference.

But how should you act? What can you do to make people at the centre of your action? I have been mulling about this question for some time, and finally I had an epiphany recently. No it’s not about technology. And social technology, or user experience (UX) doesn’t quite answer the big question.

Chris Brogan has been talking about “human business” for a long time. And it finally cross my thick skull that Chris is right. It’s all about nurturing human relationship! That’s the whole point of having social media, social intranet, social business/organisation, knowledge management, and gamification.

The commonality between my opinion and Chris’ ends here, however. The “human business” (i.e. social business) that I’m referring to, is beyond than just social media or having a great conversation with people.

The social business that I’m referring here, is about creating and maintaining the whole ecosystem to support relationships within an organisation.

Social Business = Ecosystem within an organisation that supports relationship with yourself and relationship with others.

There are two kinds of relationship that needs to be nurtured and supported for every employee in every organisation:

  1. Relationship with yourself. (Also known as personal mastery or emotional intelligence).
  2. Relationship with others. (Also known as social intelligence).

Why do bosses need to care about the two relationships? Because helping people to nurture and manage the two relationships can impact business bottom-line big time.

Zappos helps their people to manage the two relationship by getting the new hires to think about themselves (i.e. whether they really want to work in Zappos), and inculcating great company culture such that people can have a great working relationship with one another.

A healthy relationship with yourself will lead to a happier (and a more productive) you. You will be motivated and engaged in your work. And you will have a more resilient mindset – which would boost your capability to bounce back from setbacks at work and in personal life.

While a healthy relationship with others will also lead to (surprise!) a happier you and those who work with you. Naturally, the level of trust would increase and people feel comfortable sharing their knowledge, or providing constructive feedback, via social technologies, i.e. social media and social intranet.

Building the two relationships is critical for the success of social business. Resilient employees (people who have achieved personal mastery) can build healthy relationship with other employees, customers, and partners. This could lead to co-creation on problem-solving, innovation, and productivity.

Managing relationships is the rock that social business is build upon.

So if you are thinking to transform your business to be a social business, think about how you can help people to have a healthy relationship with themselves and others. Reflect on this, will you?

Wishing all reader Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2013!

The Real Value of Having An Intranet Team


At the end of my talk, titled When Social Media Meets Social Intranet, in November 2012 at Max Atria at Expo in Singapore, a gentleman asked me about how to ensure that the investment in social technology (i.e. social media and social intranet) worth the effort.

He told me that his organisation has invested in Yammer. However, after some initial enthusiasms, few people are using it now. So he was particularly interested on how to get people in the organisation to use Yammer.

This is a very common problem for social intranet. When there is a new technology in the organisation, everyone would want to use it – just like a new toy. However, after some time, people may perceive that there is little value in using it. After all, what’s the use of “yammering” your thoughts or ideas? You have better things to do.

The issue here is, of course, an expectation to get instant rewards from the use of social technology (i.e. Yammer). To bust such an unrealistic expectation, remind people to regularly share thoughts / ideas via social technology. And get someone (or a team) to do the nudging, promoting, and curating valuable insights and to profile the person who owns the idea.

When valuable ideas are curated and shared, people can immediately see the value of using social technology because they can straightaway harvest the “gems” of knowledge and skip the unnecessary stuff – often caused by over-sharing.

In other words, communities within Yammer or the social technology need to be cultivated and valuable knowledge needs to be highlighted. Only in rare exception, communities within an organisation, can grow by themselves through self-policing and self-managing – without any intervention by the management.

Organisations have to do away with “build it and they would come” mentality. Thus, organisations can’t just implement yammer, and expect people to just use it. Implementing social technologies requires time, effort, and patience – just like rolling out any corporate-wide initiative.

This is why organisations need to have an intranet team – who would be tasked with cultivating communities and leading change management effort to ensure the adoption of social technology. An intranet team need to also curate knowledge, facilitate discussion, and organise face-to-face activities that could boost the use of social technology.

