“Mr. Adrian Heng, the honorary secretary for the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore, said that many firms fail to realise that it is necessary to build up goodwill with their customers before a crisis happens” (DBS Crisis Management: What Happened To Personal Touch: A Human Touch Goes A Long Way To Assure Public, Mr. Kenny Chee).
I read with great interest the article, “DBS Crisis Management: What Happened To Personal Touch” (August 6, 2010) by Mr. Kenny Chee; primarily because it aptly sums up the sentiments and frustrations that thousands of DBS customers had experienced through the debacle. While the corporation should be applauded for its speedy apology and frank acknowledgement of the oversight, much more could have been done in terms of disseminating timely information and updating individuals of the potential hitches or problems. The fact was that DBS had failed to capitalise on the advent of technological advances and the corresponding increase in accessibility; to build a network of connections with its customer base to minimise the ramifications of the glitches.
The evolving nature of the local corporate landscape has put the onus on companies to place more emphasis on catering to the needs of its customers, especially when something unfortunate occurs. Beyond the damage-control measures that naturally fall into place, it has become imperative for senior managements to look into more comprehensive plans through different forms of interactions to make customers feel more attached and involved. That element of “human touch” – particularly in the service industries – would definitely render such communication more personable.
This crave for instant information and updates, as well as a subtle sense of input and involvement, has also been evident in the public sector; with more and more Singaporeans demanding more timely updates on local situations of considerable importance. The Public Utilities Board (PUB) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) came under flak for failing to warn residents of imminent flash floods as a result of exceptionally high rainfall, and the perceived lack of accountability over the failure to stem future occurrences of similar nature. Many were put-off by the seemingly nonchalant efforts and responses from the agencies, and had subsequently asked for greater concern and emphasis on the “human touch” from the higher-ups in light of the significant inconveniences and damages caused.
Continued apathy and lethargy would be scorned upon by Singaporeans, if organisations in the public sector staunchly refuse to acknowledge the need for greater vis-à-vis and online means of communication and interaction. As the population becomes more informed and empowered, they would gradually ask for a greater say and involvement in various aspects of their public and private sector contributions and participations.
If anything, the poor public relations management on the part of British Petroleum (BP) and the Obama Administration over the oil spill debacle has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Americans and concerned citizens; the consequences of which, has proven to be long-term and considerably negative. It seems obvious that only prudent “human touch” approaches from Singapore’s public and private sectors would prove to be constructive on a sustainable basis.
A version of this article was published in My Paper.