Catherine Kang, 45
Manager, Customer Contact Centre
If you think that introverts aren’t suited for a role in customer service, Catherine Kang will prove you wrong. 27 years on the front line of the CPF Board has taught Catherine to come out of her usually introverted shell. Today, apart from her key responsibility of helping CPF members with their questions, meeting people from all walks of life has become one of her favourite aspects of her job.
Share what do you do at the CPF Board – how has the work evolved over your 27 years here?
Currently, I oversee a team of about 20 Customer Service Executives and 20 to 60 temporary Customer Service Officers. My responsibilities include overseeing Call Centre operations, implementing service-related initiatives and more importantly, nurturing the next generation of Customer Service Executives.
My first week at work was very eventful as the Dependants’ Protection Scheme was just implemented. We received many unhappy enquiries about the auto opt-in nature of the scheme. It was very challenging, but it was a valuable first lesson on how to manage difficult customer service situations.
As time passed, our roles became more specialised and I attended specifically to queries pertaining to public housing & insurance schemes – an area I came to understand in real depth before moving on to learn about other schemes. This helped me better appreciate the benefits of each scheme and see how CPF functions in the big picture, for the benefit of not just my customers, but myself too!
In the past, fewer customers knew how the schemes worked and benefitted them. So we had to spend more time explaining each scheme and benefit in deep detail.
Today, customers are more knowledgeable, and accordingly, their expectations of us are higher. There are also more schemes now compared to the past, so as customer service representatives, there are definitely more challenges.
Having said this, this job has its rewards. The most satisfying thing about working here at CPF Board is knowing I can contribute to society by providing CPF members from all walks of life with comprehensive options on retirement planning.
What are the common misconceptions about your work in customer service?
Many people think that our work ends once our shifts are over. They may not know that CPF customer service officers need time to familiarise ourselves with scheme changes and new information, sometimes even on weekends. This is an important part of our duties as it ensures that we can provide CPF members with the information they need.
Share a memorable experience you had during your time on the frontline.
I remember a case where a CPF member had to sell his property due to financial difficulties, but he still could not settle his debts as the sale proceeds had to be refunded to his CPF account.
As he shared his intention to retire in West Malaysia, I advised him that he could in fact withdraw his CPF savings if he met the withdrawal conditions. These savings could then be used to repay his debt. He was very grateful for the advice as it saved him from being made a bankrupt! Later, he and his wife gave me a bouquet personally to thank me as my advice turned his life around.
After this experience, it dawned upon me how critical it is for us to explore all possible alternatives to help CPF members.