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Speech by Mr Raymond Lim, Minister, Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs, at the 2005 Excellent Service Award Presentation on Friday 11 November 2005 at 9.30 am, at the Raffles City Convention Centre, Padang Room

11 Nov 2005

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning,

1. I am delighted to be here this morning to join you in presenting the Excellent Service Awards to the Superstar winners. The Excellent Service Awards has indeed grown from strength to strength since its inception in 1994. It has expanded from three participating industry groups ? hotels, retail and restaurants ? to tourist attractions, airport and travel, land transport sectors and more recently to the healthcare and security sectors. The number of award recipients has also been more than doubling every year. This year, there are more than 11,000 award recipients, a new record, and brings the total number of service professionals recognized to more than 47,700.

2. The success of the Excellent Service Awards can be attributed to more and more industry groups recognizing the importance of service, as well as more and more service staff going the extra mile to provide excellent service to their customers.

3. This is encouraging but we must endeavour to do more. Internationally, our service ranking has been slipping. In 1998, we were ranked 8th for customer orientation in the Global Competitiveness Report. In 2004, we were at 21st. Although the 2005 Global Competitiveness Report ranked us at 17th, it is surely not good enough.

4. Hence, we launched a national movement last month to raise service levels and develop a culture of service excellence. Entitled GEMS which is short for Go the Extra Mile for Service, the movement hopes to encourage everyone - from businessmen to service workers to customers - to play their part and take the initiative to improve service levels.

Total approach to service excellence

5. Under the GEMS movement, we will adopt a four-prong framework to promote service excellence ? Leadership, Capabilities, Mindset and SMEs.

6. The first area is leadership. Leaders must recognise the importance of service and how good service will help them achieve their business objectives, and ensure that service drives the company's culture. They themselves must be service role models and champion service excellence to their employees and customers. Take the leaders in Courts for example. They set out to identify areas which were barriers to their core business of selling. They then systematically worked out systems and processes to remove these barriers. In doing so, they freed staff to provide more time to attend to customers. The business impact created is an improvement in productivity to the tune of $42,000 per employee.

7. More can be done to improve service leadership. Moving forward, we will launch a study on retail companies to understand CEOs' perceptions of their service quality and service initiatives versus their customers' perceptions. What we can expect from this study are potential gaps in perceptions and role models in the area of service leadership.

8. The second area is capabilities. Service workers must be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver good service. For instance, service staff need to know how to build customer relationships and initiate service recovery well. Companies need to enhance their service management capabilities through training. The GEMS movement will help companies to measure their service levels at the company level, and track service standards at the sectoral level and national level. We will develop a robust national service indicator that will enable service industries to understand customers' perceptions and needs as well as factors behind consumer decisions. This will help industry players to develop customised and targeted solutions to better meet the expectations of their customers. WDA, in consultation with SPRING, has been studying how other countries do this and is exploring possible local researchers to work with. WDA will be calling a ''Request for Proposals'' soon and I hope that when this project is launched next year, service companies will demonstrate their commitment through active participation, while the public show their support to this national movement through accepting interviews.

9. The third area is mindset. We need to help Singaporeans understand that a career in services is honourable and respectable, and that service workers, like yourselves, deserve our respect. We also need to motivate service workers to give of their best.

10. Next month, we will launch a series of TV commercials with the message that good service starts with me and service is a choice career. We will also pilot a recognition initiative to encourage customers to show their appreciation of good service. Customers can pick up small appreciation cards or stickers at the checkout counters / cashiers and present these cards to the staff who they feel has given them good service.

11. The fourth and final area is SMEs. SMEs face challenges in terms of resources, expertise and time when it comes to capability development. Special attention is therefore needed for this group of companies to develop knowledge and capabilities to raise service standards. We are working with the management of shopping malls to reach out and train their tenants, especially the service staff of the SMEs. SMEs in the retail and F&B industries may not have adequate knowledge on how to raise service standards and use service as a competitive edge to increase sales and customer loyalty. To address this, we will publish an educational kit on service excellence as a handy guide for their staff.

Service Models

12. I hope the four pronged approaches will help us to raise our service culture several notches up, that we will not only provide good service but go the extra mile to do so, just as our SuperStars here have demonstrated.

13. For instance, I was told that the SuperStar working in the retail sector assisted a missing boy to reunite with his parents. You may think that such incidents are commonplace. Yes, but in this case, there was no report of loss. The boy had Down Syndrome and had gone out of his home to the store to play with toys. The attentive service staff at the store noticed that he had been playing alone for many hours without his parents. When the service staff wanted to bring the boy to the information counter to page for his parents, he refused because he wanted a toy gun. Our SuperStar paid for the toy gun so that he would follow her to the information counter and paged for his parents. The trust and friendship established with the boy helped to relieve his fear and anxiety. When there was no response, our SuperStar decided to inform the police. She spent almost two hours with him before the police eventually contacted his parents and brought him home. One can only imagine how frantic the parents were and how special that moment of reunification was.

14. Another SuperStar who works in the land transport sector found and returned a wallet containing cash and credit cards to a customer. Most of us would do that but he went the extra mile. He went in person to the owner's home so as to minimise the inconvenience of the owner having to cancel his credit cards. As luck would have it, the owner had departed for an overseas trip. Eventually he sought the help of the owner's neighbour, who was able to alert the owner.

15. The SuperStars here today are indeed living examples of outstanding customer service! They have demonstrated the Go-the-Extra-Mile-for-Service or GEMS spirit. My warmest congratulations to all of you. You are the role models of service excellence. Please keep up your good work and continue to deliver exceptional and delightful service to bring your organisation and Singapore to the next level of service excellence.


16. Only the future, and our customers, can tell wh ether what we are putting in place will be sufficient. But one thing is certain ? in order to successfully transform Singapore into a global service capital, every one needs to play his part. I am confident that if we all take the extra step and be a GEM, and deliver our service from the heart; we will make a difference sooner rather than latter; and create in the process a service culture in Singapore that others will talk about.

Thank you.