Those activities require a dedicated intranet team – especially if your organisation is a large enterprise. If your organisation is an SME (Small Medium Enterprise), you probably only need one person to do the job. Getting part-timers (or getting people to do double-hatting) would be a bad idea because their attention will be divided, or worse, the work of cultivating communities is pushed to the bottom of the priority list.


When Social Media Meets Social Intranet Part 3

Continued from When Social Media Meets Social Intranet Part 2

How Social Intranet Delivers Value
Social Intranet is an intranet where all employees can author content and connect easily. Alternatively, you can think of Social Intranet as an internal social media for organisations.

Like Social Media, Social Intranet can provide many values to the organisation. But, mainly, Social Intranet can provide two main values: (1) A Platform for Internal Collaboration; (2) A Means to Reinforce Purpose and to Facilitate Change.

1. A Platform for Internal Collaboration
Internal Collaboration simply means making work “social.” For example, Vodafone, a telecommunication company, uses Social Intranet to boost productivity of their sales team. Before implementation of Social Intranet, the sales people used to handle difficult customers alone. But thanks to Social Intranet, the sales people can exchange tips and best practices on handling difficult customers.

2. A Means to Reinforce Purpose and to Facilitate Change
Social Intranet can also be used to facilitate change. For example, Farm Bureau Bank (FBB) in the United States, uses Social Intranet to communicate top management vision via internal blogs and discussion forums.

Other than blogs and discussion forums, Social Intranet provides a platform to launch a mock “internal social media” campaign. Yammer, one of twitter-like features, can be part of Social Intranet, and this feature can be used to further break down information silos in the organisation because it is essentially a platform for personal branding – which means employees can build their personal brand as they share knowledge via Yammer.

Social Intranet is pretty much like Social Media. A good Social Intranet has features like social networking, tagging, video repository, blogs, ratings, and wikis.

If your organisation is interested in building a social intranet, I have three products to recommend: (1) Microsoft Sharepoint and Yammer; (2) Jive Software; and (3) Thought Farmer. And if your organisation is an SME and can’t afford to invest in a social intranet, your organisation may want to try a free, cloud-based social intranet named bitrix24.

How Social Business Delivers Value

To recap, Social Media offers two values: (1) An effective platform for PR 2.0; and (2) A Platform to Emotionally Connect with Customers. And Social Intranet offers these values: (1) A Platform for Internal Collaboration; and (2) A Means to Reinforce Purpose and to Facilitate Change.

Consolidating values from Social Media and Social Intranet, we can immediately see values that Social Business can deliver: (1) Capability to deliver exceptional customer experience; (2) Collaborate better to improve productivity or to innovate; and (3) Be a more nimble organisation.

Two real-life examples illustrate the value of Social Business:
First, Samsung. By maintaining an active presence in Social Media and having a great Social Intranet, Samsung creates a service innovation called the smart care – which is a one-stop centre for servicing Samsung products.
Second, Xilinx who like Samsung, has an active presence in Social Media and a great Social Intranet. As a result, Xilinx raise engineers’ productivity by 25%.

Last slide. Three key take-away from this talk: (1) Organisations have to be in Social Media; (2) Social Media has to be supported by Social Intranet; and (3) Transform your organisation to be a Social Business to survive in today’s economy. Values are created, no longer through superior product or service, but through premium experience.

This blog post is part 3 of When Social Media Meets Social Intranet. Here are the links to all blog post:

When Social Media Meets Social Intranet Part 2

Continued from When Social Media Meets Social Intranet Part 1

How Social Media Delivers Value
Social media can deliver many values to organisations. But the two main values are: (1) An effective platform for PR 2.0; (2) A platform to emotionally connect with the customers.

I’m sure you can agree with me that capability to effectively use social media is no longer a choice, because today’s customers are the most difficult customers ever! Today’s customers are citizen journalists – which means customers can voice out their displeasure through social media like blog posts, Facebook posts, or Twitter.

How many of you have heard of a gentleman by the name of Jeff Jarvis? He is a prominent tech blogger who in 2005, wrote a blog post titled: “Dell lies. Dell Sucks.” In the blog post, Jarvis ranted about how poor Dell customer service was, and the blog post attracted over 100 “Me Too” comments. Imagine a simple blog post gets multiplied 100 times.

