S’pore must improve service culture because we no longer compete on cost: Edward Chia


Singapore is no longer competing based on cost, says Mr Edward Chia, MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. Instead, we must compete and stay relevant by providing high-value service.

Below is an abridged version of Mr Chia’s Budget debate speech which was delivered on February 23, 2023.

As a nation, we need to ensure that we have the fiscal capabilities and revenue to sustain our healthcare and social needs. To ensure continued real income growth for Singaporeans and adequate retirement savings, we must support local employers to compete and stay relevant on higher value products and services.

How do we achieve this? By remaining competitive and relevant in an increasingly hostile world.

We are competing on perceived value

Our nation needs to stay relevant on providing the best customer experience value.

We are no longer competing based on costs, but rather on perceived value. To ensure continued real income growth for Singaporeans, we must support local employers to compete and stay relevant on higher-value products and services.

The importance of building strong relationships between organisations and their customers has taken on added significance. As economies around the world develop in sophistication, consumers are offered greater choice and form higher expectations — higher expectations specifically on the overall customer experience.

Singapore can do more to improve our service culture.

The honesty in accepting that service levels can be improved marks the first step towards building a strong service culture. With it must come the commitment to improve and the belief that it is not an impossible task. “Soft skills” such as tone, general demeanour and body language need to be further developed.

Indeed, these “soft skills” are important horizontal skill sets that apply across all industries and engender greater self-awareness.

This is not unattainable for us. Our national airlines — Singapore Airlines — is a stellar example of what excellent customer experience is around the world.

Identifying needs of customers is a key competency

How can we achieve this in other sectors? 

These soft skills are a part of SSG’s Critical Core Skills and that it is a good start.

Under the “Interacting with Others” cluster, identifying the internal and external needs of customers to deliver an effective customer experience is mentioned as a key competency.

How can we encourage more employers to send their employees for training in these areas, to support businesses and workers’ growth? Importantly, how do we evaluate the effectiveness of the training?

One way to evaluate is to scale up national benchmarks yearly when measuring service delivery and customer service standards.

We currently have the Institute of Service Excellence at SMU doing a robust yearly review of Customer Satisfaction Index in Singapore. It measures the gamut of customer satisfaction including customer expectations, the perceived overall quality of the product and service, as well as its value.

Can this review be expanded to do horizon-scanning against other comparable and emerging economies?

To stay competitive in the global market, aspects such as the cost issue may be difficult to compete on. But we can prove a strong contender in the realms of service culture, overall value and experience, underpinned by strong human capital management.


Images via SIA, JDMIS, SmartNation.gov.sg