The Big Question - Apr08
SMRT should consider putting in place a customer assistance team, which is specially trained in first aid and assisting the handicapped and elderly, and which can be called to action during a crisis.
Certain procedures should also be in place such as making an announcement within three minutes to inform passengers of the crisis, giving the reason for the delay, and that the service will resume shortly. After five minutes, if the service has not resumed, make a second announcement and even a third one. The announcement can also state that a team is on hand to provide assistance.
Alternative transport, eg. taxis and shuttle buses, should also be arranged and be on standby. Service disruption messages should be transmitted on TV panels across the MRT network. Service disruption messages should also be broadcast on terrestrial TV, radio and mobile TV.
Once the above procedures are in place, SMRT can hold a media event to announce the new customer assistance team and demonstrate how the new system works. Media can also be allowed to test the operating efficiency with a mock emergency situation.
There are three principles that SMRT can keep in mind when managing such situations.
Prove it with action: Even after explaning to the public, SMRT should review its public communications processes to address longstanding concerns among commuters that the company's public communications during emergencies has not been as well-coordinated, efficient, and frequent as possible. While it may be distressing to revisit the shortcomings, this should be seen as part of a PR strategy to regain public trust and improve future responses to service disruptions.
Listen to the customer: SMRT should conduct focus group discussions to solicit direct comments from commuters. The participation of other stakeholders such as grassroots leaders and transport associations would help SMRT gain a comprehensive 360° perspective.
Manage for tomorrow: The review's findings and action plans should be communicated to the public and followed through. One observation was that commuters lacked access to real-time service information, causing bottlenecks to form during peak hours. SMRT may want to start a text message alerts service when service is disrupted during emergencies. In announcing its action plans, SMRT may also want to highlight any new safety procedures to reduce the chances of similar incidents.
Feisal Abdul Rahman
Bang Public Relations
- Huntington Communications
- BANG Public Relations