The Need for Social Media Policy
The first step to ensure that social media delivers value, is to put social media policies in place. The right policies can help to protect the organisation’s reputation from misuse of the social media by the employee.

Let me give you two examples. First, Ashley Payne – a school teacher in the US – was sacked by the school because she posted a photo of herself drinking alcohol in her Facebook. Ashley Payne sued the school for unfair dismissal.

Second, in Singapore context, Straits Times was in hot water recently because a disgruntled employee tweeted profanity using their corporate Twitter account. Regardless of your opinion about the two cases, you don’t want a lawsuit filed against your organisation or your employees abuse the corporate social media account.

Creating social media policy is fast becoming a necessity for organisations. According to research, 47% of Facebook walls contain profanity, but should employers give a darn?

Yes! Absolutely. Because a simple social media policy is often sufficient to prevent the misuse of corporate social media account. Take for example: Ford who came out with a simple social media policy that says: “Play Nice, Be Honest.” But my favorite is Oracle’s social media policy that says: “Employees must establish that all opinions are their own and not Oracle’s, but at the same time, distinguish that they are indeed employees of Oracle.” It’s my favorite because it covers all angle, Singapore’s style.

Let’s return to how social media delivers value.

1. An Effective Platform for PR 2.0
Social media is an effective platform for PR 2.0. Facebook can be used to serve as the corporate magazine to update customers on the latest happenings in the organisation like what Zappos did on their corporate Facebook. Twitter can be used as a broadcasting tool to update customers on the latest products / promotions like what Starbucks did on their corporate Twitter. And Youtube can be used to serve as a repository for corporate videos to convince customers that the product/service is indeed the best out there, just like what Popeye Chicken did on their youtube account.

Furthermore, social media can be used as a means to showcase social proof. For example, Sony used Pinterest as a digital brochure that can showcase the number of likes that a product/service received. The number of likes is a social proof that some customers out there like the product/service.

2. A Platform to Emotionally Connect with the Customers
Social media can also be used as a platform to emotionally connect with the customers. What do I mean by connecting emotionally? A product/service is more than just what it is. A product/service means a tool to improve the standard of living of your customers, i.e. a way to make them happy. Connecting emotionally means highlighting the story behind a product/service, on how a product/service makes the customer happy.

Here are two stories to highlight this point: (1) University of Phoenix tells stories in Youtube about how online degrees improve the standard of living of their students; (2) Tom Shoes tells stories, using a corporate blog, about how the company helps disadvantaged children, in developing world, who have no shoes.

But no matter how well-crafted the social media policy is, and how good the creative content is, social media can still backfires as what McDonald and Nestle found out recently. McDonald’s Twitter campaign to collect positive stories backfires when it was swarmed by negative stories about McDonald’s product. While Nestle’s Facebook campaign backfires when a group of environmentalists posted modified logo of Nestle’s products. It got worse when Nestle staff tried to stop them from doing so.

So what can we do to prevent a social media campaign to turn against what it is intended to be?

Well, first things first, the organisation has to let go of control. There is no method or procedure that can 100% guarantee the success of a social media campaign. The next best thing your organisation can do is to use more of its internal knowledge (i.e. collective intelligence).

Let’s go back on McDonald and Nestle’s case. McDonald could have done better if they test their assumption internally, by conducting a mock internal campaign for example. While Nestle could have done better by testing the replies internally before posting them on their Facebook page. Nestle is so big – some of its staff could be environmentalists and could craft a better response.

So the use of Social Media has to be supported by Social Intranet, because Social Intranet provides a safe haven for testing ideas/assumptions within the organisation. But what is Social Intranet, really? Let’s discuss it in the next blog post.

This blog post is part 2 of When Social Media Meets Social Intranet. Here are the links to all blog post:

When Social Media Meets Social Intranet Part I

I had fun giving a talk, titled When Social Media Meets Social Intranet, on 22 November 2012, at Max Atria, Expo, Singapore. The talk was part of Fuji Xerox Empowers 2012.

