SMRT managers should learn how to drive trains as well

It is an achievement for our public transport to score well in customer satisfaction last year (Customer satisfaction at new high last year; March 30).

However, train reliability and helpfulness of staff were cited in the annual consumer survey as areas to work on.

Front-line MRT staff are the ones handling complaints and/or feedback from the public, while managers in the office are usually insulated from these.

But to develop a culture of excellence, responsibility and accountability, it is important that all SMRT staff, not just those on the front line, experience aspects of its day-to-day operations.

Hence, SMRT should insist that its managers learn how to drive trains and perform customer service duties to help them in their desk jobs and planning.

When train drivers or front-line staff are on urgent or medical leave, or when a station is suddenly in need of more people, these managers can step in to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

This sort of training is the best way for a management employee to learn what his company's business is truly about.

In fact, all office staff should also receive a few weeks of classroom and on-the-job training on rail operations before commencing their actual work.

It might sound radical but such a system would be fundamental to developing a world-class rail culture, which is not just about improving safety and train frequency and reducing breakdowns.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2017, with the headline 'SMRT managers should learn how to drive trains as well'. Print Edition | Subscribe