This is the part II of Why SMRT Has To Be More Empathetic and Be a Social Organisation (read the part I
). In this blog post, I’ll discuss SMRT’s poor understanding of who the social customers are, and what they want. I’ll also convince you that SMRT has to transform itself to be a social organisation, to deal with the social customers.
Poor understanding of what the social customers want
Let’s face it. SMRT
wouldn’t be in a rut like they are in today, if the MRT broke-down incidents happen 10 years ago. Most customers are just going to complain verbally with their buddies in Kopitiam
(Singapore-style coffee shop). A few would probably bother to write to the print media. SMRT can quietly do their work, i.e. fixing the damaged rail way and the trains, and the public will soon forget the whole incidents.
Alas the customers today are not the customers 10 years ago. The customers today are equipped with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media tools that give them the power of media. So the customers today are in fact some sort of amateur journalists / publicist who can distribute contents at will. There is a term for this new breed of customers: social customers.
Social customers are on the rise and they are very vocal in the new media. In the case of train disruptions, many young Singaporeans have vented their massive displeasure/criticism of SMRT online – severely denting SMRT’s reputation. SMRT’s brand-and-credibility heads further south when one of their staff sent an insensitive message to SMRT cab drivers, telling them of “income opportunity” due to the incidents.
Let’s find out how bad the online sentiment against SMRT is. On 17 Dec 2011, I did a quick check on online sentiment for SMRT, using Twendz and Socialmention (both are tools for online conversation tracker). Here is the result:
1. Twendz reveals negative sentiment against SMRT. The negative mood grows 18%, in 8 minutes of Twitter conversation. See the following illustrations for further details.
First caption. On 17 Dec 11, at 4:23 p.m., here is the online sentiment for SMRT: 43% negative vs 39% neutral vs 19% positive.
Second caption. On 17 Dec 11, 4:31 p.m., here is the online sentiment for SMRT: 61% negative vs 26% neutral vs 13% positive.
2. Socialmention also reveals a negative trend against SMRT. Within 15 minutes of Twitter conversation, the positive:negative ratio decreases from 3:1 to 2:1 (about 17% decrease).
On 17 Dec 2011, Socialmention shows decreasing positive vs negative ratio (highlighted in yellow) for SMRT.
SMRT’s response to address this issue? In my view, they did two major things. First, SMRT created a corporate Twitter account (@SMRT_Singapore) to improve information flow to customers. Second, SMRT conducted a postmortem and announced that they will revise their SOPs.
Sadly the two responses above wouldn’t be able to satisfy the social customers’ needs. What these smart, young, and vocal people want isn’t a better SOPs (who cares about the SOPs – which were created by the same people who messed up – anyway?), or a one-way-communication tweets from a corporate account that sounds stiff, cold, and super boring (see the following screen-shot and you’ll know what I mean).
one-way-communication tweets from SMRT_Singapore on 18 Dec 11. A classic example of how NOT to use Twitter to promote your brand.
What the social customers want is engagement. Yes, they want to be involved. They want to be part of something. So what SMRT needs to do is actually engage the social customers. When they conduct a postmortem, get some opinions from the social customers. And when SMRT tweets, ask for feedback, or “talk” to the social customers. Twitter isn’t an information panel. It is a two-way communication platform.
Engagement, both online and internal staff engagement, is something that SMRT has to learn urgently. To be successful in engagement, SMRT has to let go of its command-and-control culture / Taylorism (i.e. an outdated management theory that emphasises high-level management control over employee work practices and standardisation of work (read: SOPs)). A manifestation of SMRT’s Taylorism, other than the SOPs, is the do’s and don’ts list for the public. Would anyone bother to remember the list?
And SMRT has to transform itself to become social organisation. Social organisation invests in social intranet – so that poor internal communication/coordination among staff can be minimised, and in social media – so that the organisation can engage its social customers and can crowdsource new ideas to solve problems or to innovate (these days, no organisation can claim they have all the solution to meet customers’ complex needs).
SMRT was fined S$387,176 in January 2008. http://sbr.com.sg/transport-logistics/interview/interview-saw-phaik-hwa
MRT train disruption affects 17,500 commuters. http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_654092.html
SMRT fined $7,851 by LTA for not meeting taxi targets. http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_714749.html
SMRT fined S$200,000 for security breach. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1160140/1/.html
1400 Passengers Affected by Circle Line Disruption. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1171290/1/.html
North-South MRT Line Breakdown Hits Thousand. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1171573/1/.html
MRT breakdown “extremely serious”: Lui Tuck Yew. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1171821/1/.html
SMRT CEO Apologises for MRT Breakdown. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1171733/1/.html
Commuters’ reactions to SMRT’s apology over train disruption. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1171797/1/.html
More training for train drivers to improve communication: SMRT. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1171785/1/.html