Here is the video:

When Social Media Meets Social Intranet from Roan Yong on Vimeo.

And here is the slides of my talk:

In addition to slides and video, I also provide the script below – so that you can have a preview of the content before you watch the video and can have an accompanying text while going through the slides. Happy reading!

Many organisations failed to make use of social media as a competitive strategy. For example: Goldman Sachs, a leader in banking industry, failed to make their corporate Facebook page thrive. Goldman Sachs’ Facebook page is devoid of any activity just like a ghost-town.

So too, SMRT, a leader in transportation industry in Singapore. SMRT, when they first started their corporate twitter account in 2011, put this statement: “We’re here, 9am – 6pm, Mon – Fri (Excluding public holiday)”. A statement which doesn’t suit the 24/7 nature of social media and reflect badly on SMRT’s capability to effectively use social media.

Organisations have to learn how to effectively use social media because millions of people are in the social media now. And the number keeps on growing day by day. Furthermore, according to research, 50% of web sales is going to occur by 2015 – less than three years from now.

But to effectively use social media, organisations need to also build a supporting infrastructure, i.e. social intranet, so that organisations can transform themselves to be a social business.

So what is a social business?

According to IBM, social business is a business that embraces networks of people to create business value. Networks of people are referring to employees, customers, and partners. This definition obviously makes sense because, employees and partners are actually internal customers! It’s impossible to make your customers happy while neglecting your internal customers at the same time.

To understand how social business deliver value for organisations, let’s look at its two components: Social Media and Social Intranet. Let’s first zoom-in to social media in the next blog post.

This blog post is part 1 of When Social Media Meets Social Intranet. Here are the links to all blog post:

Singtel’s Transformation And How to Make It Happen (An Outsider’s Perspective)

Singtel's bid to become more Silicon Valley, less Singapore Inc

A Snapshot of The Business Times, 16 April 2012.

What’s up Singtel? After a study trip to Silicon Valley, the company reshuffled its senior management team and the CEO, Chua Sock Koong, said that the kind of talent that they would recruit into Digital Life were people from media, internet space and digital space.

Wow! Can a single study trip change the mindset of the senior management? In Singtel’s case, it seems to be. I’m happy for Singtel, not because I’m their loyal customer for the past five years, but because I think they are moving in the right direction for two reasons.

First, Singtel understands that, to be successful in today’s economy, they have to bring-in talents with skills in social media / PR. It is folly to think that customers (employees included) will keep their opinions, on new ideas and on service dissatisfaction, to themselves -  when they are highly educated and armed with social media and mobile gadgets. Today’s economy is about co-creation. And Singtel gets that.

Second, Ms. Chua’s philosophy on innovation. She has definitely hit the right tune by looking wide at the whole business ecosystem, to come up with innovative adjacent product / services like AMPed and skoob. This perspective on innovation is advocated by Ron Adner in his book, The Wide Lens: A New Strategy for Innovation.

Don’t get overly excited, however, by the senior management’s good intention to make change happen. They may not succeed because of – you guess it – the middle management’s resistance to change.

To deal with middle management’s resistance and to increase its chances in changing mindset of their people, Singtel has to do two things well.

1. Promote the right people, i.e. people who share the senior management’s views and are able to translate their vision into day-to-day actions, and convince everyone that the change is the right thing to do via dialogue and focus group conversations.

2. Adopt social organisation model. Singtel has taken a huge first step in being a social organisation. It has Expresso – Singtel’s internal Facebook, and blogging and sharing platform.

Expresso is certainly a laudable effort in stimulating quality conversations among employees and cultivating internal communities.But, to make it work, Singtel has to think about social intranet strategy, i.e. how to have user-generated contents, how to store/retrieve contents easily, and how to maintain the quality of contents in the intranet.

Social intranet strategy has to be accompanied by social media strategy. To strengthen its social media effort, Singtel have to think about connecting with customers via online conversation – especially in Twitter, because Twitter is the king when comes to real-time digital conversation and tracking the reach of the conversation / measuring online influence.

