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Raising Service Standards

In this article published in The Business Times, Achieve Group CEO Joshua Yim offers his opinion on the reasons for the low service standards in Singapore and what he feels can be done to raise the levels of service excellence and customer satisfaction:

“If we benchmark Singapore as a First World country, then I believe there is a gap in our service standards compared with other advanced nations which generally deliver very attentive and engaging service. It is easy to understand why this is so. For starters, it is a structural problem associated with the social perceptions of certain frontline jobs being unglamorous. This is further worsened by a lack of training in this area. Being seen as not glamorous, many Singaporeans do not wish to take on these jobs – which then go to those who do not come from a high academic background and may not be well trained. We also depend a lot on foreign workers for such frontline work and many come from Third World countries, even rural areas, so we cannot expect them to immediately transform themselves to perform at First World service standards. Naturally, they require training but, being on short-term Work Permits and S-Passes, companies generally hesitate to invest in training them up. Traditionally, these frontline service jobs (save for financial services) are viewed much less glamorously in Singapore than in Europe or the United States, thereby worsening the phenomena of low service standards here. Companies ought to send their staff – whether Singaporeans or foreign workers – for aggressive training and skills upgrading. They should also roll out customer-centric initiatives such as the ”mystery shopper” audit and customer satisfaction surveys. I have personally encountered certain food and beverage outlets and hospitals that really invest in training their people and the difference in service delivery is very evident. I believe the only way to plug the customer service gap within the Singapore landscape is through training and there are no two ways about it.

Ultimately, there must be a shift in paradigm over the next generation so that the general public will one day view these frontline positions as professional equivalents, just as they do in Western Europe and North America. Otherwise, it will continue to be a challenge to attract Singaporeans to take on these positions.”

Source : The Business Times, 14 April 2014