The Case of Singapore: Social CRM in Action - Customer Relationship Management

The impact of President Obama’s election campaign on the world fabric was profound,because it broke new ground in how social tools and constituent engagement strategies are applied. But applying it to administrative efforts through federal (and let’s not forget state and local) agencies is very different than how it’s used in a campaign. The campaign was marketing,so to speak,and the use of constituent engagement strategies and tools is customer service—also so to speak. It’s easy to want to make the linear transition,but it’s not a linear transition.

The transition to constituent engagement built around either a customer service model or a contemporary collaborative version of what’s called the public-private partnership is a lot more strenuous and actually a lot harder because its purpose is a continuous engagement of a diverse set of constituencies at the individual level that does not have an election day end date. The social constituent doesn’t just want transparency—which allows them to make more intelligent decisions on how they are going to engage with an institution—they want to actually engage with that institution. This is not the human participant of even five years ago. They expect that transparency,honesty,and the means to engage will be made available from every single institution they potentially interact with.

This is no mean feat when it comes to the government. To put it bluntly,no one trusts the government—at least in the U.S.—to do what it’s expected to. In fact,the Edelman Trust Barometer 2008 points out that trust in government institutions across the 18-country board is at 39 percent—a pathetic level of trust. The numbers are staggering: United States at 39 percent; Europe at 29 to 37 (except weden and the Netherlands at 63 percent); Asia (India,Japan,South Korea) at 40 to 49 percent. China is an anomalous 79 percent. In other words,in15 of 18 countries trust in government ranges from 29 to 49 percent.

The remedy is already on the table. Oddly,a government that gets somewhat maligned in the U.S. from time to time is easily the most responsive in the world. It’s a place I’ve visited several times and written about on occasion: Singapore. I am not alone in these findings. As I’ll show you in a bit,Accenture published a study in early 2009 that verifies my claims.

In August 2005,Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered what was a landmark speech in which he declared a “National Service Excellence Initiative” that would create a service environment along the lines of the Ritz-Carlton—“ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” What made this ground-breaking was that this was the first time (at least that I could find) that a government stood entirely behind an initiative that was based on creating an extraordinary customer experience that extended from every employee of government or business to the employers to the individuals who touchedthe shores. Some of it was to encourage international investment in this tiny city-state,but for the most part it was to provide the kind of experience for its citizens that would make them loyal to the institutions that ran the country. It started with the retail industry but extended far beyond that.

I experienced this firsthand when I landed at the Singapore airport a month after the declaration of the initiative and they had someone who greeted me and took me through customs without a hitch. A few days later when I had neglected to get an issue of the Singapore Business Times that carried an interview with me and couldn’t find it the next day anywhere,my hotel—a five-star called the Sheraton Towers Singapore—made an unsolicited effort to get me the paper by sending someone to the offices of the Singapore Business Times and delivering it to me in my room on a Saturday. The stuff legends are made of—and a direct result of the National Service Excellence Initiative.

But Singapore didn’t stop at just creating a high-caliber service environment.
They have actually created feedback programs that would be classified by (sister site to Springwise) if they had “in-between” grades, something like Feedback 2.5.

About Feedback 2.0 (which is now being superseded by Feedback 3.0) according to Springwise:
. . . about these rants—and some raves—having gone “mass” (no,make that MASS!). The long-predicted conversation is finally taking place,albeit amongst consumers and not,as intended,between corporations and consumers. Companies have started to take note,but to a large degree still choose to listen,not talk back,trying to “learn” from the for-all-to-see review revolution. Which is surprising,to say the least,since a quick and honest reply or solution can defuse even the most damaging complaint.

Now look at the definition of Feedback 3.0:
Feedback 3.0 (which is building as we speak) will be all about companies joining the conversation,if only to get their side of the story in front of the mass audience that now scans reviews. Expect smart companies to be increasingly able (and to increasingly demand) to post their apologies and solutions,preferably directly alongside reviews from unhappy customers. Expect the same for candid rebuttals by companies who feel (and can prove) that a particular review is unfair or inaccurate,and want to share their side of the story.

