JamiQ Private Limited67 South Bridge Road Level 3Singapore 058697ACRA: 200817573NJamiQ Research Report SeriesIssue 1, Volume 2012Analysis on Singapore Public Transit Trains Breakdown Crisis1st December 2011 – 15th March 2012
JamiQ Private Limited67 South Bridge Road Level 3Singapore 058697ACRA: 200817573NBackgroundThe premise of this report is to examine a correlation with a failure in thetransport system to an exponential increase of conversations in theTwittersphere. This report covers the insights we uncovered from monitoringSingapore’s Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) from 1st December 2011, the monthwhen the first major breakdowns and delays occurred till 15th March 2012.This report will cover: 1. The difference in the volume of tweets before, during and after the breakdowns 2. The shift of attention from the situation to the management of the company operating the trains 3. The time it takes for interest in any particular issue to subsideSignificance of the MRTThe MRT forms a key component of transport in Singapore. It is a railwaysystem that spans the mass of the country and is comprised of four lines,three of which are operated by SMRT Corporation and one by SBS transit.The railway system itself is owned by the Land Transport Authority.The MRT served over 2.4 million commuters to and fro their destinations in2011.Up until December 2011, no major breakdowns or delays had occurred sincethe start of operations on 7 November 1987. This situation allowed us toexamine how the general public reacts to a failing on an agency’s part, fromwhich we can draw upon how to handle similar crisis’ in future.Lament of the SingaporeanSingaporeans take to cyberspace to spread word of a crisisThe last year had demonstrated during the Arab Spring uprisings that socialmedia was the fastest medium by which news travelled. We wanted to putthat theory to the test on the home front, how would Singaporeans react onTwitter, Facebook and the like in face of the ever dodgy performance of theMRT in Singapore.Our hypothesis was that the microblog Twitter would be abuzz with chatterduring a breakdown and quickly disseminate this information faster than anynews network could. We were absolutely right on this.
JamiQ Private Limited67 South Bridge Road Level 3Singapore 058697ACRA: 200817573N thNumber of conversations from 1 December – 15 MarchOur data revealed that conversations revolving around the MRT were non-existent before 13th December 2011. After the 13th however, we see a spikeas demonstrated in table 1.1, from an average of 70 conversations a day,SMRT had over 1000 conversations regarding their services. This was ofcourse an estimated 2500% increase in chatter.Of course, chatter is merely noise without listening. We proceeded to analysethe great sea of complaints and drew several insights. Utilizing JamiQ buzzwe wanted to find the average sentiment of the thousands of conversations inthe Twittersphere and what was the oculus of the average Singaporeanfixating on.Throwing saw under the trainHow long does it take for Singaporeans to start pondering whose fault it is? stTable depicting sentiment from 1 December 2011 – 15 March 2012We found that negative sentiment, though consistently high during mid-December 2011 until late December 2011, was due to a myriad of different
JamiQ Private Limited67 South Bridge Road Level 3Singapore 058697ACRA: 200817573Nfactors. In December 2012 the ire of people was largely focused around thebreakdown of trains. However as January crept in, the negativity started togravitate around the ex-CEO of SMRT Saw Phaik Hwa.An interesting phenomenon here was the average number of days it took forSingaporeans to collectively figure out who was in charge to “throw her underthe train”. It took Singaporeans over a week to commence the witch hunt.What was more interesting was that after being repeatedly run over by theangry train and when Saw finally quit, the negative sentiment onlinedampened by a large margin , it was as if the Twittersphere felt that Justicehad been served.Celebrating its 3 month breakdown anniversaryOnly 20-30% of Singaporeans “revel” in the March breakdownNearly 3 months after its first breakdown, the MRT celebrated its 3 monthanniversary with another breakdown on the north east line operated by SBS.This allowed us to contrast the reactions of Singaporeans in March againsttheir reactions in December 2011.We found that the number of conversations online regarding trains rangedfrom only 20-30% of the numbers that we observed in December 2011. Thiscan be attributed to an adjusted Singaporean mentality accepting that trainbreakdowns are becoming commonplace. We observe that it takes slightly over a month from the beginning of a crisislike MRT breakdowns for the general public to become generally disdainfulagain with regards to the situation.However, what we conclude is that once the attention of the general public isdrawn toward an issue, it will take far more than three months for them tocompletely forget about it. Our data indicates that during January, the nadir ofbreakdowns in this three month period, there was still a great deal of negativechatter about the MRT.
JamiQ Private Limited67 South Bridge Road Level 3Singapore 058697ACRA: 200817573NGrand TakeawaysCompany’s avatar must be prepared, monitoring vital in identifying salientissuesWhen it comes down to monitoring social media feeds after a company error,the margin change in the number of conversation entries can determine themagnitude of the situation before it appears on the television or tomorrow’spapers. The sentiment on the other hand will determine the tone of theresponse that needs to be prepared, be it apologetic or defensive.Whilst any public relations or communications executive could tell you thatpeople talk online and they will definitely talk about your blunders on twitter,we conclude that it’s next to impossible to identify the key issues that peopleare unhappy about with actually looking at every single conversation.SMRT eventually managed to lower the negative sentiment that wasgenerated toward their company only after two months. Apart from a generallack of engagement on social media networks, the major drawback in theircrisis approach was an inability to identify the key factors that generatednegativity towards their brand. An example their inability to address issues that Singaporeans had toleratedbefore breakdowns that were brought up by unhappy netizens. This includedcongestion and punctuality issues, though unrelated to what actually causedthe breakdown, when combined it had an effect of compounding the gravity ofthe fiasco.It is imperative that the figure representing the company is ready to deal withthe flak the public will inevitably arrive. Traditionally companies have beenable to weather PR storms by staying silent; this situation has clearlydemonstrated that strategy is no longer infallible.
JamiQ Private Limited67 South Bridge Road Level 3Singapore 058697ACRA: 200817573NTimeline of eventsDate Event13th December 2011 First major breakdown of MRT15th December 2011 Second disruption occurs on both directions of the north south line Public Outrage over “Income opportunity” message leaked to public17th December 2011 Disruptions at Ang Mo Kio and Marina Bay Stations18th December 2011 Prime Minister Lee announces public inquiry to investigate the cause of breakdowns19th December 2011 Minister for transport Lui Tuck Yew holds a press conference to address the breakdowns and announce response CEO of SMRT Saw pledges to stay put in the company to “get the problem fixed”22th December 2011 Ong Ye Kun appointed to head SMRT probe.29th December 2011 Committee of Inquiry appointed to investigate the breakdowns6th January 2012 Saw Phaik Hwa resigns9th January 2012 Minister Lui Tuck Yew delivers ministerial statement that announces gaps in the way emergencies are handled10th January 2012 Minor Disruption: Trains delayed along North South line21st February 2012 Free bus bridging services announced in event of train breakdown8th March 2012 Minor Disruption: Trains delayed twice at Pasir Ris Station15th March 2012 Breakdown of the North East Line