Singtel got to act fast, because Starhub has been tweeting for awhile now!

Singtel's Twitter account (as of 22 April 2012)

Singtel's Twitter account (as of 22 April 2012)

Starhub's Twitter account (As of 22 April 2012)

Starhub's Twitter account (as of 22 April 2012)

When the proposed transformation is completed, I believe Singtel would become a more customer centric organisation than it has ever been and a truly exciting multi-national company.

Thoughts? Agree / Disagree?

Social Organisation – Definition and Three Advantages

It’s 2012 folks! This year marks the end of era where “average-joe” intranet rules, where SOP is preferred over empowerment and engagement, and where customers keep mum about their dissatisfaction. And this year means screw business-as-usual! Organisations have to transform themselves to be social organisation or face slow-painful-death.

What is Social Organisation (a.k.a. Social Business/Enterprise)?

So what is social organisation anyway? You probably heard of the term and confuse it with social business (social enterprise) - a term made popular by a nobel price winner, Muhammad Yunus. According to Yunus, social business is a cause-driven business ala Tom Shoes (Tom Shoes commits itself to give a free pair of shoes to those in need, for every pair of shoes purchased).

Yunus’ concept on social business is beautiful. The world certainly needs Yunus’ social business model to beat poverty. Too bad, the IT and KM folks use the same term to mean organisations that use social technology, i.e. social media and social intranet, as competitive advantage (for examples, case studies, and definition, please read how IBM consulting describes social business).

For the sake of clarity, in this blog, I will use the term social organisation to refer to businesses empowered by social technology. I will avoid using the term social business/enterprise - unless I want to talk about Yunus’ version of social business (very unlikely as microfinance is not my passion. Social technology is). I suggest you do the same too.

Alas using the term social organisation doesn’t end the confusion. Some experts like two Gartner analysts: Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. Mcdonald, use the term to refer to organisations empowered by social media application to business. Others like a Forbes contributor: Fred Cavazza, use the term to refer to organisations empowered by both social media and social intranet.

So, which version of social organisation is correct? It depends on what you believe in. I believe corporate (internal) and consumer communications are converging, and thus I think social organisations have to be supported by social media and by social intranet. So I agree with Fred Cavazza’s definition of social organisation.

I also think the main purpose of social technology is to build communities. Combining these thoughts, I get the following definition of social organisation:

Social Organisation is organisation that maximises the use of social media (technology) and social intranet, to improve consumer and employee engagement and to build communities for innovation.

Why Organisations Have to Be Social Organisations?

Three big benefits underpin the need to become social organisations:

First, improved ability to engage employees, esp. the gen-Ys. Gen-Ys are moody bunch. This generation was brought up with a belief that the sky is the limit. They have a high (often unrealistic) sense of entitlement to pursue their dream/passion. The Millennials demand empowerment and bask in entrepreneurship working environment. Social organisation offers them such environment – an environment where they can be engaged and have the freedom to pursue their passion.

Second, improved ability to build communities. Social technologies are great community-building tools. They allow people with similar passion to “gather” and connect beyond the physical limitation, i.e. geographical boundaries and time difference. In other words, social technology is a catalyst for community-building. And we all know that passionate communities are breeding grounds for collective learning and innovation.

Third, ability to build relationship with social customers. Many people use social media like Facebook, Twitter, not only to improve the way they interact and live, but also to give recommendations and voice-out displeasure. Organisations would be wise to maintain presence in social media, to engage the social customers, to capture their testimonials, and to address their concern real-time.

Any thoughts? Write them down in the comment box below.

Recommended Readings:

Bradley, A., J., and McDonald, M., P. (2011). The Social Organisation – Chapter 1: The Promise of Social Organisations. Harvard Business Press.

Cavazza, F. (2012). The What and How of Social Business. Forbes.

N.A. (n.d.). Social Business. IBM.

Neisser, D. (2011). Move Over Social Media; Here Comes Social Business. Fast Company.