Singapore probably falls somewhere in between that,around 2.5—as a country! Whoa! They actually have an annual National Feedback Day,which is designed to capture feedback from interested citizens so that they can input government policy and budgets. In 2007,I attended National Feedback Day with about 6,000 Singaporean citizens and watched with astounded fascination the mostly intelligent and passionate discussions on varying government reports with proposals in different areas such as housing,transportation,and education. Citizens flocked to general and proposal-specific sessions to discuss their thinking on the different proposals and present their counterproposals or support for the existing recommendations. The actual committees that wrote the report were on stage and available to be grilled. The back and forth about housing or education policy based on the proposal was amazingly detailed. Each committee had a scrivener who took notes on the citizens’ comments.

If you couldn’t attend,they had all of the reports available online and you could provide them with feedback there. All the in-person and online feedback was aggregated and then incorporated into the revisions discussion. Recommendations were made and policies changed accordingly. But it didn’t stop there.

While national feedback efforts were embedded into the political,governmental,and social fabric of Singapore,they remained on top of the transformation going on in communications too. So,in mid-June 2007,at the Arts House New Media Forum,Dr.Lee Boon Yang,minister for information,communications and the arts,gave a really amazing speech that showed the level of Singapore’s commitment to contemporary communication. In the course of his wide-ranging discussion on the importance and potential dangers of “interactive digital media (IDM)” as he styled it,he announced a number of initiatives through the Media Development Authority and other agencies of the Singaporean government as part of the IN2015 program. Perhaps the largest and most significant was the S$500 million investment in IDM through the universities in conjunction with a review of the Media21 framework that would incorporate significant changes to include IDM for making Singapore a state-of-the-art media city-state.

By June 2008,this investment paid off,with the announcement that 82.5 percent of Singaporean households now had broadband,though their objective was 100 percent. In conjunction with that saturation point,the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and the Media Development Authority (MDA) began a series of initiatives to institutionalize an effort to create a truly digital engagement capacity and business model. These included making Singapore—the entire country—a hub to “manage distribute and trade digital media assets such as movies,video programmes,music,and mobile content” (this latter one is really important) through the creation of a “national authentication framework” for access to next generation services— meaning all those social media and social networking initiatives that we spend so much time riffing on. Phase 1 was a six-month $20 million Singapore investment that ended December 31,2008.

For National Day Rally 2008,they decided that because feedback is so critical,they would conduct a feedback exercise that comprised “SMS,online polls,discussion forums,and blogs. We have also recently added Facebook as a new channel to solicit feedback from Singaporeans.”

The ROI (If You Continue to Use that Archaic Measure)
In early 2009,Accenture put out its “2008 Leadership in Customer Service: Creating Shared Responsibility for Better Outcomes,”a report that makes up in substance what it lacks in title mojo. This is one that they’ve annually done and,despite its abstraction of a title,looks at what best practices can be extracted from public sector institutions. This year,the four best practices are:

“Better service starts with better understanding.”
“Engage. Listen. Respond.”
“Harness all available resources.”
“Be transparent. Be accountable. Ask for and act on feedback.”

All in all,the report is well worth reading,which is saying a lot for me,given my historic (though softening) antipathy toward Accenture. Despite that,this is really good work. You can get it at Take a look at Singapore’s resultant ROI by comparison to other nations who did well:
Social CRM in ActionSocial CRM in Action

What is completely noticeable is that in all but one area the government of Singapore comes in first in the world when it comes to constituents who trust them to be transparent,provide a quality of life that is personally valuable to individual constituents,do the right thing,and at the same time,continuously engage their citizenry.

A meaningful ROI.
The core of Social CRM has always been engagement,whether the engaged individual is in the shoes of the customer,the constituent,or the game player—whatever role they play in and with the institution they are interacting with. Follow the right path around practices and strategy,implement the right programs,support it with money,listen to the changes that your constituents ask for,act on the ones that you are able to. That will net you a contented and involved citizenry— which is what it’s all about,ain’t it?

