Sky-High Service For A Great Way To Fly

Two public officers go above, beyond and beneath the wings to create their own learning experiences while on attachment at Singapore Airlines.

Hungry to learn more about how to better serve customers, Chan Wai Ling made the bold step of asking to observe ground operations at Changi Airport, even though that was outside her job scope at the time.

Wai Ling, an Assistant Director in Experience Design at the National Library Board (NLB), was then on a one-year attachment at Singapore Airlines (SIA) in 2018, as a result of the Service Delivery Talent Attachment Programme.

Initiated by the Public Service Division (PSD), the programme puts nominated public officers on work-and-learn attachments at top companies known for service delivery and designing services around customers. The officers work on projects that solve business needs and bring best practices back to their agencies.

At SIA, Wai Ling was part of Project ECO (Eliminate, Convert and Optimise), under the Customer Contact Services Department. Her initial role focused on customer experience “above the wings”, such as using data analytics for getting insights into customer behaviours and expectations, and finding ways to improve staff productivity.

However, she was determined to also learn what goes on “below the wings” – processes that customers do not see but are still affected by, such as baggage handling – to better develop customer experience strategies.

Matching strengths

A massive organisational transformation allowed her to renegotiate her job scope, with PSD’s help. The Service Delivery team in PSD that oversees the attachment programme regularly “checks in” with the officers on attachment, through meet-ups or Whatsapp, to understand how the officers are doing. This helps the programme managers render help or intervene quickly if needed.

Michelle Wong, Manager (Service Delivery), Public Sector Transformation, PSD, says: “Wai Ling felt that she could contribute much more, so we discussed with SIA on how she can be further stretched. SIA made quick arrangements and transferred her to the Ground Services Department where there were projects that could best tap her strengths. All the companies we partnered for this programme [have gone] above and beyond to help our officers meet their learning objectives.”

Wai Ling’s experience in design thinking and agile methodology came in handy for projects such as reducing the misuse of wheelchairs and creating a playbook for handling delays.

The go-getter even volunteered to go on flight-delay inspection rounds in the pre-dawn hours – all this while double-hatting. In her second six-month term at SIA, she did her NLB duties on a part-time basis while working full-time at SIA. This arrangement helped her to apply her skills and learnings at both organisations simultaneously.

Chan Wai Ling was determined to also learn what goes on “below the wings” to better develop customer experience strategies.

A self-proclaimed workaholic who likes to “work hard, play hard” and lives by the spirit of “sleeping when I’m dead”, Wai Ling is spurred on by doing meaningful work that benefits customers.

The trick to taking on more responsibilities, she shares, is to start her days two to three hours earlier and use meal times, weekends and even commutes to “mull over matters.” She also finds it a joy to work with “like-minded people who are brimming with ideas”.

Since returning to the NLB, Wai Ling has taken on collaborations across divisions. These include projects to boost productivity and optimise processes to improve customer service as well as the work experience of staff involved in daily operations.

From day to night

When Wai Ling joined the Ground Services department, another public officer was wrapping up a six-month attachment at SIA. In her last weeks at SIA, Senior estate manager Ng Kit Ying from the Housing and Development Board (HDB) helped Wai Ling move into her new role. Kit Ying also learnt about Wai Ling’s skills in design thinking and agile project management.

For Kit Ying, doing 11- to 13-hour shifts during her attachment at SIA was a definite change from her regular job duties at the HDB. At SIA’s Ground Services (Projects) unit, she was thrust out of her comfort zone, having to quickly learn technical terms, handle overbooked flights and deal with unexpected flight delays.

“I had to be on my toes all the time, and keep an open mind to learn from my colleagues,” she says. “The work culture is very dynamic because anything could happen. If a sudden crisis crops up, everyone rolls up their sleeves and gets ready to work through the night.”

Seeing how SIA puts customers as a top priority through its services and products was very inspiring. —Ng Kit Ying

Often the daily shifts required walking some 10 to 15km at Terminals 2 and 3, ensuring that flights come and go on time.

During one such night shift from 7pm to 6am, a flight from Kuala Lumpur was delayed – twice. Kit Ying and her team flew into action to prepare food and drinks for the passengers, distribute hotel vouchers and book new flights for those who missed their connecting flights.

They had to work past 6am but that became one of Kit Ying’s most memorable experiences. She recalls: “It was absolutely physically draining but also mentally invigorating. Adrenaline powered us through the wee hours.

“At the end of it, there was great satisfaction, knowing that you made the passengers’ experience a good one despite the flight contingency.”

A more typical day for her involved overseeing and conducting training sessions for SATS staff and coming up with new service and process enhancements.

She also witnessed how intelligent technology and automation, such as SIA’s FAST Check-in Kiosk and self-service bag drop, can “vastly improve” customer service and service efficiency for both customers and staff. Both reduce waiting time and have display interfaces that are designed to be easy to use.

“Seeing how SIA puts customers as a top priority through its services and products was very inspiring,” she says. Her experience has helped her generate new ideas that her agency could adopt to improve customer service.

She says of her attachment: “It was definitely an eye-opener that there is always much to learn and improve on to continue giving the best service to our customers.”

This story is the second in a series about officers’ experiences in the Service Delivery Talent Attachment Programme. For more information, contact the Service Delivery team at Public Service Division.

    Aug 21, 2019
    Audrey Ng
    Public Service Division
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