You know the recent CPF protests at Hong Lim Park have struck a chord when you see a 60+ year old blue collar worker auntie watching it on her mobile while eating her 菜饭 during her 30-minute lunch break.

I was at one of those modern chains where you can get toast, soft-boiled eggs and a good cup of teh-bing, when I saw the auntie watching Han Hui Hui speaking in high pitched Mandarin, Hokkien and English.

Later, I asked the Auntie about what she thought of Han Hui Hui, CPF, and her work.

On Han Hui Hui, Auntie thought that:

  • Han's video was recorded yesterday. 昨天有人 send 给我的。
  • Han 'cannot scold the government'. 哪里可以骂政府的?会被抓的。
  • Han must be very angry. 你看她,她很气了。
  • Han was very young. 很年轻 hor?
  • Han had potential because she could speak in English, Mandarin and Hokkien, and she was doing it for the people.

On CPF, Auntie thought that:

  • CPF is people's sweat and blood money and ought to be returned. 这个是我们的钱 leh!
  • Who knows when a person past the age of 60 will die? What's the point of keeping their money in CPF? 我怎么知道我几时死? 放在 CPF 都不懂有没有命花。
  • Getting $250 payout per month from CPF is too little. 不够我每天吃饭,搭 bus 来做工。我不用剪头发,穿衣服啊?买一下就完了。
Auntie seems to be suggesting that CPF is meant to keep her going in retirement, and not a supplementary measure. So I asked her if this was her retirement job, what she did earlier, whether she was still paying for her HDB flat.

It turned out that Auntie is 60+ years old and living in her HDB flat, which she and her husband had paid in full with cash decades ago. Renovations cost more than the flat, she said. They used to run a traditional kopitiam. She now has a maid to clean her flat while she worked 16 hours at this chain. She said she didn't have to work, but she couldn't stand doing nothing. 

On her work, Auntie thought that:
  • The money is good because of the over-time pay, but the shifts are 16-hour long, and her supervisor has been unreasonable to her, i.e. not happy when she applies for leave in advance, takes MC etc.
  • She has been working for this chain for a decade.
  • There are fewer foreigners working in the chain now. They make lousy coffee. 有黑色就是咖啡啊?

My takeaway from this encounter was that:

(1) Sore spot topic (SUBSTANCE) x Riled up protest speech (FORM) x Social Media (CHANNEL) = AMPLIFIED IMPACT 
I observed Auntie watching the video of Ms Han's speech.
Most of the time, it was not clear what Ms Han was saying because of the high-pitched voice, ambient noise, clapping/cheering, poor quality of sound from a mobile phone etc.
However, that did not stop Auntie from 'getting Ms Han's message'.
Everytime Ms Han said a keyword such as '血汗钱', Auntie would repeated it loudly in agreement.
(2) Are people unreasonable/irrational, or is it that once you've failed to put the message across in a simple and clear manner, the wrong message takes on a life of its own, and becomes irreparable? 
How to tell apart people's problems which are caused by government policies from those which are not?
Do people expect that CPF payouts alone would see them through retirement?
When did they start to think this way? How many think about it this way? And did our leadership know about this?

If constituents are 'customers', shouldn't there be a dedicated customer relationship management team, where resources are devoted to studying customer needs/expectations, segmenting customers, and managing customer relations?

Is the MP a customer relationship manager? Is that adequate?

How else can an existing organisation such as PA value-add to the situation?

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