This is not a lesson lost even on long-standing government success stories. If you read the third edition of this book,I touted the GSA’s as a paradigm for personalization when it came to specific constituencies. That was back in 2004. But Bev Godwin,director of,and Casey Coleman,CIO of the GSA,recognized that what was good for 2004 wasn’t necessarily good for 2008 or 2009. So they added blogs,RSS feeds,e-mail alerts,social bookmarking,and a presence on Facebook and YouTube so that they could improve content delivery. Rather than let a good program stultify,they understood the new demands of constituents and responded.

These efforts can be generalized to all public sector agencies. In order to draw the lessons from efforts like those of and

Mini-Conversation with Frank DiGiamm arino
Frank DiGiammarino is currently the Deputy Coordinator for Recovery Implemen- tation at Executive Office of the President,having handed over his position recently as the vice president of strategic initiatives of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) after the inauguration of Barack Obama. When he was at NAPA,his mission was to find contemporary approaches to government management. He did it so well he was named one of the 2009 Federal Computer Week Federal 100—an elite group of innovators and leaders in the federal government who are paving the path to new ways of dealing with citizens and agencies.

This man truly gets it and knows how to spread the gospel too.
The rise of Web 2.0 and emerging technologies is transforming the way we all work,socialize,and create. This new era is defined by the value it places on transparency,diverse thought,and the knowledge that “the smartest guy in the room” can’t beat the wisdom of the crowd. These trends are both exhilarating and scary,particularly because they are not questions of “if,”but of how,and how fast,to take advantage of this unique—and inevitable—opportunity.

The National Academy of Public Administration sees strong evidence that leaders are harnessing collaboration to drive proactive change at all levels of government. The Collaboration Project,an independent forum founded by the National Academy,has already compiled more than 40 cases of government leaders using these tools to bring about fundamental changes in how government works. Examining these cases and talking with these leaders offers a few clear lessons.

1.This Isn’t a “Field of Dreams”
Today,many public leaders see blogs,wikis,and other collaborative platforms,and feel immense pressure to do . . . something. But it is still fundamentally true that people only show up when you give them a reason. Simply deploying collaborative technologies doesn’t mean that people will use them.

There are three key success factors that make a collaborative platform or tool an attractive proposition to potential users: It must solve a clear problem,target a specific audience,and provide a real value exchange. Lacking any of these three is usually the difference between experimentation with “cool” technology,and collaboration that truly adds value.

2.Do What’s Right
Mass collaboration isn’t a panacea, but it does give leaders an opportunity to bring data and people together in new ways. Today’s most effective leaders are focused not on how they can solve a problem,but on who to pull into the problemsolving process. Leaders like Molly O’Neil at the Environment Protection Agency and Kip Hawley at the Transportation Security Agency effectively deployed collaboration in their agencies by realizing that bringing a wider array of stakeholders into the process wasn’t just a neat idea; it was also the right thing to do. The technology simply enabled tapping everyone from employees to stakeholder groups to the citizenry to change the game and get results.

3.Embrace the Opportunity
Increasingly,it seems like the only thing easier than finding a reason to deploy collaborative technology is finding a reason not to. In an era that demands massive change we consistently call on our “inner lawyer” to slow innovation and empower the status quo.

The very attributes that make collaboration a powerful catalyst for change—low cost and complexity,widespread availability of data—also make it easy for normal citizens to bring about extraordinary change. This is a paradox of collaboration: Any technology that allows government to “go around” its normal bureaucratic constraints also has the potential to let citizens “go around” government itself. Inaction by government,in the face of a desire for change,contributes to public disenchantment with the formal mechanisms of public governance. Government must understand that mass collaboration represents not just an exciting opportunity to engage citizens,but also a responsibility to draw the public into the process and ensure that public deliberation is fueled by accurate data and realistic expectations about what government can and cannot achieve.

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