How to Read Things Right

Good data and analysis needed.
How to Read Things Right

Queries, feedback, complaints, compliments – these are increasingly recognised as precious “data” that can give service providers a better picture of what’s happening on the ground and how their customers think.

No surprise, then, that the Ministry of Education (MOE) is gathering such data in a big way. It recently set up mCARE+, a customer relationship management system that links up its 365 schools with the ministry’s headquarters.

Frontline officers have been trained to track their interactions with the public using mCARE+. These officers act as feelers that “sense” the ground by recording customers’ issues and sentiments; analysts then make sense of the data to spot emerging trends or “hot” issues. These insights go to senior management, who use them to inform, tweak or improve processes and policies.

This process has already begun to improve the way MOE works, says the ministry’s Assistant Director of Customer Services Augustine Mah. For instance, its Finance Division changed the way fee information was presented in bills and letters to parents, after analytics identified that some parents did not understand the format.

On some occasions, customer service officers detected trends in customer feedback, such as parents voicing concern over how policies were implemented at some schools. Quickly, the officers alerted the relevant schools, which then contacted the parents to address the issues promptly.

Recognising that the online world is a rich source of public feedback, MOE is also exploring how analytics could be used to study social media sentiment for the purpose of informing its policy design and review and implementation strategies.

Mr Mah does note, however that “the quality of our analysis can never be better than the quality of our data.” That is why, apart from training more than 2,000 officers, regular emails with tips on using mCARE+ and best practices are sent to them. Audits are also conducted to identify areas for improvement. Hiring data analysts to derive quality insights, though challenging, is key to MOE’s efforts to build sensing capabilities going forward, he says.




Train officers to input data as accurately as possible (such as asking the right questions), as the “cleanness” of the data will determine how accurate the insights will be.


Encourage a mindset shift and communicate clearly so everyone adopts and continues to use the system, or risk turning it into a white elephant.


Focus on capturing the key points of customer interactions clearly and concisely, including the customer’s emotions.

    May 13, 2013
    Chen Jingting
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