IN LOCAL parlance, Roy Ong can bao ka liao (do everything in Hokkien). The 60-year-old Customer Service Officer for Rail Passenger Service at SBS Transit’s North East Line handles customer queries, provides directions, defuses conflicts among passengers, helps expectant mothers and elderly folks get seats on the trains and keeps his eyes peeled for suspicious items. On top of that, he has to step in when the trains go wonky.
“Not many people know this, but we need to know the technicalities of the train very well. For example, when the train doors are not working properly, we have to identify the problem and solve the issue. We have to manually operate a train when the driverless train is faulty too. Customer service is only one of our job functions,” Mr Ong said.
A former traffic controller, Mr Ong joined SBS Transit as a Customer Service Officer in February 2010 as he longed for face-to-face interactions with people.
“In my previous job, I could only converse with customers over the phone, but now, I get to meet them and see their reactions after helping them,” he said.
Helping people is more than just a job for Mr Ong, it has become a way of life and he often goes beyond the call of duty to render help to others.
In 2015, he spotted a group of Chinese tourists who looked lost at Little India station and learnt that they were searching for a travel agency at Beach Road. Knowing that the nearby Mustafa Centre had a travel agency, he suggested visiting it instead as it was more convenient for them. He even accompanied them to the agency after his shift had ended as he was worried that they might encounter language barriers.
“I told myself that if there’s a chance to help someone, why not help all the way till the end? If you make others happy, it’ll make your day as well,” he said.
In another incident, Mr Ong rushed to help an elderly person with dementia. “The man had lost his way and did not know where he wanted to go. He had breathing difficulties and was panting. I immediately got him a wheelchair, contacted a doctor and his family and waited for them to arrive. Thankfully, he was fine,” Mr Ong said.
While he is passionate about his job, Mr Ong admits that it comes with its fair share of stressful moments, especially when train breakdowns and delays draw the passengers’ ire. When faced with these situations, Mr Ong chooses empathy. “Passengers get understandably frustrated and upset. My strategy is to put myself in their shoes and address the situation from there,” he said.
For his dedication, he won an Outstanding Service Individual (Public Transport) award at the Land Transport Authority Excellence Awards 2016. Winning the award, while a nice feather in his cap, was not something that he hankered after. “I do not seek any recognition. If my passengers are happy, I am happy too,” he said with a smile.
This story is part of an 'Everyday Heroes' series. To read our previous story featuring 65-year-old SBS Chief Bus Captain Lim Yew Huat, click here