“The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls,” management guru Peter Drucker once said. “The result of a business is a satisfied customer.”
He was talking about customer satisfaction as the key to business success, yet his words are just as applicable to people’s experience of government and their attitude toward it these days.
Dissatisfaction with the government is shown by the continued occupation of the legislative chamber by student activists, which, along with persistent public complaints about rising food prices, stagnant wages and high housing prices, have many questioning if the government ever listens to the people.
In the business world, companies that make customer satisfaction a top priority will see passers-by become loyal customers and gain more business from them and their friends in the long term. That is what customer loyalty is all about. By the same token, the public would whole-heartedly support a government that responded to their needs and one that was responsive to all sectors of society, not just big companies and groups of vested interests.
Yet has President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government addressed social issues and truly listened to the people?
Even a well-designed policy is worthless if most citizens do not consider it relevant to their lives, let alone a poorly considered policy like the cross-strait service trade pact which poses a potential threat to many people’s livelihoods once it takes effect. Making people happy may be thought of as a cliche by most government officials, but that does not mean it is an unworthy effort. Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates once said: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
By applying this concept to the world of politics, a good government would not pretend it knows best and just expect people to follow its policies; it would be concerned when people opposed them and would consider what it could do differently.
However, listening to the voice of the people requires a genuine intention to empathize with and care about their plight and to respond in an appropriate way. While the response from the government might not always be what people want to hear, it can still be communicated with mutual respect. For those who believe a capable government should conduct open and sincere dialogue with people from all walks of life about the service trade pact, Ma’s administration has been a huge disappointment.
It is well understood that companies need to provide customers with consistently superb services to stay in business, especially at a time when consumers have more choice and the notion of empowerment is more prevalent. So does a responsible government — which must devise policies to provide citizens with better welfare — if it wants to continue governing the country. If a government fails to listen to, have respect for and conduct dialogue with its people, citizens have a right to choose their own government and their future.
Halfway through his second term, Ma and his administration are actually growing more secretive and extending their distance from people. They say they are willing to listen to anyone, but in fact they do anything they want. They say they would like to communicate, but recent experience shows that this government is now denying people’s access to public information more frequently than ever — until their hand is forced — or simply accusing its opponents of holding back economic development. The lack of transparency in policymaking only fuels suspicion and perpetuates the tension between the government and the public. Today, bemoaning the Ma government’s failures is the same as expressing sorrow about a company’s loss of customer trust — once it is gone, nothing else matters.