Friday, 23 May 2014

A Nation Of Better Customers

Labour chief calls for nation of better customers

WORKERS providing a service are not the servants of their customers, said labour chief Lim Swee Say, as he called for a nation of better customers in his annual May Day message released yesterday.

Overly demanding customers would cause even more of a strain on the labour crunch, which is here to stay for years to come, he added. “As we strive to become a more advanced economy, we must also strive to be a nation of better customers and better people.”

“Instead of complaining that the service standard in Singapore is still not good enough, why don’t you ask yourself ‘Are the customers in Singapore good enough?’” said Mr Lim, who is NTUC secretary-general.

Singapore’s bad customers

They never call us by our names. “Five years, I have been here. Whenever they need me to pick up a new piece of item, or to get them a different-sized blouse, they call me Hello.”

“It is the tone of their voice that eats at you. They can be so rude, like you do not mean anything to them as a person.

“Our culture in Singapore teaches us to say Please and Thank You. But, really, no one does.”

'I am the customer, I have the right to call you STUPID'
Service is a reciprocal relationship

Upon hearing that he could not pay for his purchases with an unsigned credit card, a customer at OG department store started swearing and called the staff "stupid".

When they tried to placate him, he retorted: "I am the customer, I have the right to call you stupid."

He later relented and paid cash, says an OG spokesman. "Perhaps the customer felt he was superior," he adds.

Want to improve service? Serve up compliments too

Comparisons between service standards here and those overseas invariably arise. A friend recounted to me his experience in Japan. He arrived at a restaurant that was full, and the owner kept bowing and apologising. In Singapore, he said, we are often left in the queue to wait our turn.

Here, I've entered shops and been ignored by staff who would rather stare at their mobile phones. Getting a friendly waiter at a restaurant seems more of the exception rather than the norm.

But perhaps we should look inwards and ask ourselves: Do we deserve the service that we get?


Since our May Day celebrations last year, we have continued to make progress.

Our economic growth is healthy. The labour market is tight. Best of all, wages continue to move up faster than inflation. These achievements are hard-earned. I salute our workers and tripartite partners for their hard work, resilience and unity.

Even though we celebrate May Day amidst labour shortages, we should be mindful that good jobs will always be the best welfare and full employment the best protection for our workers, both young and old.