Why SMRT Has to Be More Empathetic and Be a Social Organisation (Part I)

SMRT (Singapore MRT operator) has a huge problem. No, I’m not talking about profits. As the sole operator of MRT in Singapore, they must have been reaping millions of dollars of profits. SMRT’s problem is two-fold. First, its top management has lack of empathy. Second, the organisation doesn’t know how to deal with social customers.

These fatal flaws severely damaged SMRT’s corporate image and handicapped SMRT’s ability to recover its credibility in the eyes of the Singapore public. In this blog post, I’ll talk about the first fatal flaw, i.e. the lack of empathy, and convince you that SMRT’s top management can be more empathetic, by mastering corporate storytelling to present facts. I’ll talk about the second fatal flaw in the next post.

Lack of Empathy

Many Singaporeans depend on MRT to travel. So, it’s no wonder that the public grew angrier at SMRT’s top management, especially its flamboyant CEO, Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa, 57, for failing the fix the issue quickly. Some people even call for Ms. Saw’s resignation in Singapore’s speakers corner.

But the real reason why the public are so upset is the perceived lack of empathy from the SMRT’s top management. Listen to what Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa and Mr. Goh Chee Kong says during press conference below, and you can’t help but notice their lack of empathy.

To exhibit an attitude of “business-as-usual” when crisis stuck, is bad for business. To be successful in today’s economy, organisations have to make that emotional connection with their customers. So when some screw-ups happen, don’t just say sorry and give technical explanation that no one understands.

Who cares about the third rail is misaligned with the collectors’ shoes? I don’t. In fact, I don’t give a damn! All I want to know, as a customer, is how SMRT is going to solve my problem, i.e. how SMRT is going to help me go to work or to go to some malls – to do my Christmas shopping.

Unfortunately, as you can see in the video above, Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa failed to deliver empathetic statements. Immediately after the first train disruption, she made the following cold statements, in national television:

I do know that many customers are very unhappy…there is nothing much to say except that we are very sorry for yesterday’s incident…what we can promise is that we will spare no effort in preventing such occurrence. I personally …improving our incident management…especially in the area of giving timely and better information, as well as crowd management.

Well, the train disruptions did happen again, for the second and third time in four consecutive days. No further respond from her. This may not make her a bad CEO (perhaps she had been working hard behind the scene), but this makes her statement sounds like a series of empty words. No wonder she is under intense pressure.

SMRT has to empathise with their customers! That means they need to understand how train disruptions are going to ruin Singaporeans live (the top twitter harsh tag when the incident happened was #SMRTruinslives. It was a huge hit for SMRT’s brand). They need see the problem from customers’ point of view. And tell the customers how SMRT is going to help them.

This implies, in addition to acknowledgement that the train disruption is going to cause great inconvenience to the customers’ lives, the top management has to offer contingency plan to re-assure customers that when it does happen again, SMRT can deploy cheap alternative transports for the customers – quickly and effectively.

Fortunately, SMRT does understand what needs to be done for service recovery. When the MRT broke down for the second time, the company provided free shuttle bus service for the commuters. But unfortunately, SMRT is clueless on how to present this fact. A horrible blunder.

Although, there were some delays and hiccups that upset some customers, the top management should have communicated that SMRT would provide free shuttle bus service as a contingency measure, when the first train disruption occurred. This would calm the customer and minimise damage to SMRT’s brand.

Too bad the problem and the alternative solution aren’t presented in an engaging story. Stories are the best medium to connect emotionally with the customers. SMRT’s top management has to master corporate storytelling, so that they can better project empathy to the customers.

SMRT’s top management has no other option but to master this storytelling skill. The time where top management can just present facts without stories, is over. Today’s management is about presenting facts in stories.

(To be continued…)

Do you agree that the SMRT’s top management has a lack of empathy towards the customers? What are your thoughts on this matter?

In part II of Why SMRT Has To Be More Empathetic And Be a Social Organisation, I’ll discuss SMRT’s failure in addressing the needs of a new breed of customers: the social customers. Stay tuned!